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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 7: Risk Communication and the Discourse of Fear

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Privacy is now less a line in the sand beyond which transgression is not permitted, than a shifting space of negotiation where privacy is traded for products, better services or special deals.

—Haggerty and Ericson (2000)

Media logic pervades social life as information technologies open up new possibilities for personal communication, marketing, efficiency, social control, surveillance, and protection. As noted previously, entertainment and popular culture thrive on promoting fear, threat, and danger to attract audiences as well as sell products, including media programming. We cannot be too safe from ubiquitous threats to personal safety, as well as a sense of well-being, comfort, and emotional ease with lifestyles. This worldview, along with more sophisticated policing and gauging/measuring of all manner of threats, have produced a self-generating media-fear-risk-oriented society.

Mediated fear and the communications logic of providing numerous security options are central to any theory of social power and social control. We are constantly reminded through the mass media and social media (e.g., Facebook) that there are numerous threats to us as individuals, family members, workers, our nation, and if we consider warnings about “climate change,” ← 117 | 118 → even as members of planet earth! Risks abound, and we seek insurance and assurance. A central feature of what has been termed a “risk society” is risk communication2 (Beck, 1992; Ekberg, 2007; Ericson & Haggerty, 1997). Risk communication may be hindering our safety and protection while eroding privacy and reshaping collective identities as people at risk and “potential...

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