Panel for the TWG on Mediatization, ECREA Conference Lisboa, 15 November 2014

Find the presentations from the panel by clicking at the titles:


Knut Lundby: A pattern in social theories of change within mediatization research

Johan Fornäs: Mediatization Times

List of abstracts

Knut Lundby: A pattern in social theories of change within mediatization research
Department of Media and Communication, University of Oslo

Following my editorial work with the 600page Handbook on Mediatization of Communication to be published in 2014 as part of the Handbooks of Communication Science, I want to analyse the social theories of change that emerge among the 37 contributors. Starting from the definition applied in the call for this panel that ”the concept of mediatization tries to capture long-term interrelation processes between media change on the one hand and social and cultural change on the other” (Hepp, Hjarvard and Lundby 2010: 233), I explore the range of social theories applied to capture such transformations.
The handbook contributors cover quite a variation of social theories, all aimed to understand social changes that are taking place with mediatization. Key examples: Andreas Hepp and Uwe Hasebrink claim a phenomenological approach. At the same time they join Friedrich Krotz’s symbolic interactionist perspective. Mirca Madianou has an ethnographic take, while Nick Couldry’s and Shaun Rawolle & Bob Lingaard relate mediatization to Bourdieu’s field theory. Kent Asp, as well as Jesper Strömbäck & Frank Esser are prominent writers from a political science and political communication perspective.
A tension in mediatization research has been argued between an ‘institiutionalist’ and a ‘social constructivist’ approach to understand change in mediatization research (Couldry & Hepp 2013). Stig Hjarvard is a proponent for the former, Andreas Hepp for the latter.  The institutionalist approach looks for the transformations of institutions in society, like politics and religion, scrutinizing when they adhere to the formats of media for their function and practices in society and culture. In this tradition, the media gain power and position, and themselves develop into semi-institutions. The social-constructivist approach observes social changes through the processes of social construction of reality in mediated communication.
In this paper, I raise doubts whether this is a satisfactory distinction, capable to capture fully the social changes by mediatization in contemporary society. Emerging from the handbook chapters there seems to be a third pole, more explicitly explaining social change by the technological factor in mediatization, in particular through digitization. The paper will explicate the nuances in such a third type approach, which also has to be discussed in relation to ‘medium theory’. This three-polar presentation will include a discussion of which driving forces or key mechanisms that operates to create social change in each of these main approaches in mediatization research.

Couldry, N. & Hepp, A. (2013) “Conceptualizing Mediatization: Contexts, Traditions, Arguments”, Communication Theory 23(3): 191–202.
Hepp, A.; Hjarvard, S. & Lundby, K. (2010) “Mediatization – Empirical Perspectives: An Introduction to a Special Issue”, Communications 35(3): 223-228.

Johan Fornäs: Mediatization Times
Media and Communication Studies, Södertörn University

This paper addresses the concept of change in mediatisation theory, bringing in the dimension of temporality in two supplementary ways. Mediatisation denotes a set of social changes in the interface between communications media and other social and cultural spheres. It is thus a truly temporal phenomenon, but it remains unclear how it actually develops over time – and how it affects time.
The paper first scrutinises alternative ways to understand the temporal coordinates of mediatisation processes, and to explore the affordances of different theorisations in this respect. What does it mean to describe mediatisation as a revolutionary time shift, break or leap? What are the implications of instead depicting it in terms of long-term evolutionary processes of restructuring transition? Can it be seen through the lens of paradigm shift (Kuhn), bricolage (Hebdige), remediation (Bolter & Grusin), event, reconfiguration or narrative (Ricoeur)?
Comparisons are made with other concepts for various forms of social change, including modernisation, globalisation and individualisation. What can be learnt from how those meta-historical concepts have been discussed? In the post/late modernity debate for instance, some suggested modernisation to be a continuous development process while others instead looked for unique breaking points that divided pre , high , late  and/or post-modern times. It is hardly possible to prove one temporal perspective to be ‘correct’, but rather to reflect on their different implications, as they have repercussions on how mediatisation is understood in terms also of its range, causes and effects.
There is also another, reverse side of the interrelation between time and mediatisation: namely how mediatisation affects the time-dimension itself: how communications media restructure time consciousness, historical understanding, remembrance and forgetting. This section of the paper will refer to how Ricoeur (in Time and Narrative, 1982–1985 and Memory, History, Forgetting, 2000) analyses different technologies for culturalising or ‘humanising’ space and time, by linking cosmic-objective-universal with experiential-subjective-lived time through the use of calendars, generational successions, documents, archives and other intersubjective tools that mediate between the internal and the external. Media technologies are central to such practices, and mediatisation processes are therefore a testing ground for understanding the two-way traffic between media and time: the cultural mediation of time and the historical mediatisation of society and culture.
The aim of this paper is thus to offer a complex, dynamic insight into the mutual determinations of time and mediatisation, and thus of how to understand the bilateral temporal coordinates of media-related social change. It will build upon discussions in the ‘Mediatisation Times’ network organised with funding from the National Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation, and in my contributions to Mediatized Worlds (Hepp & Krotz, 2014) and Mediatization of Communication (Lundby, in press).

