Critical Mediatization Research. Power, Inequality and Social Change in a Mediatized Age

Conference of the section “Mediatization” of the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA)

Today, we are witnessing a transformation of the media from a system dominated by individual media, each with its own characteristics and channels of distribution, to a much more dense, complex, and converging media environment comprising interpersonal, group and mass communication in a digital and computer controlled environment. The study of mediatization is concerned with the ongoing developments of media, and the related changes in the everyday life, social relations, and identity of people, as well as transformations in organizations and institutions, and culture and society as a whole. Mediatization research does not strive to become a closed conceptual domain, but rather seeks to develop an open and broad investigation of the interplay between changes in media and communications, on the one hand, and social and cultural changes on the other. It thus intends to integrate empirical research with conceptual work, and to develop an open and broad theory based on historical and current insights which also includes critical research. Our understanding of contemporary ongoing changes should be understood within a framework of long-term cultural and social processes. As more and more media become relevant and intertwined with various social and cultural practices at a micro, mezzo, and macro level, it becomes evident that mediatization research cannot just describe, reconstruct and explain the ongoing developments, but must also involve critical studies, critical analysis, and reflections or start by referring to critical theories. ‘Critical’ in this context does not imply utopian hopes or dystopian fears, but rather an understanding of the interrelations between communicative, social and cultural changes from the perspective of civil society: how do media related transformations affect the constraints and opportunitiesof social and cultural life or create new ones, and for which groups in society may changes be beneficial or detrimental?

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