Case Study: Media and Communication

Football Culture Shifts and Developments

Football is a good example of how fan cultures and audiences have transformed overtime. Once before football, which was once confined to local villages and male amateur players, it is now a global affair. Professionalization of the game, which occurred in conjunction with industrialisation and urbanisation, has meant the sport no longer is restricted to location. Players are trained intensely, while players are sold and bought on an international scale, replacing the home grown talent. Meanwhile matches are televised across the world, taking them away too far away communities. Cornell Sandvoss (2003) suggests that football supporters are a global community. Chelsea for example has a fan base across the world, including 29 fan clubs in 19 countries outside the UK. Many feel close to the players and sport despite only watching on a monitor. The internet has helped create and consolidate these networks of fans. 

Iraq War/ CBS Broadcast (2004)

In April 2004, CBS broadcast images from US soldiers who had attacked, tortured and humiliated Iraqi prisoners of war who were held at Abu Ghraib, the most notorious prison. Such pictures, which included naked prisoners in degrading positions, were taken by the devices privately owned by the soldiers. The soldiers posed with the victims in these pictures. These were then put on the internet to be shared. This caused a massive stir in global media and polarised opinion. There were those who condemned these actions is against human rights and hypocritical of the US soldiers, while others believed the POW deserved the torture.

This example of a private affair going public, and indeed global, demonstrates the sheer power of global media, outlining current issues and changing opinion. It shows the convergence of mediums, such as privately owned cameras, shared amongst small networks via the internet and then national broadcasters and press publicising the event. The movement and mobilisation of pictures and video is largely a product of digitalisation, which makes transfer quick and seamless. However, it is also the mission of the press to find outrageous and sensationalist news.

People also have a desire to express their opinions, their personality and essentially themselves online and expose things they want the audience to know. They can shape, or reinvent, their personality via the online medium. New technologies have contributed to the shift of freedom and ability of individuals to express themselves in a public space without shame. The issue is of governments and regulatory bodies controlling, or censoring, such communications which can be regarded as offensive or illegal.

Mediated communication, as the Abu Ghraib demonstrated, transforms proximity and distance. The images were of a distant, unknown world made public and almost directly in the rooms of the audience. The images were so vulgar and horrific that people demanded a response from the government and international bodies. For many observers, the images they seen had to be pushed back into invisibility again.

The media is a central institution to in representing the distant world. People decide what is seen and unseen, and how it is presented to the audience. It is also represented differently for different people in order to achieve the media goal, such as celebration or disgust. The media offers a viewpoint that is neither ignorant or entirely unbiased, just somewhere in between depending upon your community and national values.  although the media can transcend distance by making events globally visible, but it can reinforce distance by not reporting on certain things as well. The media shapes the way we think and respond to the demands of a globalised world. Mediation can produce distance and proximity.

The Media and Modernity, John Thompson

  • Development of communication media creates new forms of behaviour and acting for ‘distant others’ and ‘responsive action’.
  • The media means individual can receive and respond to events that may occur anywhere in the world.
  • Communication and responsive action is restricted to particular means, especially if in relation to a distant place.
  • People can react in any way to events, and as it is far removed from face to face dialogue, it is difficult to monitor and control.

The reception of media products takes place in a spatial-temporal context. With receptive activity the spatial -temporal context of reception does not overlap with production, and, while there are multiple reception contexts which do not overlap with each other. While reception contexts do not overlap in space, they share certain characteristics depending upon the technical medium.

Television for example, the primary reception region is in a single room, separated by walls and physical barriers. Their interaction is limited so far with producers. The audience does not interact in the same way as producers, and the two do not communicate in a two-way dialogue. For example, quasi-interaction of people in the same shared space as the television is us managing the medium – i.e. not wanting to be interrupted during a show, or alternately, engaging throughout. By any means we are not directly approaching the producers. This is ‘discursive elaboration’, where media messages are elaborated, criticised or praised by the recipient, whether at the time or after, who take on these messages and give it meaning. Media messages can acquire secondary audiences who may not have consumed the message directly, but have heard/ seen it second hand.

