SOCIAL MEDIATION, PERSONAL IDENTITIES AND TV AUDIENCES The battle for authenticity
Jordi FarrĂŠ Coma Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF), Barcelona Telephone number: 935422390 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
This is an integral proposal that tries to link the rich background provided for theory of structuration with the knowledge promoted by particular features belonging to media forms, understood as structural properties or communication formats. In broad terms, it is an attempt to offer an holistic view that should be explored with new horizons, both in media and audiences points of view as well as in processes of mediation inside the growing dynamics of reflexivity. All because social mediation changes with identity formation at the same time that growing reflexivity on audiences starts renewly below the rhythms, tempo, grammar rules and resources deployed by mediated effective environment.
At the beginning of this new century, the well-known demands highlighted by reception analysis since 1980 forward may be complemented by social mediation theory and progresses in synthetic social theory. Through both of which should have to respond to the relationship between media and public in its personal complexities and global forms at the same time. It is unavoidable to recognise the constituent role of media system via processes of mediation in feeding the unstoppable dynamics of reflexivity. Furthermore, these basic premises are developing the mark of a substantial continuity with the past where the battle for authenticity were yet essential in the very foundation of mass communication research long time ago. However, times are changing so much than just now the attention for the audience as a human reality must incorporate the ever more pervasive presence of media in everyoneâ€™s daily experience.
Instead of increasing its ideological dependence from the media, audiences learn to use them to support their own battles for authenticity (in terms of tastes, preferences or
needs). The moral evaluation of audience is based on these growing communicative expectations. The references to the theory of social mediation can thus make possible new frameworks above which construct modest stories and coherent narratives about the saturated relations within dynamics of reflexivity.
In this direction, this paper is based on the establishment of conceptual links between synthetic structurationist program and media logics. In so doing a realist perspective on research suggest that the researcher cannot divorce philosophical beliefs from the role of theory in research. Without doubt, any research study on audiences reflects a particular worldview composed of at least three philosophical layers: Ontological beliefs, epistemological assumptions and methodological choices1 . This interconnected chain has crucial consequences in order to fit with how we assume audiences come to know.
The two first layers are essential in our theoretical proposal where the primacy of ontology in terms of structuration logics, borrowed from Anthony Giddens, is tied to epistemological explanations derived from theory of mediation, following David Altheide communication formats. In the concluding statements are presented some lines of imbrication among both in relation with methodological implications.
Social mediation in reflexivity
As a starting point, social mediation refers to the connection that creates the circuit of the communication of meaning in a saturated media era. Media narratives are the easiest stories to take for granted. However, it is in the media that one finds not only the dominant ideology â€“from which audiences learn the commonsense view of reality- but also subordinate views struggling to change that commonsense. However, both cases are not enough due to it must be considered much more than a narrative form, rather the narrative is previously shaped by a format logics.
According to David Altheide, the ecology of communication refers to the structure, organisation and accessibility of various forums, media and channels of information. To 1
In other words, first, there are a correspondence which is beginning essentially through beliefs regarding reality (or what it is), second the researchers are going on with assumptions regarding how we come to know about our world (i.e. sources of accessing knowledge or how we make sense of reality), and third we finish with methodological choices that are the means we choose in attempting to achieve desired ends.
a greater extent, the main goal is to recognise more comprehensive understandings for the reflexive process of this effective mediated environment in late modernity. This is essential and previous for defining and sharing situations, and to explore the unintended consequences. It is a proposal to recover the media power through a framework that is focused on communication formats.
In order to develop the articulation within and understanding about extensive ecology of communications, the conceptual key is its combination with broad ecology of structuration, constructed by Anthony Giddens. Both ecologies enrich one to another in intersected ways. The first one is based on a theory of mediation which receives attacks for exceeding towards a media-centrism fixation while the second one develops a perspective in which structuralist and action theories must get into a synthetic logics that, according many critics, give more priority to agency in detriment of structure.
In this sense, the reciprocal feeding among both may build crossbridges to improve the approach to media-audience relationship. In so doing, Giddens could be improved for his over-emphasis on agency while Altheide should be nuanced for his over-emphasis on media-centrism. The solution may be called reciprocity to gain major advantages in defending each another position as an addition and, in either case, always in terms of positive correlation. In synthesis, Giddens demands the substantial incorporation of mediation in his theory as well as Altheide may integrate his communication formats with the wider theory of reflexive modernization.
The reflexive character of the communication process is of central importance for everyday life. The role of mediation itself has not been remarked enough. How we communicate precedes and limits what we communicate, situated audiences organize and interpret through mediation which is everywhere but in a specific condition with media horizons. In the first place, the logic of a mediated communication pervades a social order in defining the temporal and spatial dimensions. So then, such a metacommunication perspective is implied in a reflexive definition of the situation2 . As a
â€œThe power of viewers to reinterpret meanings is hardly equivalent to the discursive power of centralized media institutions to construct the texts which the viewer then interprets; to imagine otherwise is simply foolish.â€? Morley (1992)
central feature of the logic-in-use in everyday life, these media formats help contruct time, place, and manner of experience in social affairs.
In order to identify some of the consequences of format-induced effects for audience we pay attention to the apparent confusion between fact and fiction, public and private, local and global, self and other. The efforts toward a theory of mediation give subtle nuances to structuration logics which are useful to deep in social practices of audiencing ordered across space and time, neither as the experience of individual actor, nor as the existence of any form of mediated totality. Both poles may take into account as an addition in which autonomy of media grammar plays a crucial role.
This growing dynamics of reflexivity provokes that audience will become more reflective about how they interact with media and in relation with the interaction between a particular medium and other media. Audiences are adopting features of communication formats and content to interpret and establish meaning actively in their own lives. This kind of activity does not mean awareness or full participation only. However, if are focused on establishing and maintaining identity through an interactive process, the ultimate responsibility for choices is on the individual who often appears limited, unable to overcome difficulties below the impression that the ideals are attainable, although are always in process. This indicates the potential for media to create and standardize overviews by which identity achievement and self-esteem are measured in everyday life. Dramatically, if audience do not feel media are being harmed or visible, then perhaps analysts need to consider this as a significant factor in the meanings generated through interaction with.
Within practical and discursive consciousness, and unconsciousness, it is a demand to introduce media consciousness as a previous factor shaping reflexivity on audiences. In short, what has developed in a saturated media world is a perspective of information that has been provided by the media format itself. In other words, media may be viewed from the standpoint of media, and that is why the mediated world seems normal and becomes invisible. The far-reaching consequences derived from formats as an orientation framework rests on acceptation of vicarious experience by audiences who get involved tacitly in this process of mediation.
