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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 9: Our Mediated Condition

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A wave can store that energy or dissipate it. Paradoxically, it’s both an object and a motion …. It’s like cracking a whip. (Casey, 2010, p. 87)

I began this book with a discussion about social media used after the Boston Marathon bombing and noted that the use of new technology was redirecting inquiry, partly because people self-promote themselves as they cultivate, interpret, and transmit incomplete and often inaccurate information. The foundation of mass communication is the relationship between the messenger and the audience. The media edge fundamentally altered this relationship. Social life in the United States and many other countries is governed increasingly by popular culture, which is rapidly becoming transformed through information technologies. This chapter examines the role of digital media in transforming the audience and the implications that this has for the planning, operation, impact, and relevance of mass media news and public discourse. The major impact of digital media is in the communication process that underlies social interaction and the ways in which identity at multiple political and mundane levels is established. The sheer increase in the availability and use of digital media is unmistakable throughout the world, albeit this will have different consequences because of cultural contexts. Research indicates that adults in 2013 spent more than 4.5 hours a day with digital media, nearly 2 hours ← 153 | 154 → more than in 2010. Moreover, since 2011, the amount of time with television, newspapers, radio, and print media has decreased (Delo, 2013).

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