Examining Mediatization. Literature Review, and Theoretical Guideline for Conceptualising the New ‘Me’ in New Media
Rezension / Literaturbericht 2017 7 Seiten
UoA 2017. Literature Review
Examining Mediatization: Literature Review, and Theoretical Guideline forConceptualising the New ‘Me’ in New Media
Media has come to represent multiple channels of communication substantiated in the form of newspapers, radio, TV and now the Internet. What was once possible for the largest circulation or broadcast, however, is now a part of digital life - in the pockets of people everyday and almost everywhere - a ‘participatory culture’ (Lovink, 2016:37) of peer-to-peer networks.
The human experience or life-world has molded into a mediatized world (Hepp 2012; Hepp & Krotz 2014; Deuze 2014), where mass communication inhibits ‘media-embedded processes of social transformation’ (Ekstrom et al. 2016:1100). The paradigm of mediatization analyzes this ‘emergence, and increasing dominance from the mid 1990s, of approaches to power that no longer located it inside powerful institutions, let alone powerful people, but saw it being reproduced everywhere in a huge network of linkages, apparatuses, and habits within everyday life’ (Couldry & Hepp, 2013:3). Proponents of mediatization call attention to the paradigmatic shift in power relations and negotiating factors when encoding/decoding a media text (Hall, 1980). What was once the world of ‘push' or ‘pull’, media are now ‘perceived as cultural properties as well as social technics' (Jansson, 2015:2). In a digital age of computer-mediated communication (CMC), media logic - ‘the institutional and technological modus operandi of the media’ (Hjarvard, 2008, p. 113)’ - has taken an introverted leap into social life i.e., human connection as a form of media practice (Couldry, 2004). Pre-Internet literature focused on the way media affectwhat people think (Entman, 1989; 1993), as a reader, consumer or decoder, of a media text, message or encoder. Mediatization, however, is focused on the way ‘new’ media effecthow people think, as a user, (re)producer, or agent of media.
Winfried Shultz (1999; 2004) theorized four components in how social change is effected by communication media: extension (across barriers like distance and time), substitution (mitigates offline interaction), amalgamation (draws into non-mediated interaction) and accommodation (adaption to media practices). These components foster countervailing socio-cultural forces: ‘mediatization changes human communication by offering new possibilities of communication, and by using them, people change the way they communicatively construct their world’ (Krotz, 2009:259). Social media has become the center of such research, seen as an extension of the construction and practices of everyday life, accommodating behaviors and interactions to amalgamate new forms of communication, and mediatization.
The social media service (SNS) is a symbiotic relationship between user wants and service needs. In other words, social media institutions ‘provide stability and meaning to social behavior’ (Scott, 2012:15) whilst relying on the expropriation of such behaviors to service user wants, motivations and desires - to encourage meaningful user-generation and mediation. Early Internet research suggested that CMC could ‘challenge the existing political hierarchy’s monopoly on powerful communications media, and perhaps thus revitalize citizen-based democracy’ (Rheingold, 1993:14). However, as Andrejevic (2013) points out, under neoliberal market pressures ‘the servers, the network backbone, and the local service providers - remains largely in the hands of a few large corporations' (p.128).
The economy has a long and integral history with media institutions. Market pressures under capitalism are converging with rapid technological advancements, presenting economic solutions to social problems. Jodi Dean’s work (2002) points to ‘a situation in which criticism is pointless because any problem it might reveal can only be solved by the very strengthening of the capitalist, technocratic system’ (p.105). Use of CMC technologies is feeding consumption i.e., ‘what consumers wanted, from their deepest desires and fantasies to their more transient preferences and fancies, would be gathered, compiled, analyzed, and delivered’; not just to the user but to any third party who would want to capitalize on such analyses. Although the possibilities of identification in social media are boundless, it’s inherent function is proprietary to the conditions of the user-base in which it operates and is generated. Dean emphasizes how production and consumption drives ‘an ideological formation that uses democracy, creativity, access, and interconnection to produce the subjects of communicative capitalism’ (p.103). Communication capitalizes on personal information and identities as part of an aliasing process, a distorted and categorized version of the self and conceptions of ‘me’. SNSs are therefore dependent on tactics that will increase usage, profits and the flow of interpersonal information. In Dean’s (2013) own words, ‘we might expect a social media tailored to individualism, competition, alliance, entertainment, and pro-creation’ (p.2).