This overall synthetic conceptualisation helps to put in brackets many of myths of media and audiences. By one side, media power is localised in another place, out of common grounds in which is magnified or devaluated. By other side, audiences take part of mediation in a different way, far away from optimistic or pessimistic overviews. In this framework, the battle for authenticity is playing because of mediation process feeds dynamics of reflexivity in late modernity as well as radicalised reflexivity shapes identityâ€™s formation in a pluralistic and individualised patterns. Mediation becomes so important as an effective environment that it must be taken account as well as reflexivity in being so pervasive contributes to the very formation of the mode of communication. So then, we are immersed in a cul-de-sac derived from a methodological blockage. The problem remains and it must be displaced toward ontological and epistemological grounds.
The most important dimension of late modernity is the penetration of reflexivity into the reproduction
modernization). Otherwise the theory of mediation could be useful in order to give orientation to this ongoing reflexivity. In fact, the media recombination of time and space in social life has effects upon the reproduction of practices, escaping of activity from the intentions of audiences and connected them to broader social systems of which they are part. In these conditions audiences live in a media world in a different sense from previous era of history.
The centrality of mediated experience shifts radically what the audience actually is. For that reason, reflexivity ties the self to society in everchanging ways, which makes the creation of identity problematic yet potentially exhilarating at the same time. Audience becomes not an aggregate of intentions and reasons, but rather a continuous flow of reflexively monitored conduct. The condition of being audience involves being sensitive to the contextualitites of action and mediadion across time and space. Without media consciousness, it should not be possible to think in either kind of practical and discursive consciousness by the side of audience, in exclusive.
No doubt, social mediation brings an increase in social reflexivity with audiences in possession of more information as well as with an intensive (changes caused by personal dispositions and choices) and extensive (the global effects) proliferation of
options. As Giddens asserts, the communicated knowledge is a necessary component of the reflexive modernisation process which defines the post-traditional society3 . In terms of dynamics in late modernity, the radicalised reflexivity enables new forms of building imagined communities from individualised choices. Again and again, emotional thrusts are now in the base of elective communities as well as the rising of lifestyle politics.
If we were able to accept media as bearers of that reflexivity indeed, the processes of mediation would become its precondition. They are both the channels for the representation of public and private thought and action, and its stimulants for individuals as well as for institutions. So then, it seems difficult to deny the centrality of media in making sense about the management of risk, the emergence of new mechanisms of self-identity, the plural range of lifestyle options, the shifting nature of intimacy or the reorganization of body reflexively as well as the sequestration of experience where external criteria confront with personal meaninglessness.
In this sort of argument, Giddens talks about all these complex dynamics of life in late modernity but he is not able to integrate them in his own social theory challenges,4 within the substantial consequences derived from media focus. Part of the explanation for this failure stems, no doubt, from the incapacity of media studies as a mature area of inquiry but also from along with the fact that social theory is conventionally conceived through the marginalisation of mediated communication processes.
As Roger Silverstone explains, the key to understanding the media is to see them as a process of mediation in itself: “involves the movement of meaning from one text to another, from one discourse to another, from an event to another. It involves the constant transformation of meanings, both large and small, significant and insignificant, as media texts and texts about media circulate in writing, in speech and audiovisual forms, and as we, individually and collectively, directly and indirectly, contribute to their production.” (Silverstone,1999).
Basically, Giddens asserts that with late modernity came reflexivity which refers to “the susceptibility of most aspects of social activity, and material relations with nature, to 3
Based on detraditionalisation does not entail the desappearance of tradition, but its reflexive incorporation within modernity or its emergence in opposition to it 4 Paradoxical, despite that all human experience is mediated or given that modernity is inseparable from its ‘own’ media, characteristics of mediated experience are reduced to the collage effect in terms of open-ended narratives and to the intrusion of distant events into everyday consciousness (Giddens,1991,23-7)
chronic revision in the light of new information or knowledge”. (Giddens,1991,20). As he notes such information is not incidental to modern institutions but constitutive of them, despite that he does it without assuming the last consequences. Perhaps the step further it would imply that this sort of mediated reflexivity, as different from that of which constitutes the reflexive monitoring of action intrinsic to all human activity, may be called mediation.
In a recent period of time, the concept of mediation has been incorporated to media studies in an original and crucial form. Taking apart the important contributions to this concept made by Jesús Martín Barbero (1993), John B. Thompson (1995), Guillermo Orozco (2000), Klaus B. Jensen (1998)5 , Nick Couldry (2000), Svein Osterud (2000), Roger Silverstone (2002) among many others, our emphasis is differently focused on the David Altheide and Robert Snow’s contribution, forgotten suspiciously, in their proposal toward a theory of mediation (1988). Building on symbolic interaction theory, these authors from Arizona pose that the mediation process may be conceptualised as a general social form that is used to direct and inform social activity and cultural phenomena. This process involves organizing and interpretative schema embedded in specific formats. The distinctiveness of their contribution must be seeked in close relation with their very own notion of mediation.
Martin Barbero’s original definition of mediation is precisely “the place where the meaning is given in the communication process”. This use of mediation characterise a set of more specific cultural processes which began to be seen more as a process of mediations than of media, a question of culture and therefore, not just a matter of cognitions but of re-cognition. In a more operative line, Orozco builds a Multiple Mediation Model which is continually under construction to be the outcome of much 5
The concepts of formats and super-themes keep in touch similar approach to power despite that of different starting point, media and audiences respectively: “Formats are complex and multidimensional. They include a constellation of people, activities, and the implements important to them, as well as the kinds of discourses and relations that result ... The formats of technology and power are intimately connected because formats structure social fields of behavior –the possibilities for human perception and relationships. These techno-formats blur and redefine the boundaries between public and private self in the learning processs.” James H. McDonald cited in Altheide (1997). “Super-themes are simultaneously very general and very concrete categories of understanding, simultaneously a strength and a weakness of reception. They are general, or flexible, to the extent that they accomodate a variety of perspectives on, domains of, and propositions about social reality; they are specific to the extent that they relate to details of the news event, as represented in visuals or commentary, and perhaps to viewers’ concrete life experiences. Super-themes are a strength in that they allow viewers to make personally relevant sense of the news, but a weakness in thet they not empower viewers to act on that sense in political contexts.” (Jensen,1995, 165f)
reflexivity between existing theoretical and epistemological assumptions and empirical, mostly qualitative, data. As Orozco recognises, the crucial connection in developing knowledge, in doing research from empirical level, is not epistemology with theory, but epistemology with method, and thus with the evidence each method enables to collect. The definition of this chain is precisely that of distinguish from Altheide’s framework occupied much more on questions of epistemology tied to ontological problems. All of them would be right in the use of mediation as an analytical concept to account for the structuring and restructuring of the communication process but they put each mediation manifested itself in a specific mechanisms as a part of a audience’s practice, according to Barbero and Orozco, or rather as an epistemological precondition in media power in terms of communication formats, following Altheide’s terms.
