Derived from the greek world ‘tele’ meaning far off, humanity has further advanced technology in order to eradicate barriers in information and communication. It includes the telegram, telephone and television which brought some aspect of the world closer. Physical proximity although was unchanged, was challenged by the inventions of these device. Bringing the world closer to home doesn’t rely on distance, but on time, and shortening the amount of time information reaches you. A lot of connections can now be managed in real time as well. You can now pass information and communicate with people virtually anywhere and at any time.
The internet has produced a massive phenomenon in information sharing and communications, with almost immediate affect. It has added a powerful dimension to the compression of time in our globalised world, and network permitting, you can do business anywhere. To live in a mediated world means to be interconnected in our always accessible world. These technologies look to connect dispersed communities and decrease face to face interactions. These devices have become essential in managing everyday communications and management of proximity and distance (both physical and non-corporate).
To live in a shareable world is not necessarily to live in a shared world. A shareable world is one where various kinds of media offer the prospect of interconnection among otherwise disconnected individuals, groups or nations. With so many communications and decisions made through technology and reducing interactions, it does question whether this technology is actually bringing us together.
Our participation in a mediated world brings challenges and responsibilities – and such participation can cause dependence. Although we may think it can create a sense of independence too. Technology brings with itself new demands, that we have to be constantly in touch and connected with the world. People want us to be contactable and responsive to the continuous flow of calls and emails. How can people escape from this?
Media can create an illusion of proximity, in fact contrasting us to communication via phone, emails, images, etc.
The Dynamics of Media and Communication
Language is the primary means for communication. It has been the natural form of communication for centauries and is unmediated by technology. Writing and printing has then extended our reach and how we communicate. However, face to face interaction with its immediacy and intimacy is currently unmatched. However, face to face is not without its challenges and oral communication is not just at pay, but body language and tone play a part. Interaction is somewhat censored as you may feel unable to say something or perhaps you are misinterpreted.
Face to face interaction
Context of co-presence or shared special temporal reference system. It uses multiple, cues including visual. Sound, smell, body and context. It is orientated between a specific person an is dialogical.
Mediated interaction (e.g. phone)
Separation of contexts and extended availability of time and space. Narrowing the range of cues and self-limiting, i.e. just sound. Orientated towards a specific person and dialogical.
Mediated quasi-interaction (e.g. radio)
Separation of contexts and extended availability in time and space. Narrowing the rnage of cues and lack of opportunity for an immediate response (fragmented). Orientated towards an indefinite range of potential recipients and monological.
Mediated interaction and broadcasting allows you reach to be greater, but the weight of your presence is lessened. It is not to generate an immediate response than say a face to face interaction. Arguably however the quasi-interaction of say a television or radio broadcast is dialogical as it is intended to create a response, even if fragmented. The use of the internet again reduces barriers and posting there are to generate a response.
Mediation is the product of human agency and it requires engagement and a range of actors. It is regulated by the media, local authorities, national government and global stakeholders and they rely and engage with the audience and users of media. The work is constantly available to us the audience. All the work by said agents has effects on people and the world and can help us know our place in the world and understand (or misunderstand) the world around us. Our dependence on mediated imagery for topics we do not understand formulate our everyday life and learning. The media helps us understand the world we live in today.
The work of Global Media
The global media, including the tools of mass media for nations and the globe, has come to define history, society and geography. Global media determines what we see, when we see it and how it is portrayed to make us feel a certain way. Media technologies does not just concern the technology itself, i.e. the terminal, but the way it reaches, attracts and retains the audience. It relies on the creation of networks, applications and enhancements in order to reach the right audience. Think of turning on a computer and then connecting to the internet, and all the resources available to you from there.
The work of institutions
Institutions look to control and maintain what is consumed and what is not. It is when media technologies enter social life, both that is governed by public and commercial institutions, they become significant and influential. Some media outputs have more power than others and the function of devices changes over time, like radios used to be two way communications devices for war which soon became a national one-way communication. The internet has grown in popularity and is used significantly by the more affluent countries. The internet is also struggling to remain free as governments try to regulate its use and content. Likewise, mobile phone providers did not anticipate the sheer popularity of devices and now like the internet, is initiated by users to message and communicate.
There is inevitably a tension between the functionality, uses and power of technology. On one hand they are great tools to connect and communicate, but it can be used for wrong doing as well. Now there are issues over data privacy and what can be censored by government, and what can be taken by large media corporations. ‘Fake News’ and misinformation has become a global issue with the power to disrupt politics and society.