In such a media landscape, people are adapting to how they build conceptions of ‘me’ through a ‘configurable networked self’ (Cohen, 2015:69). Recent literature has honed in on this concept, citing ‘social norms play an important role for our privacy in everyday life by regulating what information is shared during interactions’ (Steijn, 2016:117). Larsen (2016) focused on growing aspects of use, on young people’s construction and co-construction of identity(s) online giving president to ‘communicate our own life story’ (p.24) - an open source networked identity conceptually rooted in interaction. Hill (2013) points to this identity, or “toolhood,” being utilized within the social network as a manageable substitute for ‘interpersonal interaction’. Other scholars have connected pedagogics to the way platforms likeNING(Hughes et al. 2016),Tinder(Duguay, 2017), andGrindr(Jorgensen, 2016) educate users, channeling them into particular behaviors. Like the customization of interactive avatars (Heller & Goodman, 2016), social media profiles are the creation or channeling of individual self-identification. Servicing the self-identification of users, like their conceptions of sex, gender or age, presents a tactical market analysis and profiteering strategy. Under such confines, the user profile joins a vast computational ecosystem, where binary categorizing and algorithmic processes aliases information as part of the greater networked experience. People’s identities and conceptions thereof are increasingly adapting to the informational norms managed by a process of mediatization through SNS use.
Previous literature has seen the ‘intimate media cultures of mediatization' (de Ridder, 2015) transform sociolsexual norms of identification, attraction, and orientation. Plummer (1998) coined the term ‘communicative sexualities’ when describing with the transformation of ‘people's values related to sexuality and the media’. McNair talks of a ‘democratization of desire’ (2002) and ‘commodification of sex’ (2013) affected by media infrastructures. de Ridder's (2017) most recent work studies media is effecting the relationship between conceptions of sexuality and social media, calling for ‘a deep conversation on values, communicative sexualities, politics, and media'. The paper points to the considerable changes that have occurred in the last decades concerning how sexualities are lived (Weeks, 2007), and how social media is influencing the ‘long sexual revolution' and sexual politics (Schaefer, 2014; Seiddman, 2010: Timm & Sanborn, 2016). He cites Attwood (2009) when examining changes in sociosexuality - ‘media went from repressing sexuality’
- ‘to eventually pushing the sexualization of culture’ (p. 11). Warning of a ‘radical ontological change in how we look at processes of communication, mainly mass communication and culture' (p. 12), de Ridder calls attention to mediatization. Approaching sexuality in media is to approach ‘the role of media's power (technological, symbolical, and institutional') (p.1). The social network service is modulating user's ‘lived traditions' of sexuality into ‘symbolic content' (Hepp 2012), ‘reorganizing places as media spaces' (Couldry 2004).
Sexuality and sexual identity are now an embedded media practice. Hilton-Morrow & Battles, (2015) introduces sexuality as a categorization process. Sexual identity and language are constructed and managed, ‘continually in flux as cultural meanings are continually negotiated’ (p. 10). This negotiating of norms in the construction and management of sexual identity on SNS presents an insightful perspective into media-embedded forces that normalize certain behaviors, orientations, and desires. Examining the axiology of sexual discourse sees ‘the foundational categories of identity - the binary of sex, gender, and the body - can be shown as productions that create the effect of the natural, the original and the inevitable’ (Butler 1990a: viii). The body is the site of sexual materialization, molded by a symbolic hierarchy of norms and values that the SNS has appropriated into a performing (dis)play of desirability. ‘The cyberself’ (Robinson, 2007) is thus inextricably tied to conceptions of sexuality and sexual identity.
Researchers have found that heteronormative forces (Boryczka, 2017; Phipps et al. 2017) have migrated online (Antin & Cheshire, 2011) although little research is focused on how socio-cultural understandings of sexual identity(s) have translated. Recent methodological studies tend to look at notions of use and uses of the platform (Alpizar et al, 2017; Arora & Scheiber, 2017; Dorsch & Ilhan, 2016; Rueda-Ortiz & Giraldo, 2016; Rubin & McClelland, 2015) as oppose to a wider ‘world beyond Facebook’ (Lovink, 2016:37). Mediatization is interested in this wider world i.e., how CMC has fostered prevailing intimate cultures - ‘how people give meaning to gender, sexuality, relationships, and desire’ (de Ridder & Bauwell, 2015:1) - through social media.
As this review has examined, social media studies has benefited from a more stable conception and evaluation of mediatization. Conceptualizing the ‘me’ in new media requires a disciplinary approach that can investigate the more mundane and occult media-embedded forces proliferating in everyday life. Accelerating communicative technologies are taking an ontological shift where ‘historicizing investigations of temporal transformation processes, specifying differences between different media circuits and between different contexts and searching for measurable scales of mediatization (Ekstrom et al. 2016:1105),’ will become intrinsic to understanding ontological changes in society posed by communication technology.