In a recent book, Nick Couldry (2000) has pointed out that it is only when we have a concept of mediation that we can start thinking about how mediation works in different ways and different places6 . In short, the place of media power is refreshing into media institutions’ great impact on everyday lives. Some substantial parallels with Couldry starts from scratch with Altheide and Snow’s work within which raises broad questions about the whole mediation process. Despite that, Couldry leaves out of consideration notions such as ‘media logic’ and ‘media culture’. These notions left without quite making clear how they are reproduced in practice or how they relate to issues of symbolic power (Couldry,2000:18-9). That is not a balanced critical understanding because Altheide (1985) asserted how media power rests in the ability to transform the spatial and temporal dimensions of events and “that we can learn even more about the role of time, place, and manner thoughout all of society by contrasting mediated imagery with individuals, situations, and events that are not mediated by the mass media (Altheide,1985,21)”. In other words, Couldry’s work could be perfectly subsumed in Altheide’s contribution at least from his conceptual innovation.
For all these several reasons, this overall approach within a symbolic interaction model encapsulates the entire communication process in which audiences interact with media and vice versa. Further away, the logic and use of communication formats throw light
Couldry offers a new way of thinking about the media’s impact on contemporary social life through exploring what happens when people who normally consume the media witness media processes in action, or even become the object of media attention themselves.
communication shape, limit, and essentially define the rules and procedures for dealing with messages, they take part actively in the process of structuration through which rules reflect the order they produce. Its originality then deserves much more attention in approaching the whole debate around reception analysis and understanding media in late modernity conditions.
The consequences of this for social theory7 involve rescuing the knowledgeable agent, understood as audience, as the conceptual centre in the context of the ongoing practices of social mediation. The broad ecology of structuration theory is able to link the close study of face-to-face interaction with analysis of social structure. It is precisely its integration that constitutes structuration and allows us to expand it to accommodate mass-mediated communication through processes of social mediation. This perpetual and undestined flow of structure and agency through time makes up the intrinsic duality of structuration as the essence of the theory. The proposal is rethinking this integration in terms of ecology of communication sustained in the theory of mediation, according to Altheide. In certain way, the process described by Altheide becomes previous and gives order to structuration logics and, the last but no least, allows the unravelling of media responsabilities.
In short, the points in common among structuration logics and communication formats start from scratch through the definition of time and space parameters. In addition, both perspectives are in full coincidence about the redefinition and blurring of the boundaries between public and private self in the learning process. Tracing the emergence of new forms illuminates how social perspectives and definitions of realities by audiences are reflexively joined to media practices.
From this overview, the position of audiences conceived inside a theory of mediation becomes more modest but also more human with the nature and experience as it ordinarily is encountered. Individuals increasingly draw on mediated experience, which assumes a greater and greater role in the process of self-formation and refashioning the project of self. Mediation within reception are configured as integral parts of 7
â€œThe political and moral significance of the media are pressing hard on the sociological agenda, and concerns raised by media scholars are being echoed (as well as stimulated) by contemporary social theorists.â€? (Silverstone,2002)
communication, and communication itself takes place when there is some linkage between both. The mediation-reception nexus thus constitutes the juncture of either act of communication, properly speaking interaction. Mediation may be the central fact of all communication8 . As media logics and the formats are nondiscursive and taken for granted, they preceed the discourse and communication content usually associated with mass communication. But, like an expansive machinary, mediated communication becomes an integral part of conceiving day-to-day audiences and through mediation is revealed its potential in any form of communication. Giddens remarks the main factors derived from mediated experience although he tends to de-emphasize a central part of the concept of mediation, that is the idea of experience passing through a powerful filter with unexplored phenomenological and hermeneutical consequences.
The pervasiveness of such imagery works through communication formats. Media culture actually restricts the full play of reflexivity. Self-development as personal identity is itself limited by mass media as institutional reflexivity. Since reflexivity is a mediation process it is conditioned by the limitations and possibilities of media formats which saturate the modern social world. The games of redefining limits and expectations in the new digital era has opening renewed myths around media and audiences. Far from them, we put our attention in how mediated messages are significantly shaped in particular formats that are dictated by particular main stream climates, paradigmatically in radio and television era9 .
By adding processes of social mediation, Giddens’s structuration logics essentially becomes a mediated communication model. As Giddens (1990:103) puts it: ‘all social interaction involves mediation in so far as there are always “vehicles” that “carry”social
“(...) we believe that contemporary society manifests a media consciousness. Everyone touched by media logic becomes another agent, and social reality is “produced” through a major institutional inversion that we are now only beginning to understand.” (Altheide & Snow, 1991:252-3). We must add personal and research inversion as well. 9 “(...) as Scannell argues, ‘radio and television marked the end, not the extension, of mass communication where that is understood as a form of communication that constitutes its audience and speaks to it as a mass’. Interwar thinkers who pondered broadcasting were attentive to the potential for interchage within large-scale communication, a fact that requires a more nuanced picture of thinking about mass communication before war. Many were fascinated and alarmed by radio’s apparent intimacy, its penetration of private spaces, and its ability to stage dialogues and personal relationships with listeners. The question was often less how radio amassed audiences than how it individualised them.” (Peters,1996:10)
interchange across spatial and temporal gaps.”10 In this sense, a sociological theory therefore should not start with a theory of action, but with a theory of communication due to the most fundamental and inevitable aspect of social situations is communication. As aforementioned until here, we need to understand, perhaps better, before the process of mediation, to understand how meanings emerge, where and with what consequences, without forgetting its own power to persuade and to claim attention and response.
Personal Identities and Authenticity on Television Audiences
In the first place, social mediation and reflexivity induce significantly in shaping personal time and space because they alter parameters within which social identity was conventionally defined. Insofar the increased reflexivity of modernity contributes to radical doubt at both institutional and personal-existential levels, self-identity becomes a process in which the person is able to view a reflexive project constructed by means of a keep-going narrative. This means that the individual has to choose a specific lifestyle which is integrated with their physical existence and their sense of selfhood. The mass media and electronic communications take part in the formation of lifestyle choices which are subject to constant revision stimulated by global parameters of information as a saturated and effective environment. As Giddens asserts, increasing importance of intimacy or life politics11 show necessarily how individuals apply a degree of reflexive control over their range of options at this mediated level:
“The discursive/presentational dichotomy offers another means of distinguishing print and electronic media. Print strips messages of most of their presentational forms; it conveys only discrusive information. But most electronic media convey a rich range of presentational information along with discursive symbols. Radio conveys sounds and vocalizations. Television adds visual forms. Like expressions, presentational information is directly tied to specific objects or people in specific contexts. More than print, electronic media tend to unite sender and receiver in an intimate web of personal experience and feeling.” (Meyrowitz,1985:96)
The processes of mediation restricts and multiplies simultaneously the central role of audiences from their personal side of interpretation. As many of the materials which we 10
Nimmo and Combs (1983:4) remark that all realities are mediated, even those which are based on direct experience. Fornäs (1995;1999) has been working to recover the mediational turn in cultural studies via Ricoeur’s hermeneutics. 11 “The increased focus on personal responsability can be understood as part of a general tendency towards individualization whereby traditional social constraints on individual agency are loosened and areas of life which previously were viewed as inevitable and fixed are treated as objects of choice and responsability. One result of individualization is a new form of politics (life politics) rooted in the concepts of self-actualization and personal growth (...).” (Phillips,2000:172)
draw upon in order to construct senses of personal identity are mediated through electronic communications, the interpenetration of self-development and social systems becomes ever more pronounced12 .
