The relationship between media and society

Society and the Media |

the relationship between media and society

Göran Bolin 8 Institution, technology, world: Relationships between the media, culture, and society [This is a pre-print of chapter 8 in Knut Lundby (ed.) (). Free Essay: The following essay will concentrate on the reciprocal relationship between the media and society, focusing on journalism in. Media and Society is an Academy Programme that has two interconnected and THEME 1: The relationship between media and society.

In the next —6— section I will thus discuss the wider implications of sign value in relation to production in contemporary media and cultural industries. The fashion de sign of haute couture is produced through semiotic labour, that is, in the practice of signification carried out by the designer: Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, and their colleagues. And the exchange value of haute couture is more dependent on the signifying practices of this group of designers than it is on the quality of the raw material they work with although this naturally also contributes to the exchange value of fashion commodities.

This is what Baudrillard by way of Barthes hints at when he argues for the dominance of sign value over use value — the function of covering the body, or keeping it warm, is of less importance than the effect of distinguishing the clothes-bearer from his or her contemporaries. Now, why is an understanding of the fashion system important in the process of mediatization or, for that matter, anything else outside the fashion system?

This was admittedly a relevant question to Baudrillard at the time his theories were formulated. It is not surprising, then, that his writings are often incoherent, and that he had obvious difficulty freeing himself of the dominant perspective on commodities as having some kind of material or tangible base. At his best, using examples from fashion and the above-mentioned example of the tailfins of American cars, he could point to instances in which the non-functionality of sign value dominated over functional use value.

But he did not formulate a coherent theory of pure sign commodities, that is, commodities entirely constructed of combinations of signs.

Communication Breakdown: What is the nature of the relationship between media and society?

However, just as we can say that the ideas of McLuhan are of more obvious relevance today cf. Today, with the widespread digitization of the media, it follows that media content to an increasing degree is becoming separated from its tangible carriers.

With the sophisticated personal, digital, and mobile means of consumption of today hardware such as laptops, mobile phones, and tablet computers, and software services such as social networking sites, Spotify, iTunes, Voddlerthe cultural object as an assemblage of digits can travel between a range of different tangible carriers. They are pure sign structures that have no tangible base.

The semiotic labour of composing the cultural object has its correspondence in the semiotic labour of consuming it. Sign value, then, as theorized by Baudrillard, is — just as is exchange value — the result of the development of the fetish character of the commodity i. It contributes to exchange value, as the example of fashion obviously reveals. But it can also be extracted as a value in its own right, which is realized in consumption: It therefore also has a relatively autonomous relation to exchange value, and circulates in a different economy, determined by a different logic: If use value, as theorized by Baudrillard, is coupled with a functional logic, and exchange value with an economic or commercial logic, sign value is coupled with a differential logic Baudrillard In this sense, sign value replaces neither use nor exchange value, but adds a quality to the object, in the same way as exchange value adds the quality of equivalence to the logic of utility.

That something has sign value does not mean it is emptied of use value, but rather that the compositions of value are more complex. It could be argued that the intertwinement of these logics is more pertinent today, since cultural objects have become freed of their fixation to tangible carriers.

A piece of music in its commodity form was previously bound to its tangible carrier. It thus had a material base in raw material as well as the sign qualities. When you buy a piece of music from iTunes today, this is not the case. Arguably, you need the means of consumption to decode the commodity into consumable form, but the commodity itself — the thing you buy from iTunes — has no tangible base. It still has a material quality, of course, since light floating through fibre optic cables also consists of physical energy, but you cannot put the song as a commodity in your pocket or hold it in your hand unless it is laid down on a physical carrier.

The above argument means that the commodity in itself, the thing bought and sold, is a composition of signs without any raw material. There are of course means of production taken advantage of in the process of production studio space, microphones, instruments, computersbut the act of signification does not tool a raw material into something new.

And thus, for the digital commodity, the labour of signification is of crucial importance for its exchange value. Imagine, for example, the production process behind a hit single by Lady Gaga: When the involved musicians are content with how the tune sounds there will be object form, there will be use value and in the process of marketing and promoting the tune, there will be a commercial form and exchange value added.


But what is the signified? Of course its individual components in the forms of lyrics, instrumentation, and generic belonging carry a range of connotations, but as a commodity, that is, as a unique —8— combination of signs sounds, timbre, harmonies, etc. Furthermore, it shares this quality with all other pure sign commodities.

