Mediatization (media)

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In communication studies or media studies, mediatization (variously also called medialization or even mediation[1]) is a theory that argues that the media shapes and frames the processes and discourse (conversation) of political communication as well as the society in which that communication takes place.[2] In this framework, an important aspect of modernization is the development of media,[3] beginning with a change in communication media and proceeding to subordination of the power of prevailing influential institutions.[4] As a consequence of this process, institutions and whole societies are shaped by and dependent on mass media.[5]


The "father" of this field is certainly Marshall McLuhan, who proposed that a communication medium itself, not the messages it carries, should be the primary focus of study. [6]

Mediatization is part of a paradigmatic shift in media and communication research. Following the concept of 'mediation', 'mediatization' has become the proper concept for capturing how processes of communication transform society, designating large-scale relationships. The two are complementary.[7]

As noted by Von Joachim Preusse and Sarah Zielmann, Kent Asp introduced and lamented on the concept of mediatization, and they clarify that: "Mediatisation was first applied to media's impact on political communication and other effects on politics. The Swedish media researcher Kent Asp was the first to speak of the mediatisation of political life, by which he meant a process whereby 'a political system to a high degree is influenced by and adjusted to the demands of the mass media in their coverage of politics'" (2010: 336).

Asp used the term mediated politics to describe how the media have become a necessary source of information between politicians and those in authority and those they governed. According to Asp's understanding politics are mediated when the mass media are the main or the only source of political information through which it may influence or even shape people's conceptions of political reality. Asp's theoretical assumptions that mass media may influence and mobilize current political ideas through mediatized rituals have been adopted by various communication scholars. In the tradition of Asp, the Danish media scholar Stig Hjarvard helped to develop the concept of mediatization and suggested that mediatization is a social process whereby the society is saturated and inundated by the media to the extent that the media cannot longer be thought of separated from other institutions within the society.[8]

Sociocultural change[edit]

The concept has evolved to focus not only on media effects but on the interrelation between the change of media communication on the one hand and sociocultural changes on the other, as part of our everyday communication practices and our communicative construction of reality.[9] Mediatization research investigates the interrelation between media communicative change and sociocultural change, understood as a meta-process (a conceptual construct designating long-term processes of change).[10] Media do not necessarily 'cause' the transformations but they have become co-constitutive for the articulation of politics, economics, education, religion, etc.[11] For example, television, by showcasing know-how health specialists who promote quick individual changes in lifestyle, co-constructs the notion of health together with other institutions and broader cultural shifts in perceptions of the body.

Hjarvard and Peterson summarize media's role in cultural change: "(1) When various forms of subcultures try to make use of media for their own purposes, they often become (re-)embedded into mainstream culture; (2) National cultural policies often serve as levers for increased mediatization; (3) Mediatization involves a transformation of the ways in which authority and expertise are performed and reputation is acquired and defended; and (4) Technological developments shape the media's affordances and thus the particular path of mediatization."[12]

Research mobilizing mediatization theories explores the ways in which media are embedded in cultural transformation. For example, "tactical" mediatization designates the response of community organizations and activists to wider technological changes. Kim Sawchuk, professor in Communication Studies at Concordia University, worked with a group of elderly who managed to retain their own agency in this context.[13] For the elderly, the pressure to mediatize comes from various institutions that are transitioning to online services (government agencies, funding, banks, etc.), among other things. A tactical approach to media is one that comes from those who are subordinates within these systems. It means to implement work-arounds to make the technologies work for them. For example, in the case of the elderly group she studies, they borrowed equipment to produce video capsules explaining their mandate and the importance of this mandate for their communities, which allowed them to reach new audiences while keeping the tone and style of face-to-face communication they privilege in their day-to-day practice. Doing this, they also subverted expectations about the ability of the elderly to use new media effectively. Another example of study is one which is focused on the media-related practices of graffiti writers and skaters, showing how media integrate and modulate their everyday practices. The analysis also demonstrates how the mediatization of these subcultural groups brings them to become part of mainstream culture, changes their rebellious and oppositional image and engages them with the global commercialization culture.[14] An example of study mobilizing mediatization theories would be one interested in how media's omnipresence informs the ways Femen's protests may take place on public scenes, allow communication between individual bodies and a shared understanding of activist imaginary. It aims to analyse how their practices are moulded by the media and how these are staged in manners which facilitates spreadability.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ John Corner (May 21, 2018). "Mediatization". Media Theory.
  2. ^ Lilleker, D., 2008, Key Concepts in Political Communications. SAGE London.
  3. ^ Krotz, F. (2008). Media Connectivity: Concepts, Conditions, and Consequences. In A. Hepp, F. Krotz & S. Moores (Eds.), Network, Connectivity and Flow: Key concepts for Media and Cultural Studies. New York: Hampton Press.
  4. ^ Hjarvard, S. (2008). The Mediatization of Religion: A Theory of the Media as Agents of Religious Change. In Northern Lights 2008. Yearbook of Film & Media Studies. Bristol: Intellect Press: 7.
  5. ^ Mazzoleni, G., & Schulz, W. (1999). "Mediatization" of Politics: A Challenge for Democracy? Political Communication, 16(3), 247-261.
  6. ^ McLuhan, Marshall (1964). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964].
  7. ^ Hepp, A. Hajarvard, S., Lundby, (2015). Mediatization: theorizing the interplay between media, culture and society Media, Culture & Society 37(2) 314–324.
  8. ^ Hjarvard, S. (2008). The Mediatization of Religion: A Theory of the Media as Agents of Religious Change. In Northern Lights 2008. Yearbook of Film & Media Studies. Bristol: Intellect Press.
  9. ^ Hepp, A. Hajarvard, S., Lundby, (2015). Mediatization: theorizing the interplay between media, culture and society, Media, Culture & Society 37(2) 314–324.
  10. ^ Couldry, N. & A. Hepp. (2013). Conceptualizing Mediatization: Contexts,Traditions, Arguments. Communication Theory 23: 191-202.
  11. ^ Hepp, A. Hajarvard, S., Lundby, (2015). Mediatization: theorizing the interplay between media, culture and society, Media, Culture & Society 37(2) 314–324.
  12. ^ Hjarvard, S. & L.N. Peterson, (2013). Mediatization and cultural change, MedieKultur, 54: 3.
  13. ^ Sawchuk, K. (2013). Tactical mediatization and activist ageing: pressures, push-backs, and the story of RECAA. MedieKultur 54: 47-64.
  14. ^ Encheva, K., Driessens, O., & Verstraeten, H. (2013). The mediatization of deviant subcultures: an analysis of the media - related practices of graffiti writers and skaters, MedieKultur, 54: 29.
  15. ^ Reestorff, C. M. (2014). Mediatised affective activism: The activist imaginary and the topless body in the Femen movement, Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 20: 4, doi:10.1177/1354856514541358


  • Adolf, M. (2011). Clarifying Mediatization: Sorting through a current debate. Empedocles: European Journal for the Philosophy of Communication, 3(2), 153-175. doi:10.1386/ejpc.3.2.153_1.
  • Friesen, N. & Hug, T. (2009). The Mediatic Turn: Exploring Consequences for Media Pedagogy. In K. Lundby (Ed.). Mediatization: Concept, Changes, Consequences. New York: Peter Lang. pp. 64–81.
  • Strömbäck, J.(2008). Four Phases of Mediatization: An Analysis of the Mediatization of Politics. International Journal of Press/Politics, 13, 228-246.

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