As the reflexivity of modern social life consists in the fact that social practices are constantly examined and reformed in the light of incoming information about those very practices, thus constitutively altering their character” (Giddens,1990:38), the narrative of the self is defined as ‘the story or stories by means of which self-identity is reflexively
(Giddens,1991:244). In other words, the reflexive project of the self is defined as the process whereby identity is constituted by the reflexive ordering of self-narratives: “To be a ‘person’ is not just to be a reflexive actor, but to have a concept of a person (as applied both to the self and others). What a ‘person’ is understood to be certainly varies across cultures, although there are elements of such a notion that are common to all cultures. The capacity to use ‘I’ in shifting contexts, characteristic of every known culture, is the most elemental feature of reflexive conceptions of personhood.” (Giddens,1991:53)
The modern self could not exist without a subjective presence that not only came to known itself but also the objects of its contemplation –mainly television-. Since the reflexivity of the modern self is by nature elliptical, the uncertainty produced by new knowledge cannot but exert a tremendous pressure on the self to perpetually reexamine its own construction. The question of authenticity has become central to the meaning of the modern self. Can we be true to our own selves when reflexive knowledge is constantly tranforming our sense of being?
“Late modern reflexivity has problematized earlier, naïve and romantic views on authenticity, but not obliterated the relevance of this concept itself. It is in fact through reflexivity that authenticity becomes a possible issue, and reflexivity is only interesting if the mirror shows something that can be recognized as ‘I’ or ‘we’” (Fornäs,1995:277)
Television as medium has altered the connections between the proximate and the remote in time and space, putting global and local dialectics at the central stage. The mediated
“Mass media are increasingly important to reflexive practices. Reflexivity can be practised through lyrics as well as musical structures, and through externalized visual images as well as social interaction. In fact, self-mirroring always uses other people as well as cultural symbols, even though one of these relational and symbolic sides may sometimes be more apparent than the other. In the choice of textual genres, people mirror and confirm their identities, through various perceived homologies between these identities and symbolic aspects. This choice seems to have become more and more conscious and debated in late modernity, though a cultural release form naturalizing traditions and a growth in he stock of available stylistic tools.” (Fornäs,1995:277)
environment has given place to mainstreaming trends based on individualised choices and growing plurality of options in maintaining coherence for the construction of selfidentity. In recent times, and partly as a result of the increasing importance of other media in constructring peopleâ€™s identities, audiences have developed a much more fragmented and fluid sense of their own identities in consuming television. The very nature of identity is changing as a result of the growing power of popular culture and the self media par excellence, a kind of television that refers each time more to itself13 .
The impact of constant changes in communicative system announces changes both in the extent and the nature of programming. Future patterns of consumption may be expected to fragment in a number of directions from and by means of which be constructing different senses of self-identity. Precisely this mainstreaming climate has contributed to strenghten its role of personal identity shield by audiences.
The Internet could be the best illustration also, as networks of networks, of this growing dynamics of reflexivity14 . Nevertheless, the role of all other medium is in process of changing in response of new digital era. In particular, television must be the interpretative key to put nuances to this process of pervasive social mediation, understanding that social life is comprised out of the mutual constitution of structure and agency. In fact, the mode of communication is an articulation of social relations among audiences, but as a function of a historical process.
The potentialities available on Internet for new social relations provide the means, without ends, by which audiences can develop new politics and different forms of selfrepresentation. Precisely, the expansion of what is political keeps contact with the relevance of self-representation and a pervasive technology which facilitates this expression. From this point of view, the traslation from personal identities to collective community and social movement networks has become a necessary prerequisite to the extension of agency. Below this line of argument, agency takes precedence and poses 13
In this sense, is is interesting to highlight the moral dimension to which TV viewers refer to constantly (Hagen,2000) 14 However this fragmentation or subversion presents a social implication which is expanded with more symbolic material not only on the credibility of authority systems but also on the personal identities of users. Cyberspace can be described as reconfiguring media systems, as these systems reflexively respond to the social use of cyberspace itself. This reconfiguration redefines again the limits to thought and thus have unpredictible implications in the next future above media cultureâ€™s social order.
communication as constituent of society. For that reason, the mutation in how we think of communication has to be made in all types of media, also in the resituation of television.
By the way, it is obvious that the ahistorical perspective is very common in the field of communication futurologies. When radio was in full formation the potentialities were infinite in a similar sense as we can find in the optimistic horizons about Internet. The same thing we can say about television, video recorder, telephone, and so on15 . Another argument to give priority to television is struggle against creating new forms of communication rather than democratision of existing ones. The position of hopes for the agency are changing its position according new media. Despite that television dynamics gather together the whole debate around recognition of authenticity of the other, whose views and ideas audience is prepared to watch and listen through small screen mirrors.
At institutional level, television has been increasingly reflexive about its own status and production techniques. Television reproduces a history and repeats that history within and across channels, this articulation of styles and histories contributes to the viewers understanding of TV world. This self-conscious intertextuality is an aspect of enlarged cultural self-consciousness in social life:
“(...) Having been deprived of the certainty of an interactive relationship with a community that is defined both spatially and simbolically, one finds oneself, at least in a phenomenological sense, exposed to an experience that is often antithetical to the world of everyday life. Instead, individuals experience a continuing globalization of their relationship with the community. The ‘distanciation’ from everyday experience, typical of the modern condition, thus generates a continuous sense of risk and, in turn, a search for a micro-community within which one may feel secure and defend oneself against the inherent risk of ‘de-localization’.” (Jensen,1998:105)
Within this context, television creates greater and greater reflexivity across vast tracts of space and time. How is it possible to avoid its presence in shaping this dynamics?. Actually, television restricts the full play of reflexivity within media culture focused on self-identity thematisation, and immersed in late modernity mutation. According to 15
“These questions are rich in implication for our public and private lives today. Democracy and eros remain the twin frames for discussion of each new medium. Talk about the Internet today, for instance, is rife with dreams of new bodies politic and horrors of new bodies pornographic. The meaning of communicative connections, large scale and small, is an ongoing conumdrum. Historic ideas on radio’s curious status between what a later generation would call mass and interpersonal communication prove useful in our attempts to study a social order in which the personal and the political, the erotic and the social, and the dialogic and the broadcast are hopelessly intertwined.” (Peters,1996:121)
some authors, cyberspace can represent the subversion of symbols and meanings at play within the institutional reflexivity16 . While me-television is now in process to take the way of promoting personal identities basically. In a high degree television assumes the role of management of self-definiton inside the everyday life patterns.
