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Media Edge

Media Logic and Social Reality

David L. Altheide

This book challenges social science to address the most important social change since the industrial revolution: the mediated communication order. More of our everyday lives and social institutions reflect the compelling media logic that resonates through conversation, interaction, marketing, as well as social programs, issues and foreign policy. We are beyond the time when people take into account media matters; rather, media matters are now incorporated as a kind of social form in routine and extraordinary activities. This thesis was first laid out in ‘Media Logic’, co-authored with Robert P. Snow in 1979.
Thirty-five years on, Altheide discusses his recent thinking about how media logic and mediation is a basic element in constructing social reality.
From the internet to the NSA, he shows how media logic has transformed audiences into personal networks guided by social media. He argues that we have reached the media edge as social media have all but eviscerated the audience as a significant factor in the communication equation; mediated communication is increasingly about media performances and individual selection to promote identity.
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Chapter 1: Introduction

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When you’re on a giant wave … you don’t get the full measure of the beast; the experience is more like a collage of sensory impressions …. It’s an exquisite suspension of all things mundane, in which nothing matters but living in that particular instant.

(Casey, 2010 p. 75)

We are caught in a perpetual and rapidly evolving media wave breaking toward the edge, a vortex that is guiding and defining our experiences and changing how we think of ourselves and others. It is a crisis of order and meaning fueled by media logic, expansive information visual technology, and fear that have taken us to the edge of what is familiar and is eroding trust and social order. This demands attention and critical reflection on new ways to understand the rapid expansion of mediated experience. This book looks over the edge to clarify how technologies shifted the focus from events to how we play with, and in, those events. Particular focus is on the way that the media have become more instantaneous, visual, and personal.

Let us start with an account by two reporters about their work in covering the bombings at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, in which 3 people were killed and some 250 others were wounded. Two “self-radicalized” brothers were the main culprits. Initial release of their grainy photos obtained from one of the ubiquitous security cameras sparked a flurry of social media speculations ← 1 | 2 → that proved to be incorrect....

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