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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 3: Symbolic Interaction Illuminates the Mediated World

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Extract

You’re playing with the edge here.

—Big-wave surfer Jeff Clark

The previous chapter illustrated the growing acceptance of the significance of media logic and mediation. With few exceptions, communication formats, especially those associated with digital media, have transformed social interaction and numerous daily routines directly, in the way we use communication devices, and indirectly, in how rules, guidelines, and assumptions of social interaction reflect information technologies. It is as though we are all vulnerable to the nuances of rapidly changing information technologies, even though cultural and social contexts can alter the direction and magnitude of such impacts. The key point is that media logic has so transformed social life and contributed to meaning production that it is now largely assumed that communication changes in information technology innovations, use, control, and marketing lead to further institutional adjustments and have global consequences. While the communication devices are visible, many of the other changes are less so, even invisible, despite fundamental adjustments in how we communicate, interact, understand, interpret, and avoid various issues and risks. Media logic is now part of our sense making process. The tasks ← 41 | 42 → of analysis and clarification are to make this process visible. I want to make things more visible to heighten awareness, to momentarily halt the emerging cultural stream of information technology, formats, discourse, and altered communication states. Metaphors can help make things more visible; I think that a “wave,” as in oceanic forces that can sweep us off our sandy grounding...

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