Aspects of media change


We live in a mediatized world. Mediatization as a concept describes the process in modern society where media are affecting the way every other institution of society is working. Mediatization is to be seen as an overarching and ongoing process of modernisation alongside other processes of modernisation like globalization, individualization and urbanization. And often these processes intertwine and are labeled  processes of ‘networking’ or ‘connectedness’ as metaphors for late modern society. In other words, mediatization can be defined as the process where culture and society become dependent on the media and their logic. Stig Hjarvard points out that mediatization is characterized by a double process where media on the one hand have developed into an autonomous institution in society and on the other hand media have become an integrated part of the existence and daily life of other institutions and the way they work.

Due to media as an autonomous institution, the medias ongoing production of fiction, facts, entertainment and communication have gained such an impact on society that today media culture is competing with the institution of education, as Hjarvard, among others, points out (Hjarvard 2010). By and large the institution of education is still privileging and supporting a verbal and written culture – this is especially the case in higher education, I think  – but the institution of education has to face up to the fact that today subject knowledge and cultural experiences are circulating in many different media formats and on many different media platforms.

And much has been changing the last few years, while the processes of mediatization have continued to evolve: media have entered the institution of education. The discussion of digital literacies by Belshaw (2012) and the didactic handbook by Hague and Payton (2010) on how to integrate digital literacies in schools show that mediatization is recognized as a condition to be taken serious in education. Students’ lived experiences of digital media cultures have to be acknowledged and reflected in the institution of education, and the state of the art just seems to be how:

We have seen that in a society increasingly saturated with technology young people are engaging with digital cultures in which they need and expect to be able to create and manipulate media for social, cultural and economic purposes. We have also seen that they need support to ensure they have the skills, knowledge and experience to enable this. (Hague and Payton 2010:11)

As a supplement to the understanding of mediatization as a key process of modernisation, media might also be conceived of as an integrative concept with several layers and dimensions: a material dimension, a social dimension and a mental dimension¹. The material and the social dimension are easily detected across the definition I gave of digital media in my last post: Digital media are characterized by four aspects: semiotic codes, time, place and social relations and can be described in three statements:

  • digital media are multimodal – in the sense that they invite to interaction with and production of texts that integrate text, sound and image.
  • digital media can establish instant and mobile communication and interation with any geographical locality.
  • digital media lead to increased action, participation and cooperation.
  • (Drotner (2008)

We have got used to the material and the social dimensions of media change: the means of communication, the artefacts from webpage to blog, videos and memes and the practices and social use of digital media. And the material and social dimensions of culture are important as a context for explaining cultural phenomena. But there is also a mental  dimension of media change that has to do with

…all the shared schemata, concepts, and codes which enable and shape [texts and culture] through symbolic mediation, as well as…the mental dispositions predominant in a community such as ideas about time and history, values and norms, self-perceptions and the perception of others. (Erll 2011:103-104)

And I do not think we have come to terms with this mental dimension of media change yet. To me this is the part of mediatization where I put characteristics of digital media like open access, acceleration, circulation and connectedness into question and have critical attitudes towards the way digital media determine my life. Here our perceptions of time and history and identity are at stake, I think, or at least mine are, and make me worry about my privacy and about how to cope with the increasing flow of information and knowledge. Maybe the mental dimension of media change should be emphazised more to make us aware of the medias’ influence on how we see the world – and in that case, why shouldn’t the mental dimension of media change be considered and co-constructed more explicitly into a flexible model of digital literacy like Belshaws than is the case?

A struggle between focus and distraction is being played out while we are on the social media. This struggle is to me at the core of the mental dimension of media change, and it has recently been addressed as a problem to education and learning by Clay Shirky in his article² Why a leading professor of new media just banned technology use in class. His knowledge and points of reflection could easily be considered obvious aspects to be aware of as part of the mental dimension of media change.

¹The inspiration for this understanding comes from Cultural Memory Studies.

²The article was brought to my attention by Annika on her blog

Further reading:

Drotner, Kirsten (2008): Informal Learning and Digital Media: Perceptions, Practices and Perspectives In: Kirsten Drotner, H. Sigsgaard Jensen & K. C. Schrøder (eds.): Informal Learning and Digital Media, Cambridge Scholars Publicing: 10-28

Erll, Astrid (2011): Memory in Culture, Palgrave McMillan

Hjarvard, Stig (2013): The Mediatization of Culture and Society, Routledge

Hjarvard, Stig (2010): Medialiseringen af uddannelse og undervisning In: Christiansen, Hans-Christian og Gitte Rose (red.): Læring med levende billeder, Samfundslitteratur

Hjarvard, Stig (2008): En verden af medier. Medialiseringen af politik, sprog, religion og leg,  Samfundslitteratur

Elna Mortensen

Aspects of media change

2 thoughts on “Aspects of media change

  1. Elna, this isn a great post. Yuur blog is very very nice to read. I like teh way you put highlights in the boxes, nice! I like your elaboration with the three dimensions material dimension, a social dimension and a mental dimension, very very important asn of interest
    I would like to encourage you to write an article based on this blog, pleas go forward with it, it is great and reflective and give food for further refelctions
    Keep going
    Caring is sahring, sharing is caring

    Liked by 1 person

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