Preface to the 8th edition
If there is one word which defines the evolution of media since the 7th edition of this Dictionary of Media and Communication Studies in 2006 it is participation: the audience is king; and this has largely come about as a result of the opportunities for feedback and interactivity made possible by new and improved technology. Once upon a time there were TV sets. The whole family sat in front of them and the choice was either, or.
Today young people see less of their parents. They retire to their rooms, click a button and a universe of information, entertainment, games opens up to them. They can contact their hundreds if not thousands of ‘friends’ on Facebook, watch a score of five-minute videos a night on YouTube – and may appear to have less need to interact with real people in the real world.
Ironically, for this same generation many educational experiences will be shared with others, in the traditional manner, in seminars and lectures. True cyberspace will be available on electronic whiteboards, but what happens on a daily basis is little different from the educational experiences of their parents and or indeed their grandparents. We ask, has the bounty of the Internet, the access our SMARTPHONES have made possible, changed culture that much? Are people meeting each other less frequently, reading less, watching conventional TV less; is the newspaper on the verge of extinction?
Also, taking into account the fashionable political mantra, the ‘big society’, in which we all rise up and take command of the heights of decision-making, opening our own schools, choosing where we'll have our babies or our heart surgery, are we experiencing the beginning of a world turned upside down, of power rising from the depths to assert itself over former privilege, of the power of SMART MOBS?
Whether the answer is a qualified yes or no, what is important is who is asking and attempting to answer the question. For example, has power of a sort shifted to social networks (see NETWORKING: SOCIAL NETWORKING), where petitions and protests can be organized swiftly and on a large scale? Faced with public opinion expressed online, do the power elites (see ELITE) adjust their position, promise more public consultation in future, reverse their decisions – or do they wait till online interactivity returns to the more normal, ‘I hate Monday mornings’/ ‘So do I’ discourse?
Technological innovation is not the only source of change confronting the twenty-first-century citizen. To use Eric M. Eisenberg's phrase, the sociocultural ‘surround’ in which much everyday social interaction takes place has also changed for many of us. Most Western societies have seen a growth in cultural diversity. The challenges this presents for successful interaction has been the focus of much contemporary research within the field of INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION and the entries for this field of study have been revised to reflect such developments.
Arguably the forces of GLOBALIZATION usher-in social fragmentation and uncertainties – not least uncertainties about self-identity. So, research focused on the contemporary odyssey of the search for self-identity, which Anthony Giddens terms the PROJECT OF SELF, is considered. The potential of everyday communication to contribute to the forging of a sense of self-identity informs numerous entries, such as those for DRESS, GENDER, the JOHARI WINDOW, PERFORMATIVITY, ROLE MODEL and SELF-DISCLOSURE.
Much of modern life is mediated and thus the interplay between interpersonal and mass communication also needs to be considered. ADVERTISING and other aspects of media culture contain many messages that may impact on the development of a sense of identity; the entry on self-identity thus embraces discussion of second-life identities. The arrival of FACEBOOK and other social networking sites also opens up the debate about what it is to have a ‘sense of self’.
The Internet has not so much taken over and transformed traditional media as appropriated the way we think about the broad spectrum of communication. Change has been in the air, but how fundamentally has hegemony been shaken, how seriously has it been stirred?
A key issue concerning claims to ‘democratization’ and popular involvement in the exercise of power is whether the ‘usual suspects’ – the corporations, the financial organisations, the mass media – have at any time of late lost or surrendered their powers. It could be that we are so busy talking among ourselves, networking, vanishing into the magic whirlpools of our iPods, iPlayers and iPads that we fail to notice something: the power elites have not gone away; nor have they undergone any Pauline conversion except to embrace the opportunities, for commerce and control, that the Network Society offers the alert entrepreneur.
Paging Mr Murdoch
This is not to say that predictability rules. Until the summer of 2011 the global media empire ruled by Rupert Murdoch was widely seen as an unstoppable force, a threat to the plurality of media and a malign influence on governments, obtaining from them concessions in return for a generally supportive press: ‘Touch Your Forelocks to Mr Murdoch’ was embossed on the dance-card of every politician ambitious to achieve power or hold on to it (see BRITISH SKY BROADCASTING, BSkyB).