A basic strategy at a purely theoretical level may shed ilght on the social significance of television from some fundamental ontological premises. To develop this complex and multilayered relationship, Giddensâ€™s theory of structuration places social actors first as generating meanings, intentionally, and as being able to take their own decisions in any circumstances. Along with this, the organised structure of everyday life, and the practical consciousness of social agents tend to translate knowledge about television toward common grounds such as basic trust, tacit rules and structural properties of communication, all of them tied together in a routine time-space framework.
Without doubt, the television screen symbolizes the multilocatedness of modern existence and it will follow the key medium for a long time, much more in order to tame the chaotic emergency of Internet. Referring on television, it can take three relevant forms below which face-to-face interaction seems very equally with media messages:
first, para-social interaction based on the simulation that a character on television is addressing him or her directly;
second, the documentary form whereby the receiver believes that s/he is observing reality directly;
third, dramatised storytelling through which stories make experiences accessible to audiences.
With all three features, symbolic social reality by television implies some kind of automatic juxtaposition with â€˜realâ€™ reality of direct experience. The great media power take its strenght in the operation of perception from a potential distorted way, as happens also automatically in the interpersonal communicative devices (rumours, different versions from witnesses to the same event).
Under cyberspace individuals will need to learn collective responsibility for the thoughts they are disseminating and the social order this new technology of collective memory (symbol-mediation) is creating.
In so doing, television is still going on at the heart of this transformation emerging as it did in tandem with the expansion of consumer capitalism but also the globalisation of discourses about cultural life, gender conflicts and democracy in which television, as an object of contemplation, plays a significant part, both in increasing the resources for identity construction and contributes to the development of hybrid cultural identities. Means of communication precedes their content. From the perspective explained, the form is what matters rather than the content (Giddens,1991:199). Televisual forms offer mixtures of contingency, reflexivity and fate. Audiences gain a sense of reflexive control over life circumstances, a feeling of a coherent narrative which is reassuring balance to difficulties in sustaining the narrative of the self in actual social situations.
From this context, perhaps we have gained a sense of order and comfort through television daily routines. In today’s world of apparent complexity, rapid change, and uncertainty, this may constitute the realm where audience feels some control over life. That television provides a useful tool in this control ought to be taken very seriously indeed, as did Roger Silverstone in Television and everyday life (1994):
“Television is part of the grain of everyday life (...) Not as a result of some arbitrary or political imposition of a medium on a resistant culture ... but as the result of its occupation of the particular spaces and times of a basic level of social reality (...) The media –television of course preeminently- are (probably by any definition and certainly in practice) mediators of both space and time, and are produced and consumed in space and time. The quality of space and time in each case is significant both materially and significantly.” (Silverstone,1994:22)
To straigth to the point, the role of television in mediating social subjectivity keeps contact with the project of understanding how it feels to live day-to-day in late-modern society. The paradigmatic case is television news which is involved here in a dramatic reordering of traditional time-space relations and has the potential to change previous patterns of familiarity and estrangement. Perhaps TV news are unable to link the world of the everyday with its own narratives. But, otherwise, is able to shape the temporal and spatial parameters as well as the moral ordering of experience for its capacity to act in the ordinariness of everyday life.
As TV news is also part of the everyday because they generate systematic format qualities which could then be seen to be incorporated through more practical or mundane attittudes and behaviours into the daily round17 : “That engagement might be weak or strong, positive or negative in its implications. But it is, in the sense in which I have identified it, always dynamic, and dynamic in the specifical sociological sense of agency. We engage with television through the same practices that define our involvement with the rest of everyday life, practices that are themselves contained by, but also constitutive of, the basic symbolic, material and political structures which make any and every social action possible.” (Silverstone,1994:170)
But it is not possible to understand television’s role as a bearer of news in isolation, then we need to look at the way the whole of its output. Reception research which has focused on audience interpretations of specific texts or genres has had to ignore the fact that programmes and genres are parts of the much larger signifying process as focus on entertainment or phenomena like infofiction.
The wide transformation of mediation has consequences about the future of democracy and it demands the reinvention of politics and public communication. To abandon this whole responsability, it means forgetting audiences back with sensational and dramatic overviews. Posing this deep reconfiguration, it involves the return of media power to the discourses about audiences in a different global scale, for a different generation of citizens, and in new terms of emotional solutions for the management of intimacy, as Giddens indicates (1992), although being unable to do it with the integrated incorporation of mediation processes18 .
Searching for authenticity in TV audiences today implies a personal reconfiguration resulting from a process of subjectivation inside cultural, political and social fields. Subjectivity is a useful term to capture the relationship between who and where we are.
“The spoken and displayed narratives of television have their equivalent and their extension in the lived narratives of daily life, and of course both gain their meaning precisely through this constant juxtaposition.” (Silverstone,1994:167) 18
“Narrating personal identity requires us constantly to monitor our routine activities and to reflect on various lifestyles options. Indeed, modernity is characterized by a distinctive type of institutional reflexivity –where the knowledge produced about social life becomes a constitutive element in its organization and transformation. For instance, we might consider how information circulated in the public domain concerning global ecological issues can impact on the local purchasing decisions of private individuals who revise their day-to-day practices in the light of this flow of communication. The same goes for knowledge or advice -distributed via the broadcast media- about health matters or else how to cope with moral dilemmas and emotional problems. These television and radio discourses are selectively and reflexively appropiated by viewers and listeners as they monitor their lifestyles or interpersonal relationships.” (Moores,1997:240)
Subjectivity lets audiences reflect on their experience and their place in the world. Self definition is always at the center of your own experiential field and your experiences become quite natural and obviously true. Nevertheless, we can think of the media as actively constructing the meanings and expectations that are associated with plural mediated experiences about self-identities.
As Giddens says, today we are living in a period of moral transition, not moral decay. Being forced to make more active decisions concerning our lifestyles, we are also forced to be more responsible for ourselves and the consequences of out choices and decisions. The new individualism challenges the dichotomy between individual and collective responsibilities19 . A new balance must be found. If it is not true that social solidarity is under threat from the rising of individualism, from the pluralization of lifestyles, cultures, and values the key question becomes how and to what extent we can relate to the new individualism promoted by media. Now, it has formed a new institutional reflexivity which does not break the struggle for reach authenticity in mediated communication but has changed the implications in order to reach it by quite distinctive categories, with other principles, criteria, and effects or unintended consequences.