Stine Liv Johansen: Mediatized Play Practice – changing childhoods, changing play.
Department of Aesthetics and Communication, Aarhus University

Media form the basis of our interactions, and mediatization must be seen as a prerequisite for children’s play today (Hepp 2011, Hjarvard 2013). Through their networked media practices, children form and perform their identities, related to specific communities of practice or fan cultures as social practices of interpretive reproduction (Corsaro, 2005). Children’s everyday practices combine learning, playing, communicating, and identity-building, mutually intertwined and interdependent. In this particular study, I focus on the notion and concept of play, understood as a practice as well as a mediatized field in society and culture (Johansen 2014).
Previously, knowledge about play’s rules, routines, and rhythm was transmitted from older to younger children (Johansen & Karoff 2014). The conditions for such transmission have changed, since children’s everyday life is now highly institutionalised and children today spend most of their time in adult-structured settings with other children who are the same age. In addition, play is commercialized in new and more subtle ways in which both mass media and Internet media play a huge role.
Mediatized play offer different affordances than non-mediatized play, since media and technological play tools are often mobile and easily accessible and bring game play and inspiration with them. Play with media can be said to function as a continuous movement back and forth between media’s narratives, genres, and expressions and the play practice itself with or without different forms of media, computer games, mobile phones, tablets, the Internet, or toys, etc.  Media hold specific technological and semiotic affordances that can be seen as having a kind of ‘molding force’ (Hepp 2011) on the practices with, through and in which different people perform (Couldry 2012).
Children’s uses of technology and new media in their everyday life, therefore, should not be seen as a replacement for formerly known or traditional toys but, rather, as a supplement that expands and transforms play to new arenas and makes new forms of interaction possible. Theoretical implications will in this paper be discussed through empirical examples, based on recent ethnographic fieldwork in a range of settings.

Corsaro, W. (2005): The Sociology of Childhood. Pine Forge Press
Couldry, N. (2012): Media, Society, World – Social Theory and Digital Media Practice. Polity Press
Hepp, A. (2012): Mediatization and the ‚Molding Force‘ of the Media. In: Communications: The European Journal of Communication Research, Vol 37.
Hjarvard, S. (2013): The Mediatization of Society. Routledge.
Johansen, S.L. (2014): Being a Football Kid. Football as a Mediatized Play Practice. In: Schwell, A. (ed.): Kick it! The Anthropology of European Football. Palgrave-MacMillan (Forthcoming)
Johansen, S.L. & Karoff, H. (2014): Leg, legepraksis og nye medier. Systime (Forthcoming)

Friedrich Krotz: A Social World Approach for the Analysis of Mediatization
ZeMKI, University of Bremen