The phone-hacking scandal (see JOURNALISM: PHONE-HACKING) involving News International's News of the World, and the dramatic closure of the 168-year-old paper in July 2011, may well have brought about a sea-change, not only for the MURDOCH EFFECT specifically but for the media generally in its relation to politics and policing.
Some would say it is ‘not before time’ that politicians and public in the UK paid attention to the systemic practice of prying electronically (and illegally) into the lives of citizens high and low. Public outrage and a united parliament forced Murdoch to retreat, at least temporarily, from his ambition to own the whole of BSkyB; something Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt had, until revelations turned from a trickle to a tsunami, been ‘mindful’ of accepting.
It is fitting to celebrate the true purpose of journalism in action, holding power – that of government, corporations, institutions, the police and the media themselves – to account. Varyingly called ‘the best political thriller of our times’ and likened to the ‘crumbling of the Berlin Wall’, the hacking scandal – fearlessly revealed by the Guardian, initially alone in the UK and battling against denial and indifference – raised wider issues concerning media ownership and its connection with politicans and police.
Not least among public concerns was the way the Murdoch empire did everything in its power to hush up the scandal. The Daily Mirror editorial of 15 July declared that ‘News International has mishandled the crisis engulfing it with the finesse of an elephant trying to tap-dance on an oil-smeared floor’. History was truly made when Rupert Murdoch, his son James, Chairman of News International, and (just resigned) Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks were summoned to appear before House of Commons special committees for questioning; this in the same week as the Commissioner of the London Metropolitan police, Sir Paul Stephenson, and his Assistant Commissioner, John Yates, resigned following evidence of their connections with the under-scrutiny organization.
For the present, we leave it to media watchers to monitor the after-shock of such seismic events; to track how far remonstration, indignant headlines, mass petitions, committees of inquiry actually impact, in the long run, on the status quo; and whether a new dawn will produce a less exploitative, more balanced media more answerable to public interest, to the law and to media ethics.
Meanwhile, back on the ground
Less sensational than the hacking saga, but of equal interest and sometimes of concern in the study of media trends, is what Graeme Turner calls ‘the demotic turn’. In Ordinary People and the Media: The Demotic Turn (Sage, 2010) Turner writes: ‘For a start we can say that the institutional model of the media has given way to a more thoroughly commercial and industrial model; that, in many instances, the idea of a national media is giving way to a more conjectural blend of national, transnational and sometimes even local formations; and that the media audience is mutating from a model of receptiveness we might identify with broadcasting, towards a range of more active and more demotic modes of participation that vary from the personalized menu model of the YouTube user to the content creation activities of the citizen journalist or the blogger.’
As for whether increased public (demotic) participation is, as some commentators believe, also empowering (see DIGITAL OPTIMISM), whether the new media are a force for democratization, Turner remains sceptical, believing that outcomes ‘are still more likely to be those which support the commercial survival of the major media corporations rather than those which support the individual or the community interests of the ordinary citizen’.
The demotic turn is a shift ‘towards entertainment’ and this ‘may prove to have constituted an impoverishment of the social, political and cultural function of the media; the replacement of something that was primarily information – as in, say, current affairs radio – with something that is primarily entertainment – as in, say, talk radio – is more realistically seen as generating a democratic deficit than a democratic benefit’.
This edition of the Dictionary recognizes the options and the possibilities with regard to technology and cultural change, but also acknowledges that the pace of change of one is more rapid than the other. It is undoubtedly true that the Internet has opened portals to individual and group participation and interactivity that permit a diversity of viewpoint and expression rarely, if ever, experienced in the past.
Cyberspace is a constellation of bloggers, a territory of streams emerging from and flowing into and across contemporary life, and on a global scale. Salem 9, blogging from Iraq, fed an information-hungry Western society glimpses of life in an invaded and occupied country that traditional news reporting could not match. During the so-termed African Spring of 2010–11, blogger Slim Amamou's invitation to join the interim government of Tunisia was described by Jo Glanville in her Index on Censorship (No. 1, 2011) editorial, ‘Playing the long game’, as ‘one of the most remarkable acknowledgments of the role of digital activists in civil society, not to mention the symbolism of his appointment in a country that has stifled free speech for decades’.
