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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


FOURIE, Pieter J.. The impact of the digital media landscape on media theory: From effect theory to mediatisation theory. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2018, vol.58, n.4-1, pp.650-668. ISSN 2224-7912.

My intention with this article is to discuss mediatisation theory as an outcome of the new digital media landscape and in contrast to media effect theory. Seven generic characteristics of the new media landscape are identified and briefly discussed: (i) the diversity of an endless stream of content, form and presentation; (ii) an integrated and converged media industry; (iii) the shift from mass communication to network communication; (iv) an integrated regulatory model; (v) more and improved access to the media; (vi) the replacement of the media recipient with the media user and/or media co-producer (media maker), and (vii) a typical "online" communication style. It is argued that mediatisation theory seeks to include all the characteristics in a social theory about the power and effect of the media. This is done by focussing research on the media's infiltration into all the domains (fields) of society and into the daily life of the media user. The emphasis is on media as a process of mediatisation in contrast to effect theory's emphasis on causality. Mediatisation theory is described as a way of explaining how media users' cognition of their worlds is formed by the media's representation(s) of the world, people, politics, the economy, sport, art, etcetera. It seeks to explain how the media itself becomes part of life and how the media is a culture in its own right. It is argued that although mediatisation theory cannot be described as a new media theory, it does expose a number of accents which differentiates it from other manifestations of media theory, namely its emphasis on (i) media as part of society (the emphasis moves from media and society to media in society) and thus of media theory as social theory; (ii) mediatisation as a process of social transformation equivalent to the social processes of globalisation, individuation and commercialisation, and (iii) the media as everyday experience. In conclusion it is pointed out that mediatisation theory gives rise to the criticism that normative media theory has lost its heuristic value in the digital media landscape. In the new media landscape media ethics based on normative media theory is too focussed on journalism and thus too career orientated (professional journalism). Journalism is only a small part of the new media landscape, which includes a variety of non-journalistic content and form. The new media landscape also includes the media user as media maker or producer (also of journalism). It is then argued that as a result of mediatisation theory communication ethics instead of media ethics should be considered as a more comprehensive foundation for normative media theory.

Keywords : normative media theory; effect theory; mediatisation theory; social theory; mediatisation; media landscape; process; infiltration; society; transformation.

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