Moreover, modernity creates a distinctive cultural condition not analyzed explicitly by Giddens, which requires the assumption of increased reflexivity also on the part of media organization. Television is then reflexively able to influence the shaping of audience’s social life. His notion of reflexivity informs his vision of a vibrant democracy, in the widest sense. These features of dialogic democracy (including democratizing of emotions) contribute to the notion of the person as self-reflexive or autonomous as it should be right also with audiences in reaction against TV news:
“The news media may be understood as a precondition for the political, economic, and cultural participation of individuals at the local, national, and, in principle, transnational levels. News media can be defined as sources of meaning that help to orient the distributed localized action of citizens which, in the aggregate, constitutes political and other social institutions. In recent social theory, often departing from the work of Giddens (1984), the relationship between such localized actions and the aggregated, even global, social systems has been conceptualized with reference to ‘structure’ and ‘agency’. While the twin concepts refer back to the classic foundations of the social science, identifying the material and 19
According to Giddens, the main effect of the increasing division of labour "is towards the progressive emancipation of the individual from subordination to the conscience collective." As the conscience collective loses its hold on the individual, moral ideals emerge "which stress the rights and dignity of the individual human being."
institutional parameters within which humans must act as individuals and groups, recent social theory has reminded scholars that these terms refer to phenomena which are processual and inherently interrelated. Whereas social structure is not merely a set of constraints limiting the activity of individuals, but also a preparatory condition of any complex form of coordinated activity, agency as exercised by individuals equally serves to reproduce and maintain the social structure. It is such a ‘duality of structure’ which can be seen to underlie the reception and social uses of television news. Mass-mediated information may enable individuals to exercise a share of the agency that serves to reproduce society (...) Increasingly, the whole world is becoming both a domain of global activity and a point of reference for the local understanding of self. Conversely, social power, as exercised by multinational corporations and political authorities, may come to appear more remote and opaque.” (Jensen,1998:16-7)
The unknown nature of new media landscape is also bound up with trust in authenticity of mediated communication. This double hermeneutics implies that audiences are changing in something new. Such a media social atmosphere of constant change also points to the fragmentation of a strong and fragil sense of personal identity. To make personal narratives in a coherent way have become more difficult. These reflexive possibilities in the media realm create difficulties while simultaneously opening up new fields of struggle. For Giddens, cultural, social and political fields are linked now to the reflexivity of the individual who defends the democratization of personal life in either level of existence much more demanding. In the Transformation of Intimacy (1992), Giddens defends that the individualization of sexuality has provoked an expansion of the
enriching resources for a pure democratic life. From mediascape, we can make the inverse interpretation. If the basic existential questions are pervasively in formation within lifestyles models, they can be derived logically from distorted images of the mass and self media.
As Giddens points out, dominant ideology and cultural influences enter the public spheres as properties of social systems, not as things in and of themselves. Although structural properties may persist, they resemble formats, frameworks, or operating principles more than ideological or cultural entities. The structuring properties are socially produced. Media as institutions produce audiences who are not puppets at the end of a string. They are creative human beings who have been socialized to dominant ways of thinking but are by no means limited to these patterns20 . By interpreting and using symbolic resources to their advantage, audience members produce a margin of control over their social meanings, constructed on many levels and on many cultural
“(...) structural properties of social systems do not act, or act on, anyone like forces of nature to compel him or her to behave in a particular way.” (Giddens,1984:181).
fronts. The battles are not against media themselves, or cultural imperialism or social class inequalities, instead they are inside everyday life competences.
Authenticity in the communication environment is all-present in focusing audiencemedia relationship. In fact, old arguments in the field of communication21 could be also situated according to authenticity turn. Following this main concept as a regular orientation may be useful in evaluating the expectations and assumptions about audiences. All in all, the themes and discourses in media and the way how frame them have been incorporated to existential experience by audiences. This process get into the take for granted field and in the assumptions to be eager seekers for authenticity. However, the audience frame as authenticity satisfies both the institutional logics and personal ones.
Private life is closer to public concerns and issues than ever before. In other terms, self reflexivity is interconnected with institutional mediated realities. In political terms, a pervasive ecology of communication has constructed a problem frame based on expansion of fear in public discourse. In cultural terms, the new times through communication formats insist on a problem frame focused on a celebration of inauthenticity. Thus, the problem frame reproduces itself. They constitute the form in which experiences are lived, interactions are negotiated, and social life is perceived.
In summary, this discussion stresses that the construction of a subjective image of reality is a process which is highly dependent on mediation. Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that the media do not just report about or reflect reality, they are an integral part of reality. Mediation as the foundation of structurarion logics expands the idea that every symbolic representation is equally probable and believable. Theoretically therefore it does not seem to make much sense in using a strict distinction between ‘direct experience’ and ‘indirect experience’. Just precisely, all these processes of mediation are used as data input which is processed by the individual into a personal definition of reality, in other words, the product of the subjective realities of individuals.
“If the turn to small groups was one change in the research agenda, and the importance for the authentic ethos another, a third shift is the increasing emphasis on how communication might build a homogeneous community. The community desired was usually the national community. The importance of ritual communication as a way to build mass loyalty and fight cynicism became important themes during the 1940s.” (Cmiel,1996:94)
Debates about authenticity may partly reflect the fact that the very nature of audience’s identities is changing as a result of the growing power of popular culture and the mass self-media. The case in point goes on being television. TV audiences as seekers for authenticity must confront the shift experimented by the transition from gather around ‘We’ to attrack individuals as ‘I’. The television logic that essentially molds the temporal and spatial character of events to its own format and technological requirements is now a taken-for-granted feature of everyday life. This is why it is so profound, and has had such an impact on other social forms 22 . The existential dilemma23 of communication in association with the changes in approaching authenticity must take into account the processes of mediation as well as the fragility and solidity of well-being in relation to the remote world constructed by television focus:
“In the case of human beings, the Umwelt includes more than the immediate physical surroundings. It extends over indefinite spans of time and space, and corresponds to the systems of relevance, to use Schutz’s terms, which enframes the individual’s life. Individuals are more or less constantly alert to signals that relate here-and-now activities to spatially distant persons or events of concern to them, and to projects of life-planning of varying temporal span. The Umwelt is a ‘moving’ world of normalcy which the individuals takes around from situation to situation, although this feat depends also on others who confirm, or take part in, reproducing that world. The individual creates, as it were, a ‘moving wave-front of relevance’ which orders contingent events in relation to risk and potential alarms. Time-space movement –the physical mobility of the body from setting to setting- centres the individual’s concerns in the physical properties of context, but contextual dangers are monitored in relation to other, more diffuse sources of threat. In the globalised circumstances of today, the Umwelt includes awareness of highconsequence risks, which represent dangers from which no one can get completely out of range.” (Giddens,1991:127-8)
“Today, temporal ecology in Western urban society is established and maintained largely through electronic media formats. While it may appear to the uninvolved observer that media is content-specific, and driven by market strategies, politics, currents in education, sports, and economic realities of daily life, the most common use of media is primarily as support for other activities. In fact, it seems quite plausible that media as form may be one of the more powerful factors in constructing and maintaining social order and control in everyday life. The order and control referred to here is not understood as a consciousness of collectivity, nor it is informed through ideology. Rather, it refers to order in the sense of maintaining individual life as familiar -as usual. It is the orderly arrangement of ordinary activity, task, space, and time (…).” (Snow,1995:91) 23
“The definiton of authenticity emerges from philosophical considerations of the modern individual and the problems of understanding the meaning and value of existence and coexistence in a world of powerful and competing interests. At the center remains the question of what it is to be a human being as a concrete way of entering into the world. According to Heidegger, individualization –or making one’s existence one’s own, separated form others, instead of surrendering of those powers or interests that manage everyday life- is the key to authenticity. Communication as an ontological problem appears for Heidegger in connection with the discussion of Being-in-theworld (Dasein) and the necessity of looking at the world as one share with others (Mitwelt). In these circumstances of being-with-others, problems of emphaty and understanding become part of an individual’s Being, whereas language as the house of Being provides the elements of discourse, which is the basis of human relationships.” (Hardt,1998:76)
If reflexivity leads to a continual re-evaluation of the self, then self-identity is susceptible to fragmentation and unlimited innovation. Against the postmodern turn, the exploration of mediation processes could restrict this apparent social saturation where people are continually exposing to new information, knowledge and mediated experiencies. In so doing it is essential to rethink how media logic and formats delineate social practices of audiences across space and time continually recreated by them via the very means whereby they express themselves.
