In The Mediatization of Society Stig Hjarvard presents a theory of mediatization as the key concept for influencing change in society and culture. Mediatization is a distinctly late-modern process and it is only in the 20th century with the proliferation of mass media that media have begun to be studied and understood in their own right.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between mediated and live performances. Musical records were once made to reproduce live sound; now live music is made to emulate recordings. Even dead performers can have a stage presence: at a recent Coachella music festival, late rapper Tupac was projected via hologram and “performed” on-stage with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. Media representations of reality have assumed such dominance in our society that our perception of reality (and our behavior) are steered by the media, so that even phenomena like war are long longer what they once were. Signs and symbols of media culture (images, sound, advertisements) form a simulacra (Baudrillard) and these semblances of reality not only seem more real than “reality” but actually replace it.
Media have their own logic or modus operandi, and these dictate the ways in which media distribute material and symbolic resources. Media logic influences the form that communication takes. A tree lends itself to certain functions: it may be a nest, shade, or food depending on the animal’s own needs.
Direct mediatization is when banking goes online. Indirect is when one attempts to eat at a fast-food restaurant and is bombarded with toys or narratives that link to other media. Direct mediatization makes visible how a given social activity is transformed into a mediated form, and thus facilitates establishing a “before” and “after” in order to examine differences. When the media are thereafter necessary for participation, the mediatization is also said to be a “strong”. Indirect mediatization, however, is subtler and does not necessarily directly affect the way an audience participates.
Before 1920, media were insturments of other institutions, but with the advent of radio they gradually became institutions unto themselves. From 1920-1980 media were largely steered by the public in an attempt to inform them, but since then media institutions have become more independent in their competition for audiences.
Mediated interaction is neither more nor less real than non-mediated interaction, but mediation affects the circumstances of the interaction between individuals who do not share physical space. In face-to-face interactions, social norms are naturally enforced out of fear of ridicule, gossip, or scolding. The distancing of interaction that results from mediation changes or complicates those norm-enforcing mechanisms. The “stage” is the face-to-face interaction where gossiping about someone (within earshot) would be a gross violation, but “backstage”, where it is printed in a tabloid, there are a different set of governing rules.
The 3 functions of media on the macrosocial level are: to serve as a nexus between institutions, an interpretive frame for understanding society, and as an arena in which members of a society can discuss and debate matters of common interest. Consequently, these functions will increasingly affect society. The logic of media (the institutional, technological, and expressive characteristics of media) are becoming more global. Globalization presumes the existence of technical means to extend communication over long distances while simultaneously institutionalizing mediated communication and interaction in many new contexts. The mediatization of society is the construction of a shared experiential world, a world that is regulated by media logic.
Hjarvard presents a helpful graph that illustrates (instead of an x-axis and y-axis) a Centrifugal—Centripetal axis, and a Homogenization—Generalization axis. Homogenized forces that are centrifugal lead to globalization; when they are centripetal the result is nationalization. Differentiated forces that are centrifugal lead to individualization; when they are centripetal the result is localization.