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Re-Assembling Mediated Power


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This paper takes as it starting point the tension identified in the conference’s call for papers which speculates whether recent political events such as the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement and the diverse range of global anti-austerity protests should be understood as new forms of power or simply “an intensification of the old battlelines.”

It argues that such political events are an articulation of the trajectory plotted by contemporary accounts of power, but which the majority of political science scholarship has arguably overlooked in recent years.

Such a reality, the paper contends, represents both a crisis as well as an opportunity for political scientists, media and communications and social movement/activism researchers.

Published in: Economy & Finance
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Re-Assembling Mediated Power

  1. 1. Re-Assembling Mediated Power:Exploring the moment of crisis and opportunitySimon CollisterRoyal Holloway, University of LondonFull paper available. Email me at simon.collister@gmail.comTwitter: @simoncollister |
  2. 2. Point of origin• Snapshot into an early section of my PhD• Interested in how power is mediated within contemporary communications networks• Hope to focus initial Contact me: analysis on anti-austerity social movements @simoncollister
  3. 3. Introduction• Theories of mediated power facing moment of crisis• Evolution of power outstripped accounts of mediated power• Limiting analysis of contemporary mediated politics• Need to identify opportunities for mapping mediated power’s engagement with contemporary theories of power
  4. 4. Today’s aim1. Plot the comparative trajectories of power and media research2. Identify limitations of current approaches to mediated power3. Outline a revised model for analysing mediated power in an age of networked movements
  5. 5. It might be a bit…
  6. 6. Trajectories of Power
  7. 7. Three traditions of power1. Conflictual2. Consensual3. Constituative
  8. 8. Conflictual tradition• Wedded to positivist, observable democratic power where “A gets B to do something they wouldn’t otherwise have done” (Dahl 1957)• Augmented by Bachrach & Baratz (1962) who argued for inclusion of “non-decision making power” – i.e. institutional bias• Critiqued by Lukes who identified a Marxian false-consciousess exerting a “contradiction between the interests of those exercising power and the real interests of those they exclude” (1974, 28)
  9. 9. Consensual tradition• Lukes’ focus on ‘power over’ conceals power’s ability to dominate by creating consensus• Lukes’ admits as much (2005) and points to Gramsci’s hegemony as founding theory• Duality of social structure/ agency developed further by Giddens’ ‘Theory of Structuration’ and Bourdieu’s Field and Habitus
  10. 10. Constitutive tradition• Foucault identifies ‘productive power’ “rooted in the whole network of the social” and constituting society discursively and disciplining apparatuses or ‘dispositifs’. (Foucault 1983)• This networked approach to power developed by Deleuze (& Guattari) and Actor-Network Theorists, such as Latour, Callon and Law• Accounts for how social field is continually produced and transformed through the association and interaction of actors (Law 1998, 2)
  11. 11. Evolution ofMedia & Power
  12. 12. Three approaches to media & power1. Liberal-pluralism2. Critical tradition3. Networked approaches
  13. 13. Media and Liberal Pluralism• Media power lies in watchdog function and supporting democratic discourse - typified by Habermas’ public sphere (1996)• Idealised vision challenged by professionalisation of media and political actors and media commercialisation (Blumler and Kavanagh 1999)• ‘Strategic news management’ undermined by internet-empowered non-institutional media actors, e.g. bloggers, citizen journalists
  14. 14. The Critical Tradition• Early political economic critiques delivered by Marx & Engels (1932); later Horkheimer and Adorno (1947)• Contemporary analyses introduced subtler accounts of globalised media industry exerting power through lifestyle or non-contentious content (Curran 2002; McChesney 2004)• Stuart Hall’s cultural critiques (1986) further identified media power as contested; actively shaped by cultural encodings/decodings
  15. 15. Networked approaches• Networks are “archetypal form of contemporary social and technical organisation” (Livingstone 2005, 12)• Approaches wedded to an outdated “elite-mass media- audience paradigm” (Davis 2007)• Media “hybridity” proposed as conceptual escape route (Chadwick 2011)
  16. 16. Media hybridity• Emergent and networked hybridity challenges notions of elites, institutional actors, mainstream media and notion homogenous audiences (Chadwick 2011a; 2011b; 2013)• Hybridity characterised by a “betweenness” with mediated power operating through interaction between old and new; material and immaterial actors
  17. 17. The material turn• Media research increasingly influenced by materialist turn in humanities and social sciences, viz. Deleuze & Guattari and Actor-Network Theory• Terranova (2004) suggests representation accounts for half of communication• Can be infrastructure, physical space, algorithms, etc
  18. 18. Where does this leave us?• Lacuna around how networked communications and materialist ontology is shaping contemporary mediation• Emerging concept of media ‘hybridity’ can be combined with media’s ‘material turn’• Presents opportunity for developing analytical model capable of investigating contemporary mediated politics
  19. 19. Where to go from here?
  20. 20. Framing Theory• Dominant media and communications research theory (Bryant and Miron 2004)• Central to mediated power (Caragee and Roefs 2004)• Functions as ‘bridging project’ (Reese 2001) allowing us to use it as building block for developing new approaches to mediated power
  21. 21. Assemblage Theory• Propose ‘bridging’ framing with Assemblage Theory (DeLanda 2006)• Assemblage Theory is an ontological schema for interpreting reality based on Deleuzian concept
  22. 22. Framing & assemblages (1)• Processes of assembly operating on two fundamental axes: 1. Territorialization <> Deterritorialization 2. Material<>Expressive• Offers dynamic and materialist framework to augment Reese’s notion of framing as gaining/losing organising value?
  23. 23. Framing & assemblages (2)• Additional sub-processes contest stability, identity & durability of frames-as-assemblages• Exterior relations connect assemblage parts creating non-linear emergence• Coding stabilises identity & universal singularities structure enduring frames-as-assemblage’s “long-term tendencies”
  24. 24. Putting this to work• Currently analysing of NUS’ #Demo2012 to understand how demonstration was framed through assemblage of material and expressive actors, objects and content
  25. 25. Frames-as-assemblages analysis (1)• Conduct analysis of three distinct milieux in which mediation processes occur• Applying: – content analysis of social and traditional media – enthnographic observation of media events – follow-up interviews
  26. 26. Frames-as-assemblages analysis (2)
  27. 27. Understanding mediated power• Short-term: Analyse mediated power by accounting for the material & expressive components territorializing and coding frames-as- assemblages• Longer-term: identify & map ‘ideal types’ of frames-as-assemblages or process of production to gain insight into mediated power’s longer-term tendencies behind the hybrid media environment
  28. 28. Questions & Feedback? @simoncollister