The media was built by institutions for communications and created almost a national identity compared with local, and helped with national markets too. As industrialisation gathered pace, and media removing communication barriers, mediated centripetal cultures were created. It underpinned strengthening nations and helped with liberal democratic or totalitarian views, creating the National Media.
New media strategies have emerged since the late 20th century such as internet, digital television and mobile telephony. This has meant news is less national focused and instead looks at the global platform. In this respect the media has become centrifugal, enabling people to focus behind local or national constraints – it has created centrifugal cultures of migration, lifestyle and more.
Advocated by Manuel Castells (2000), he argued society is moving towards a network and technology dominated one, which in turn is centrifugal as it is this interconnected world. Distance is not an issue as people are more spatially aware. Localities are disembodied from their cultural, historical and geographical meaning and regarded as a network.
Centripetal Culture Vs Centrifugal Culture
A centripetal force is a force or attitude that unifies people. The term centripetal force comes from the Latin words centrum, meaning “center”, and petere, meaning “tend towards” or “aim at”. It provides a central force to unite communities and nations and builds states. It can build a national culture, shared beliefs common identity.
A centrifugal force is the exact opposite of a centripetal force. The term centrifugal force comes from the Latin words centrum, meaning “center”’ and fugere, meaning “to flee”. It is a force or attitude that tends to divide a state, such as different beliefs, ideas or opinions. It can destabilise a state and cause tensions that can erupt into conflicts.
The Distribution of the Internet
However, as Castell notes in his book The Internet Galaxy (2003), there is an uneven distribution of technology and internet connected areas. Naturally the most affluent are the better connected and live in this centrifugal world, while those who do not have the technology are left out. This is called the digital divide. Countries are no longer divided by borders, but the haves and have nots. Internet sites also match this pattern with about half registered in the US alone. Notably 80% of the world have never made a phone call, to demonstrate the uneven spread of ICT. The impact of the media therefore, both availability and content, is shaped by the institutions that create and manage them, including governments and corporations.
The work of the producers
Media producers are involved in bringing distant messages, images and events to us at home. The production of current affair and news shows, or even fictional tales based on life, invite audience to empathise with the narrative. However, whether fictional or not, the person and /or events that are relayed are beyond our immediate experience. Producers, both as institutions and individuals, are key figures in the representation of the mediated, distant world. They tell the stories, make us feel the way they want and tell us the narrative through many mediums. However sometimes the medium can be immediate, rushed and without reflection such as breaking news and reports in war zones and with the information at the time. It is regarded as truth as there is little challenge to their reports and cost referencing.
The News is a significant strand of mass communication and information. The increasing demand, and provision for, information on commercial news, military news and global affairs has driven the press for over a century. The news articulates that cultures views on current affairs and is almost always unchallenged. It is presented as accurate, trustworthy and an account of events, which adds to its persuasiveness. This is why there are calls for its impartially on most stories, and representing the world events objectively. However, the ulterior motives and news readers add bias, tone and personality to the broadcaster, and as such can commit judgements of significance. Every inclusion involves exclusion and with imagery, identification, recognition and meaning.
The reach of the news is infinite and few areas are out of bounds. News correspondents are located around the world and are almost always on site when big news events happen. There are some areas are systematically ignored as it may not fit in with the agenda or cultures interests, such as the continent of Africa is primarily ignored in most reports. It is the news bulletins that demand our attention. The news does not objectively reflect the event or even the world, it commits biased by the news it reports on, the nations it looks at, the opinions it collects, the newsreaders it selects and more. In common with all other forms of mediation, it is the product of work, news involves gate keeping, deciding what to report on, framing and storytelling, and editorialising which offers opinions which cause debate. Neutrality therefore is impossible as the news tries to be sensationalist, driving and engaging with its audience. Given the potential of the news to give us information on news near and far, and offer its opinions on issues, its failures to be objective and inclusive deny us the resources we need to make sense of the world.
The crucial participant in the medias ability to report on near and far is the audience. How do we make the distant world close to the audience? How to give the audience what it wants to see and hear?
The work of the audiences
There is often misconception that the audience are passive receivers of media communications. Although this may be true to some, the medias purpose is to address and engage the audience, therefore the material will cause controversy. The audience does have the capability to respond both critically and creatively. They give the news its meaning, they see what they want, hear what they want and ultimately make their own decision on the news reports of the world. Some people do more than others and some communications will be regarded as more important or not by different audiences.