This line of argument offers a different view where media responsability is implied in the creation of mythologies and false dilemmas to the coherent narratives of selfidentity. With this step further, media machinary must be analysed autonomously in order to give direction to opposed trends inherently possible: violence-dialogue in the domestic context; insecurity-trust in regard of health, body care, food choices, addictive impulses; limited-increased democracy in the emotional sense or inside interpersonal relations, and so on. In the Altheide’s last works, they are quite important evidences according to which there is a solid link between the news media as a communicative format and the production of distorted fear in our efective environment. Perhaps it is time to discover the dark face of media in all their consequences. As a generating-problem machine, they should not taken for granted in order to be able to ask for true responsabilities. Perhaps that assumption constitutes the first step to accomplish that of Silverstone suggests convincing:
“The analysis of mediation requires us to understand how the processes of mediated communication shape both society and culture, as well as the relationships that participants, both individual and institutional, hae to their environment and to each other. At the same time such analysis requires a consideration of how social and cultural activity in turn mediates the mediations: as institutions and technologies as well as the meanings that are delivered by them are appropiated through reception and consumption.” (Silverstone,2002,30)
People’s perceptions can reflect the media messages that they receive 24 . These results offer a different view than media nonresponsability, and imply that some disquieting images and concerns could be reduced if media formats would accomodate the complex nature of social problems. Greater accuracy of social problems and their reportage by 24
More than information transmitters, media logis and formats promote and delineate the publication of “social practices ordered across space and time... continually recreated by them via the very means whereby they express
mass media workers can apparently reduce fear and eliminate the inappropriate emergence of mythic legends as social problems. So difficult with the runaway media events machinary in a full efficiency.
To put a quotidian example: in my condition of commuter, I were in the train to come back my home from my university some months ago. A young boy from the Magreb left a handbag next to our seats and runaway quickly out toward plataform. Three or four people looked each other untrustful. One of them commented that the situation was very suspicious and maybe the handbag contained some explosive device. Before taking the decision to change our position, just then, the muslim boy taked his seat again and catched his handbag to take wlaman out. The civil inattention was recovered newly.
How we could understand the development of this incident?. We can define three steps in operating from an interpersonal logics: first, the normalcy is disrupted; second, the prejudicious evaluation is awaken against islamic people; third, the feeling of threat and danger disappears once our potential terrorist is not a such. All three operations ran in seconds but show the multiplicity of assumptions and the complexity to distinguish personal and mediated realities. We can encounter an expression of ontological insecurity based on being-in-the-world (Dasein), after we can identify a social problem of rejecting immigrated people with a certain appearance, being-with-others (Mitwelt), and finally we find also an automatic capacity to imagine dangerous environmental situations, being-with-risks (Umwelt).
Without converting anecdote into category, Giddens makes a distinction between two basic types of trust relation: face-to-face interactions and faceless commitments. In our case, the paralysis comes with the dilemma of having to make a decision that depends on the unknown response of the other. In this sense, trust refers to a relationship of reflexive confidence informed by specific parameters. The concept of trust is related closely to the concept of the â€œrisk societyâ€?. Agency in modernity involves a constant awareness about limitations of reflexive knowledge and therefore cognisance of the existence of risk; actions in modernity are conducting within the framework of calculations regarding the probability of outcomes and the possibility of risk, that is, of unpredictable and unintended consequences. The list of generalised risks is perceived themselves.â€? (Giddens,1984:2).
much longer than before: nuclear war, environmental destruction, global economic cracks, unhealthy dangers in smoking, eating or making love... Obviously, we must add the difuse terrorism potentially emerging everywhere, anytime.
Fear in the communication environment has implications in audience members who perceive social life and interests in everyday life as dangerous. The self media and public perceptions of issues and problems frame discourses are closely related to communication formats. The main lesson to remember is that any full consideration of mediation pervasiveness in everyday life must be taken very seriously indeed to explain that sort of experiential issues. Further to it, we must be able to expand these poweroperating machinaries to many others contexts. Taken into account the all-pervasive category of authenticity in communication, it is reasonable to recognise how media imaginery play a major role in defining, sustaining, and managing the interaction order as well as media formats contribute to the spatial and temporal parameters, including all audiences activities25 .
From the point of view of audiences, a fundamental component of day-to-day activity is simply that of choice. The demanding processes of mediation confronts the member of audience with an apparent diversity of choices and, because it is non-foundational, at the same time offers little help as to which options should be selected. In a paralell way as takes place on the level of the self in late modernity quotidian life. Fear as imagination have no limits but probably the effective media environment is defining much of the first one than of the second. Sooner or later, we shall to confront the ontological distanciation and epistemological gaps between media and social practices, and how they are closely interwined at the same time.
The Expanding Juxtaposition: mediated personal realities and methodological consequences
The comparison between structuration logic and communication formats gives some final points that recommend its deep exploration in a new agenda:
Abercrombie and Longhurst (1998) talk about a difusse audience as eternal and continuous resulting from a society of media saturation.
