From media systems to media cultures

2019-03-12T14:37:55Z (GMT) by Sabina Mihelj
The comparative study of media systems and their relationships with political systems has received a substantial amount of attention in recent years, and made significant strides in understanding the diversity of mass communication around the world, along with its causes. Yet, while this systemic approach is important, it offers it offers only a partial insight into diversity of global media landscapes and, more generally, into the social implications of mass communication. To gain a fuller grasp of these implications, we need to start from the premise that socially significant communication extends well beyond the traditional domains of politics, and encompasses the mediation of basic cultural ideals and narratives, as well as the structuring of everyday practices and routines. These include the perceptions of private and public life, the understanding of the nation and its position in the world, the modes of organizing daily routines and everyday spaces, the historical events remembered and celebrated on a mass scale, and much more. To investigate these dimensions, this paper develops a conceptual and analytical framework that conceives of media cultures as patterns of ideas and practices that enable mass mediated meaning formation, and that have distinct spatial and temporal characteristics. These media cultures can vary on a number of dimensions, from the extent to which they seek to serve public or private goals, the degree to which they are open to transnational exchanges, to their modes of engaging with the past, present and future. This framework can be applied to different media and cultural forms, and in diverse political and cultural contexts. By way of illustration, the paper outlines how the framework can be used for the comparative study of (analogue) television cultures.