All media provides a set of resources shaped by institutions and producers with their own take on it. Our dependence on the media in this regard is enormous, and there is little escape. We use the media to manage media, and we find ourselves constructing our responses to the demands we now face. People find ways to distance themselves from their phones, emails and more, while others are finding ways to customise the media they receive it is not all encompassing and only the media they want to see. People respond to the media in many forms, talking about it, responding to it and complaining about it. This component of mediation therefore is the ‘responsive action’, action that is in response to or a stimulated by media items.
Living with mediation
In this mediated world, how do the individual cope with this? What capacity do individuals have to distance themselves, exert control over their ‘world’ and incorporating the challenges of a mediated world in our everyday lives. The focus therefore is the ability of the individual to mould the media to their own interests.
There are many examples of individuals, on a commute for example, who will ‘block’ out the commute and indeed the world by perhaps listening to music, on their phones or reading books/ papers. In this respect the media helps us mould the environment which we control and it is though we passively recognise we are not going to socialise or engage. It empowers the user, but also provides a sense of inclusion with the media tools and distancing ourselves from the world. People use media to block out the world, work and people, and some use it to assert their presence. Not to mention some tools keep the media world at bay, like answerphones, voicemails and our selected playlists of music or video content to distract.
With other forms of media there are simply no boundaries, such as blogs and vlogs, which encroach on the home. These invite people to see and engage with individuals with an essentially ‘invisible’ audience who could comprise of likeminded individuals. Instead of distancing themselves, individuals actively seek to connect and engage with people from anywhere in the world. There are few barriers to doing this and so it has caused the proliferation of data, articles and blogs which in many cases would be largely overlooked. These articles as well are private thoughts for the most part, but put in a public domain, the same can be said for Twitter and Facebook posts.
As we all regards media differently and we use in different ways while it impacts us all differently, we can regard our contribution as a ‘media signature’. This can be seen as a manifestation of the global media culture – where individuals can access and develop both a public and private web of connections. Through this they can manage the demands of global media while also having a space in it. It also creates relationships with near and far places.
However, from the very beginning the media has been used in wider projects to build communities and collective identity. Can the media create communities which may stretch afar, so how successful is the media in closing the gap?
The mediation of the community
Communities are sects or groups of often shared or common values and beliefs. It can be grounded in location (proximity), history, tradition or common memory. Most communities are symbolic and are apparent in shared or common activities, like festivals or otherwise, or a symbol such as a flag, sports team or hero and/ or celebrity. With the latter social interactions and attachments weigh far less importance. The idea of spatially separate but shared and synchronous activity of reading a newspaper has the power to create a strong sense of national community.
Benedict Anderson (1983) developed the idea of the ‘imagined community’, where the media was a centripetal. Anderson used it as a principle of the historical analysis of the formation of state, convergence of capitalism and vernacular language. This was heavily emerging in nation states, such as in Europe, during the 18th and 19th century. During this time sought to build empires and mobilise populations behind national projects of commercial and political enterprise.
The newspaper therefore represents and expresses convergence; a national medium in a shared language, read by an increasingly literate population and consumed simultaneously. This developed a national culture and shared ‘imagined community’. With the creation of the national radio, catalysed by the BBC, has created a central and national broadcasting medium. The radio became a culture creating medium, despite separate households and private lives. It’s everyday reliability to report on the national news and political and sporting events, radio became instrumental in providing the foundation for national culture. Radio bridged distances and invited, and collected, participation, in a mediated public sphere. This was particularly useful during war time to gather against a ‘common enemy’.
The national project of mediating distance however has transformed with new mediums. The media in question has become much more responsive to individual demand, and now groups and individuals are less dependent on the nation for identity and culture. People can now seek out, via media channels, individuals or groups like them, rather than assimilating to national culture.
This denotes the shift from mediated centripetal to centrifugal culture.
This shift occurred with the first satellite television broadcast between the USA and UK (1962) which was previously separate. This was a global event and indeed created the virtual community. This created the demand for to be willing participants, but we can respond or decline this invitation.
What impact do Global Media Events have on the mediated audience?
Global media events have the capacity to transform a global population into a global community, albeit for a moment. This is because of the immediacy of evens and being broadcast real time to an audience transfixed by events, thus removing distance.