Historically, the expansion of mass communication research linked tightly to progress in social sciences. In new conditions, the centrality of communication through mediation process becomes the key to strengthen dialogue with social theory. The focal point is how media may be used to maintain social order in everyday life. It highlights the distinctive character of the communication formats in association with new politics of audience research. The broad ecology of structuration must be put in brackets without the extensive ecology of communication, key to understanding the transformation of intimacy or the risk’s perception. The dynamic of institutional and self reflexivity shapes audience’s identity through structural properties or communication formats. The process of mediation through mass and self media becomes an integral part of everyday life audience. The large trends in social meditation in the conditions of late modernity are changing identities: the individualising of the collective consciousness and the pluralisation of the personal existence are the main changing results. The change of spatial and temporal horizons has been dramatically altered by the symbolic reconfiguration of social mediation. More specifically, media have a crucial influence on our perception of self-identity. They shape people’s personal worldview in a persistent way. Late modernity conditions within media and cultural studies should be articulated to a general social theory of mediation. This theory may set itself the task of explaining relations between large-scale institutional or time-space transformations and the small details of subjectivity, meaning and personal experience. Finally, this posing brings together two areas of investigation that have traditionally been known separately as ‘interpersonal’ and ‘mass’ communication. Media and audiences keep themselves in a positive correlation. It seems reasonable to explore the communication formats with the same degree of importance that it is remarked how the competences of reception in the last are depending on audiences.
To produce an own authenticity becomes a “resource” for the audience to draw on when interpreting media, particularly television. It implies the following at least from an audience point of view in the late modernity context: -
The research of authenticity is still seen as desirable and relevant. The principles, criteria and effects of authenticity are in transformation as results to media environment and growing reflexivity. Media narratives shaped for communication formats explore ways to understanding authenticity reflexively until the extreme to celebrate the inauthentic authenticity. Fascination with authenticity provokes as well the perception of expansive and unattainable democracy, both institutionally and emotionally. Much better does not find it but going on imagining it. Authenticity becomes problematic, uncertain and demanding, closer to private life and public concerns fusion. The experience of reading authenticity through mediation induces the audience into a perspective useful for taking a stand on existential moral dilemmas, then personal
concerns are being perceived as more invasive below a high pressure to protect us in order to assure its dramatised existence. The blurring of categorical distinctions in analysing TV audiences is another consequence which deserves attention. Referring to this new circumstances, the significant point rests on profound changes in age, gender or citizenship related with a taken-for-granted categories in researching audiences. The mediated social construction of them have reflexively shifted their meanings and blurred their conventional distinctions.
For instance gender. The history of representations of women on television shows a complex and contested play of meanings circulating around the category of feminity. The codes of identity are always complex and contraditory, defining a field in which different meanings struggle to become the new articulations. The distinctive preferences in consuming television genres according to gender is also an unexplored field with great potentialities and very much resistances in developing them:
“Thus, in spite of their small scale, each, in different ways, poses broader questions of structure and agency within the socially structured world of practices and subjectivity, and many reflect on the institutional context of research itself (...) Rather, what these studies suggest is that people negotiate – rarely are their readings and positioning oppositional. Where resistance has been noted, this is not particularly in relation to the readings of the text and its preferred meanings, but in the practice of reading and consumption. Although many of the critics take the new audience research to task for attending only to the ‘micro’ dimension, I would argue that what underpins the questions and problematics of the studies are those of agency and structure. Studies show how public and private are absorbed into the everyday, the mundane, the ordinary. Such studies recognize the false distinctions between micro and macro, and demonstrate how discourse flow in and out of constructions of identity, self, private and public, national, local, global. Boundaries, thus, are permeable, unstable, uneasy, demanding a new way of thinking and looking at the ‘audience’, the user, the text, and the complexity of relations and discorses which surround and are part of it.” (Gray,1999:31)
For instance age. People’s identities are less stable and unified than they were in previous generations, and audiences tend to have less commitment to any single identity than did previous generations. To be young for example. Youth is no longer an entirely biological condition but a cultural one, as gender. People are not young because, or only because, they have a certain age, but more basically because they follow certain styles of consumption, joint them around distinctive markers of seeking own identities, and so on.
For instance citizenship and extension of democracy. The pressure to lifestyle politics is confronted now with the fear to terrorism which legitimates a hard conservatism 26
reaction against cosmopolitism thrusts. In televisiual terms, it could be seen through the crisis of public system model swept by the market imperatives and the proliferation of channels.
In sum, institutional reflexivity is shaped by personal one and vice versa. Media as generators of narratives are influencing in both. The global media organisations become institutions of institutions in all levels as well as its dicourses act above self-formation of personal identities in particular. The private resistance in itself results in public change and it expresses difference against gender definitions renewing constantly the principles
authenticity in terms of generational gaps, and, in last instance, rejection to an institutional approach into politics reconfigured through denying either forms of domination and subordination in order to escape toward the lifestyles free choices.
All three examples have experimented a relevant reconfiguration which it is not easy to understand without mediation processes. At the same sense, this changes have implications in thinking and doing research. Giddens is unique among sociological theorists in including social scientists into his theoretical concerns and granting them, as well as the social actor they describe, similar reflexive capabilities. To recover the research about audiences on the level of their discursive consciousness implies constructs their own social theories within which integrate their own experiences as observers of mediated personalised realities:
“Giddens (1984) developed his notion of a ‘double hermeneutic’ that is at work in social science to refer to scientific concepts and procedures for interpreting social reality which may, in turn, affect how social agents reinterpret and restructure that reality (...) A specific double hermeneutic can be said to apply in the case of media being social institutions of reflexivity that are comparable to science and which may, in turn, reorient the actions of their audiences. If audiences are to participate in this double hermeneutic as consenting citizens, an extended definition of the rights of communication as well as of reception would seem to be needed. The issue here is not the specific form of ‘media literacy’ to be developed in different cultural contexts, but the very importance of reintroducing audiences on the agenda of international communication policy, as supported by more comparative audience studies.” (Jensen,1998:194)
In concluding remarks, the incorporation of mediation processes into social theory, or cultural studies, is an urgency. The direction to do it can be enriched thanks to the originality derived from Altheide’s framework which puts the questions in other places and contributes to blame very reasonably the media within a respectful position about the audience capabilities. In wider terms, it is a contribution which recovers symbolic
interactionists heritage as well as individual’s place as a central dimension of social life in relation with others. If communication in essence takes place between individuals, then both classical mass communication research in USA context and self-identity processes in late modernity tended to be seen a distortion of that. Here is on mediation becomes essential at the same time that authenticity emerges renewly again. Both of them useful to rethink communication and audiences at the light of constantly renewed (un)predictable media events in human societies at a global and personal scale.
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Published on Jul 1, 2011
Published on Jul 1, 2011
Instead of increasing its ideological dependence from the media, audiences learn to use them to support their own battles for authenticity (...