Yet for every optimist such as Glanville there is a pessimist such as Evgeny Morozov, whose The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate the World (Allan Lane, 2011) puts the case that the ‘twitter revolution’ might do more harm than good to the cause of democratization.
The jury is out, as it is on the efficacy of what has come to be termed citizen journalism (see JOURNALISM: CITIZEN JOURNALISM). This raises lively issues concerning the relationship between amateurs and professionals, particularly in the light of the cost-cutting in news services by traditional media organizations intent on putting profit before public service; the result, Graeme Turner's ‘impoverishment of the social, political and cultural function of the media’.
Equally we note the concerns of Tim Wu, inventor of the term NET NEUTRALITY (and author of The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, Knopf/Atlantic Books, 2011), when he posits the theory that traditional media moved from the freedoms of the open prairie to corporate enclosure and that this process may be being repeated in the Network Society. Already, he writes in his introduction, ‘there are signs that the good old days of a completely open network are ending’. Acquisition, alliances, expansion, synergies are pursued with missionary zeal by the new leviathans. Industries become empires. Jostling for attention becomes jostling for control, not unlike that exercised by governments rarely hesitant about legislating against freedom of expression.
Looking on the bright side, it could be said that the difference is that new technology has greatly loosened up patterns of hierarchy and may even have made inroads on hegemony. Students of communication would do well to carefully scrutinize competing visions of the future of the ‘networking society’, in particular the role of information and knowledge in a context driven by economics and ‘must have it now’ public attitudes.
Above all, the case must be made and remade that in the information age the communications industry is, in Tim Wu's words, ‘fundamental to democracy’, needing to be resistant to wholesale appropriation and to the controlling ambitions of governments.
The 8th edition of the Dictionary of Media and Communication Studies has over 100 new entries. The main labour has been the revision and updating of existing entries, a task that affirms just how much has changed on the media and communication scene since 2006. For example, in the light of the growth of the Internet, entries such as AGENDA-SETTING, GATEKEEPING, EFFECTS OF THE MASS MEDIA and NEWS VALUES have not only had to be updated but also reinterpreted; and it has been worth asking whether they might have undergone such shifts in practice that they need to be placed within inverted commas or deemed anachronisms.
The Dictionary opens its columns to new kids on the block – assertive, expansionary; Davids intent on becoming Goliaths (if they are not these already), risk-taking and fleet of foot. In come entries on FACEBOOK, GOOGLE, MySPACE, TWITTER, YAHOO! and YOUTUBE (and belatedly APPLE MACINTOSH, AMAZON and MICROSOFT WINDOWS). Social networking commands its own substantial entry and its impact permeates many other new and revised entries.
What has not changed in this edition is the alphabetic format, a detailed Topic Guide (useful for linking subject-related topics; handy for essay-writing, we feel), ample cross-referencing and plenty of end-of-entry suggestions for further reading. In book references, partly to make space, we have dropped the inclusion of country of origin.
A note on the terms text, texts and texting. Except when referring to texting specifically, we write of text and texts in the broadest sense, using the terms to describe all forms of communicative content from a poem to a newspaper report, painting, poster or film (see TEXT). Equally, every message we text on our mobiles is a text, even if it is reduced to a smiley (no entry).
As writers committed to the principle of open source, we express a soupçon of disappointment at the charges publishers make for models/diagrams which have been as familiar as road signs to students of communication, sometimes for generations. Where an actual model does not appear with its analysis, the reason is either that we consider an accompanying diagram not strictly necessary, or that we baulk at the publisher's fee. Authors who feel as we do about open source and who wish their work to be given the public attention it deserves should contact their editors.
Our Appendix: Chronology of Media Events aims to provide readers with a time-line of discoveries, inventions and developments from 105 AD when paper from pulp was introduced to the world in China. A quiz of media history we once gave to new undergraduates during Freshers’ week had a rather depressing number of them opting for the eighteenth century as being the period when moveable type was introduced in Europe.
Old John of Gutenberg (1450) can, at least for readers of this book, cease to turn in his grave, though whether he would have been among the first to mail a birthday card to Rupert Murdoch (80 in March 2011) or a note of commiseration to the News of the World (deceased 12 July 2011) is anybody's guess.
James Watson and Anne Hill