Mediatization here is understood as an ongoing process of cultural and social development in the context of media change. It is driven especially by the changing of old and the upcoming of new forms of interpersonal, interactive and mass communication, by changing institutions, changing aesthetics and the production of communication content. Qualitative empirical research and also survey studies asking people why and how they use new media and media services show that they usually explore these media services and media in a selected area of their social lives, and later may transfer their experiences into other areas. Similar processes take place, if people come into contact with new media or changing media while working or in contact with further institutions.
Following Symbolic Interactionism and especially Anselm Strauss and his colleagues, we can use the concept of Social Worlds to describe and to grasp these processes theoretically. A social world here consists of people, engaged in specific thematic activities, together with the communicational forms and communicative activities by which they participate in these activities: for example a fan community, a family, the academic researchers with a common topic, a group making a journey, the computer gamers are social worlds, which are constructed and negotiated by a group of people – Strauss calls such a social world also a negotiated order. In such a perspective society may be understood as a web of touching and interpenetrating, of developing, joining and separating social worlds and their subworlds, which frame the symbolic interactions and the internal and external negotiation processes of the people, by which Social Worlds are reconstructed and developed. In this sense, people are members of a lot of social worlds, and society as a whole is constructed by their interactions in the respective social worlds relevant for them. Such an open perspective seems to be especially helpful to describe Society by communication, and it then is not seen to be a state, but an ongoing complex process, which can be described by the developments of Social Worlds.
Thus, the concept of Social Worlds may serve two purposes: to understand society as an ongoing, fluid process, as a web in movement. And to describe and grasp theoretically, how Mediatization goes on and how social worlds on the base of communicatin are becoming Mediatized Worlds. The presentation will explain these concepts in detail, based on examples and empirical work and will show why these concepts are helpful to reconstruct Mediatization as a long term process with consequences for everyday life, culture and society, using emxamples like the social world of a football fan, a computerplayer and the family.

Olivier Driessens: Conceptualising mediatisation as social change: a mechanism-based perspective
London School of Economics, LSE

Mediatisation studies is a rapidly growing research field, not only in terms of the number of conducted studies and publications, but also in terms of geographical and institutional reach. Increasing numbers of scholars from around the world who are active in different branches of media and communications and in other social sciences such as politics, sociology or the educational sciences now concentrate on the study of mediatisation. While these studies often use different underlying theories and focus on different levels of analysis, they share at least one basic assumption that also sets them apart from other branches within the social sciences that look at (social) change. That is that mediatisation studies clearly distances itself from simplistic cause-effect models to research. Mediatisation is generally understood as a complex long term process, also described as a co-articulation of media-communicative changes and social-cultural changes.
Still, a group of scholars within mediatisation studies, sometimes labelled as the ‘institutionalist perspective’, describe mediatisation in quite cause-effect related terms. Simply put, they start from the idea that there is a ‘media logic’ that penetrates different social institutions, which causes change and results in mediatisation. Other scholars such as Couldry use a field theoretical perspective to analyse mediatisation, while still others describe mediatisation through a systems theoretical lens. While these perspectives are valuable as a conceptual framework, it is less clear whether or how they dramatically improve the empirical study of mediatisation. Another recent move within mediatisation studies has been pushed by Hepp and his colleagues who strongly invested in a more social constructivist approach that is grounded in Elias’ figuration sociology.
In this paper, I want to provide a critical discussion of a possible alternative social theory that can underpin mediatisation studies—both theoretically and, essentially, also empirically, namely what in analytical sociology is known as a mechanism-based perspective (e.g. Hedstr?m). In contrast with the cause-effect models, this perspective concentrates on the causal mechanisms that explain social change. In other words, it looks primarily at how certain effects are produced, how social mechanisms generate and explain associations that can be observed between events. This approach has in common with the institutionalist perspective described above that it aims to develop middle-range theories, but starting from individuals, their properties, mutual relations and actions. However, taking individuals as a starting point does not reduce it to methodological individualism; instead, it starts from structural individualism, thus acknowledging the role of institutional forms and rules.
In the conclusion, the potential advantages of adopting this mechanism-based perspective for mediatisation studies will be discussed and its possible added value for empirical research will be addressed.