Admittedly, there were cultural commodities that were pure sign structures before digitization as well. Music pieces as well as television and radio programmes are all examples of non-tangible commodities that existed in the analogue era.

But digitization radicalizes the non-tangible sign commodity, if not by quality then by scale, reach, and transformability. As non-tangible objects, however, contrary to tangible commodities that become worn down in use, intangible commodities have a potential for eternal life. This is where the commercial sign system must work at its own destruction in order to close the production—consumption circuit.

As tangible commodities wear down with use, non-tangible commodities in sign systems wear down by the signifying practices producing new signs: So, to summarize this section, mediatization, as argued by Baudrillard and his followers, such as Lashis related to the technological features of the media, rather than the institutional arrangements of the media as media corporations, or the institution of journalism. Instead, the objects and phenomena that are seen as mediatized are subjected to the logic of the medium as a communication technology.

Mediatization has to do with form; not in the same way as McLuhan argued that form was the most important effect of the media, but form in the way information and content are subsumed the code imposed by the media.

Mediatization, then, does not result from the impact of technology itself, and neither is it produced by the ways the media are organized into institutions of either mass or personal media. It is rather an effect of the system of signification. What he is arguing for is thus not the disappearance of physical reality, but the increased presence of what could be called self-directed signifiers, that is, signifiers without signifieds or referents outside the sign system itself.

They might be intangible, but they are nonetheless taken account of by consumers and media users in social action. This means that sign structures are real in the sense that they do exist, are acknowledged to exist, and are acted upon in ways that indicate that media users and consumers think of them as existing. Even simulations are real in this sense — as simulations. And signs and simulations are also part of society.

Furthermore, it is equally clear that the simulations are born, interpreted and acted upon inside, rather than outside, society. This brings us back to the discussion on the relationship between media as institutions and technologies on the one hand and culture and society on the other, and in the next section I will introduce a third position. The roots of this perspective are somewhat harder to trace, and the background is more heterogeneous.

the relationship between media and society

Furthermore, although the concept of mediatization is adopted in these debates it is used in a wider sense, referring to the more general role of the media in culture and society. It is also very far removed from the version of mediatization as subsumption under the code advocated by Baudrillard.

Lazarsfeld does not use the concept of mediatization, while Nowak does Nowak Still, their view on the role of the media in social and cultural processes is nonetheless the same. Lazarsfeld and Nowak are, of course, not alone in sharing this view on the relationship between our communication media and society.

This quote was later picked up by James Carey While the transmission approach privileges causality and linearity in communication, the ritual approach is apt to answer other kinds of questions — on shared meaning, culture, identity.

If a society exists both by communication and in communication, it also follows that there are no communicating positions outside society. Surely there might be institutions, and these might have autonomous status in relation to other social institutions political parties, for example. But these institutions will also be a part of the wider society, and contribute to its specific character. So, the institutional perspective on mediatization as I have described it above has to a great degree adopted a transmission perspective on mediatization, while what I call the media as world perspective is closer to the ritual approach.

This ritual approach is integrative.

Relation between Media and Administration is for the benefit of Society .

It does not presume society as atomistic but rather as a whole — encompassing several dimensions, but nonetheless an integrated unity. Its roots are traced by Carey to the functional sociology of Durkheim [] in his The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, but it can also be found in the writings of Raymond Williams []whom Carey Many people seem to assume as a matter of course that there is, first, reality, and then, second, communication about it.

the relationship between media and society

We degrade art and learning by supposing that they are always second-hand activities: This struggle is not begun, at second hand, after reality has occurred. It is, in itself, a major way in which reality is continually formed and changed. What we call society is not only a network of political and economic arrangements, but also a process of learning and communication Williams In this sense the representations, accounts, stories, and ideas of individuals are part of social reality just as much as are the more physical objects society also comprises.

The ritual perspective does not primarily analyse casual effects, directions of influence and impact. As David Morley This is, of course, a classical tension between structure and agency, which has also been formulated by Marx: The constraints as well as the possibilities to overcome them include all the structuring institutional arrangements made in culture and society, which develop in conjunction with each other.

However, the ritual view need not necessarily encompass a linear historical explanation, but is rather open to alternative historical understandings, taking their departure in alternative conceptualizations of historical time alongside the linear, for example in circular time emphasizing its — 11 — repetitive, ritualistic quality or even punctual time whereby time is defined not by its succession of moments but by its social or cultural quality.

