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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 2: Media Logic, Social Power, and Fear

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The media edge is the result of decades of information technologies, media production techniques that stressed entertainment and profits over conscientious efforts to actually communicate and help audiences understand their world. Grabbing ratings to promote the mass media programming as an economic institution—strictly a business proposition—helped institutionalize assumptions about audiences and the programming content that would be used to deliver high ratings to advertisers who, after all, produced the most important messages in the mass media—the advertisements and commercials. The media and entertainment industries spent decades trying to strike emotional responsive chords in audiences to attract viewers. The appeal to emotion and personal interest became part of media consciousness, and ironically, it led to the foundation for a future generation of audience disinterest and cynicism toward “facts.” We sought to identify the underlying logic that was driving this mediated activity, both on the part of the message producers as well as the audience members, and ultimately, the impact this was having on social activities. Much of this work was ignored for several decades because, quite frankly, it was not consistent with the dominant paradigms that ruled communications research and sociological thinking about the mass media in the 1970s, 1980s, and most of the 1990s. This changed around the turn of the ← 19 | 20 → century, as popular theories of communication in general, and mass media in particular, ran their course, meaning that they were essentially rejected or fundamentally revised because of numerous technological advances that affected how media...

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