Global media events invite the viewer, no matter where they are, to engage with and participate as a global audience. Global media events invite the kind of attention and participation which would otherwise be restricted to the viewers own world. Big events, such as the assassination of JF Kennedy, Death of Princess Diana and the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004, were broadcast by media, interrupting the everyday and drawing together a global audience and were in some way able to stop time and transform space (proximity and distance).
Dayan and Katz (1992) suggest that global media events transcend the everyday time and distance. They break up the mundane reporting and daily broadcasting, and can create moments of celebration, horror or mourning. It can create social networks and generate engagement, chatter, stories, theories and more. Moreover, global events have the ability to change public opinion and where we think we are in the world, again making us re-evaluate the distance between nations and communities. Our centre of personal gravity can change with global events, no matter how near or far.
The reach of media, with its centrifugal consequences, is not only confined to moments of global media events. With the convergence of broadcast, satellite, and internet based mediums, it has opened up an almost infinite amount of connections, building on existing ones and creating new ones. The globalisation of media culture involves the formation of new networks and communities based on shared interests, no matter where participants are. Electronic media is not bound to one nation or boundaries, and indeed, cyberspace is free for all.
Virtual networks can be considered as centrifugal; that is, as networks that form around the margins and across the borders of nations and communities.
Nancy Baym (2000) expands on this nature of virtual communities, and claims that the interactions that emerge online, despite the lack of other connections, are sufficient to make them genuinely social. With new mediums come new forms of communications and expressions, such as emoji’s. It also explores the possibility of public identities and the creation of unlikely relationships and perhaps behavioural norms. Such interactions are sustained for long enough and deep enough, online becomes a location for meaningful relationships. However, these communities still rely on, and must be understood in the context of, the everyday lives of those who participate. i.e. the communication may be virtual, but in order for its survival, it needs to be grounded in reality/ physical.
The global media, and indeed other media, provides opportunities for engagement with those otherwise out of touch. They are there for those who want to engage and respond, but likewise are invisible to those who do not. There are some kinds of media which arrive uninvited, and can make one uncomfortable or unwelcome. The global media in shrinking the planet confronts us with a range of challenges that are new and make an impact. These may require or demand a response.
Mediating demands at a distance
Some events are caused by what is seen by some as trivial matters. With accessibility to mobile devices which can capture data and pictures, and with these published into public domains, it is subject to getting broadcast/ publicised further.
Mediation of the global community
The demands of a mediated world causes a lot challenges. Compared with face to face interaction, which itself is problematic as individuals try to understand each other with immediacy, tone and body language. Mediated interaction, and quasi-interaction, offers a number of challenges.
One challenge is the tension between proximity and distance and the construction of ‘reality’ via mediated means. How does the media create a sense of proximity and distance that would be understood by the audience, but also engages the audience and creates a response? Without fulfilling this promise of overcoming distance which the media promote, the audience might believe it is simply the illusion of proximity. The illusion of proximity would only consolidate the distance, as the audience would do nothing to relate or engage.
Another challenge the mediated world faces are censored reporting on events, and the illusion that what is reported may or may not be actual events. To add to this the media controls what we see, and importantly, what we do not see. This biased reporting can shape our world views and opinions. Reporting on certain events in the US for example, but not from the continent of Africa, is one way the media is biased.
Globalising media offers the audience a shareable medium, but that does not mean it is a shared world. This is due to the above challenges of participation from the audiences and whether the audience can trust the media to represent the news fairly. Responsibility plays a key role in the mediated world. The media is responsible to generate their version of the world, the content it provides and how we interpret it. Of course our personal limitations limit how we feel and interpret the media. The audience can become disillusioned with the media, or they can ‘switch off’ from the media which is switching off from the world – how can we live in a world ethically if we are distant from it? The shift from centripetal media (press and broadcasting) to a centrifugal one, which offers more to the audience, it can create further engagement and globalisation. However, this relies on the states own national media and whether people can access it.
Lastly the globalised media can undermine genuine communication and engagement. Participation in global media events is limited to the most part of being a casual bystander to events and commenting with our own opinion. For online communication you are limited by your capacity to close the connection, but our actions will not have a massive consequence, unless to ourselves. Instant disengagement, much like instant engagement, comes with a simple click on your device and can make things seem feeling close or really far.
The globalised media calls for our attention all the time and appears to be a necessity in our globalised world. It can reinforce or transcend distance, whilst proximity can be real and imagined. We can however close ourselves from the media and the world.