This is also a perspective on social and cultural development that could emphasize the role of the media not in terms of causality but as archive, as a common intellectual resource, a heritage that includes prehistoric art and literature, early forms of communication and cultural formation, cultural practices, the assemblage of cultural technologies at our disposal in the form of both technological hardware machines of different kinds and technological software, that is, the various techniques men and women have developed for communication the signifying practice of language as such, poetry, genres, and other presentational forms, etc.

Mediatization, then, points to the increased presence of the media as technologies in society, and the consequences of this on its qualitative character Hannerz ; cf.

According to Nowak First, we communicate within an increasingly media rich environment where we have access to increasingly many and more differentiated media technologies.

And if society, as Dewey argues, exists in communication, this is indeed an increasingly technified — mediatized — form of communication. And in this sense, we should acknowledge some mediated phenomena produced in an increasingly mediatized communication environment as important instances of late modern media life. Let me conclude the discussion by giving some examples of media phenomena that indeed have an impact on the character of society, but are difficult to analyse in terms of the media imposing themselves on a supposedly previously unmediated phenomenon.

Two such examples are the media event the Eurovision Song Contest, the Olympics and the sign commodity texts, audiences, formats, the brand. These phenomena have little existence outside the media, either as institutions or technologies. Nonetheless, they need to be seen as social and cultural phenomena that are clearly part of our present social realities.

They have been chosen because they are examples of phenomena that do not pretend to represent or make a mediated account of a social reality outside the institution of the media, but nonetheless need to be considered part of everyday social reality.

The first example is the Olympic Games in their modern form. While these games do indeed have an unmediated prehistory dating back to ancient Greece ca. The modern games are also, contrary to the ancient games, international. This presupposes some form of communication medium to report back to the partaking national audiences.

Indeed, it would be peculiar if one arranged an international competition of supposedly great national interest if there were no means to report back to citizens of partaking nation-states. We can thus argue that the modern Olympic Games have never occurred in unmediatized form.

The media as technologies and as institutions sports journalism have always been an integrated part and a main component. Admittedly, the media technologies have changed sincewhich has had an impact on the ways the Olympic Games have been mediated back to national audiences, the ways they have been represented.

But there has never been an unmediated Olympic moment in the modern era. The Olympic Games are mediated in the meaning that they develop in tandem with the media organizations and technologies involved in their mediation to national audiences.

This long-standing institution in European television history, initiated in by the European Broadcasting Union EBU and broadcast yearly to European and some other audiences, was in fact initiated as a cultural technology Bolin to communify the European countries through a common entertainment competition. From having been a limited phenomenon at its start only seven countries took part in the first competitionit has today grown to be one of the largest non-sport media events in Europe.

As a production initiated by the EBU, however, it has little life separate from the media; that is, if by media we mean the integrated efforts of television, the Internet, the tabloid press, weeklies and fan press, as well as the music media — record companies, streaming services, and others with an interest in making revenues out of the music.

From an institutional perspective, the ESC is an institution in its own right. A wide range of normative theories deal with the relationship of the media to society. The liberal perspective and the social responsibility model have been particularly influential.

But what exactly do they imply? The liberal perspective - marketplace of ideas In line with 17th century thinker John Milton's conceptualization of a free "marketplace of ideas", a plurality of media outlets is necessary to give voice to different interests from which citizens can make 'informed' choices.

This normative theory can be linked to an understanding of democracy in which the democratic outcome of decision-making is the combined result of individuals' or groups' preferences and consensus is reached if a majority of individuals make the same or similar choices.

Critics of this liberal perspective argue that it is prone to being improperly biased in favor of dominant groups and has allowed the capture of much of the media by criminals, narrow political forces and business interests. The private broadcasting sector, which is widely characterized by a high degree of media concentration in terms of ownership, audience share or advertising revenue, is a prime example illustrating this dominant group bias.

Can digital communications counter media concentration and capture? How is it resolved? Are the roles played believably? How well is the character developed? Do persons behave responsibly? Are problems over simplified? Are moral dilemmas handled sincerely? Is the view of the world distorted?

Is there balance in the issue or controversy presented? How can distortions be corrected? How are African Americans portrayed? Prentice typical of an African American? Why is the maid angry with Dr. How are liberal whites portrayed? Is the situation over simplified? Why are the parents so uptight with their daughter? Why are the parents suspicious of Dr. What did they find out?