With so much content and media messages in this inter-connected world, where the media refers to other content or media messages. This is called ‘extended mediasation’. It can include news reports referring to television interviews or tweets as point of reference. If a recipient did not consume the original content, they have opportunities to learn about them through this kind of media.  This form extends beyond the initial activity of reception within the primary reception region. ‘appropriation’ is the term coined to refer this extension of the media. The audience hears these messages and interprets as they like, relating to it in incorporating.

Although contexts of reception have common characteristics, the social attributes and context given to media messages, is not the same everywhere. Since mediated quasi-interaction makes messages available anytime, anywhere to an indefinite audience, the diversity of social attributes and reception process is far greater than face to face interactions.

Social differences among physical and virtual interaction

Physical communication relies heavily on the people engaging with each other. It relies on personal attributes like tone, body language and responses. It is thought out and intimate. People can hesitate, agree /disagree and use language both recipients will comprehend.

In contrast the virtual communication, although immediate and available, lacks intimacy as it addresses a larger audience. It arguably is less personal, but is intended to be.  Responses can include a variety of speakers and language can be simplified in order to reach larger audiences.

Social differences among the audience affect how they relate and respond to messages, how they understand them and integrate them into their lives. The appropriation of media therefore must be regarded as ongoing and a socially differentiated process that depends on the media content.

The reception and appropriation of media messages are ways of acting in response to others who may be spatially remote. The audience engages in a set of activities such as watching, listening or reading, which is stimulated by actions of others who are located somewhere else. The media message can get across in many ways, so the response is varied as well. However, there are times when the response is collective, known as a concerted form of responsive action. That is the actions of distant others, relayed by the media, can cause a common response, although these vary;

  1. Concerted but uncoordinated response; individuals react in similar ways to mediated actions, but there is no collective communication or coordination between them. This can be the case for an announcement of sales tax increase which causes people to purchase goods, causing a spike in purchasing. Although recipients can discuss this in their social circles and coordinate some parts, and the media may report on this and cause a snowball effect, it is largely uncoordinated.
  2. Concerted response through prompts and cue; individuals react in similar ways to mediated actions due to prompts and cues by the producer. This is as producers cannot monitor its audience and wants a desired effect. It can also therefore address recipients not in the direct locale. Symbolic devices are employed in order to attain the desired reaction. An example is canned laughter in sitcoms which prompts the audience to laugh.
  3. Concerted and coordinated response; individuals react in similar ways due to the media messages that are intended to cause a collective action. The action can be from small groups or well organised social movements with clearly defined goals. This type of action draws on a variety of mediums, media messages and support. The media acts to create and sustain this sort of action. An example is the reaction to the Vietnam War which again polarised public opinion, and fuelled the anti-war movement. Now governments are more cautious about the intention of media messages.

The media therefore causes a stir and reaction, which, can account for social change and shift in public opinion if broadcast in certain ways. The media is an important tool in bringing global issues to the public consciousness to raise awareness. Many events in the 20th century in particular were spurred by the power of the media, such as the union of Germany (1989) and the dissent of Czechoslovakia to form the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The events such as this demonstrate how important the role of the media is in social and political life. With modern technology, which is difficult to escape from, people can be made aware of events occurring in the world virtually in real time. This can mobilise forces and collective action. So events can be linked together closely in time regardless of distance. The media is creating and evolving the social world, deliberately making images and information available to influence the audience.

Although most media messages are one way, that is not to say that it does not create a two-way conversation. The plurality of sources and channels of information can cause the audience of the media to become the media, and likewise, the centre of the media to become its audience. The media then has developed the way people, groups and nations communicate in order to accomplish their aims. Participants can use technical means, which for many are readily available, to communicate to large and distant audiences who may or may not care.

So what does this mean for the modern world?

The growth of multiple communication channels, which are unmanaged and uncontrollable, has led to an explosion of information sharing. These mediums can create a variety of actions and reactions, empowering individuals and groups while lessening the distance of people and ideas. The evolution of media to become decentralised has given rise to a new form of communication, mediated and distant, in the modern world.

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