Mediatization in New Normal: Reversive Paradigms and Provoking Transgression?

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New Normal dilemma: “Mediatize or die”? Nowadays, the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic provokes un-precedented change and sweeps through politics, economics, societies, cultures [1] - and mass media as well [2]. Meanwhile, the media is not only collapsed like other industries and social institutes. Paradoxically, it sweeps its own traditional professional, industrial and social boundaries to retain its brand perception as an indispensable and normative condition of our existence in this New Normal [3]. In the era of such mobilizing slogans as New Normal, Build Back Better and others, the mass media communication model and mediatization effects are changing dramatically, mostly due to digital platforms and their owners as its specific normative actors of the data colonialism [4]. Digital mediatization effects stay on the life’s edge and a New Normal dictum sounds as - literally -“mediatize or die” dilemma when in lockdown someone has no access to the Internet to check the hot news or pay for their food or medicine or to take their permission to leave lockdown zone, etc. New Normal is seemingly here to stay and in the near future according to the Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center research (2021), people’s relationship with technology and tech determinism will deepen. The experts foresee significant change that will worsen economic inequality, enhance the power of big technology firms, multiply the spread of misinformation “as authoritarians and polarized populations wage warring information campaigns with their foes”, etc. Some of the experts’ express hope that changes spawned by the pandemic will make things better for significant portions of the population [5]. However, the imperativeness of mediation will grow, and traditional media communication modes, models and actors - and media effects - will change. What does this New Normal change mean for media and mediatization studies? In other words, what is the impact on media and mediatization studies in the context of New Normal resulting from the pandemic, and how could it be theorized? Media, mediation and mediatization in New Normal: Quo Vadis and Qui Prodest? The evolution of modern media and media studies growth is connected with the evolution of capitalism and modernity. Since 17th century, media became an instrument of new bourgeois stratum and remains an inseparable part of society and politics, economics and culture. In 20th century, it cannot be divorced from contexts of everyday life [6]. In the 1950-60s Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, Raymond Williams and others defined media as one of the core mediators of society and its transformations. In the 1990s, Thompson analyses media effects in the context of modernity, and as one of the first determines media as institutional structures forming modern society and suggests mediatization as its function [7]. In the 2000s, the mass media is defined as being socially organized technologies for communication; mediated communication as a kind of intercourse that “makes use of such institutionalized tools that are primarily intended for communication”; mediatization as “an historical process whereby communication media become in some respect more “important” in expanding areas of life and society” and “expand in extension and power” [8. P. 484], especially in times of mediation of ‘everything’ [9]. During the last decade, media studies and mediatization studies as its new specific direction have evolved due to (digital) diversity of media and its effects. Starting from the differentiation of mediation and mediatization, and discussing the essence of the studies, academic researchers are still trying to mark the borders of this research field [10]. The majority of researchers consider the mediatization phenomena to be best understood as a non-linear process through which the media influences culture and society. According to Stig Hjarvard, mediatization is a double-sided social process through which society is totally saturated with the media and it can no longer be viewed separately from other social institutions [11]. Mediatization is not only the process by which society is increasingly represented by the media, it becomes dependent on media and their logic. Media provokes limitation and distortion, such as through the use of exaggeration [12]. Friedrich Krotz presumes it is a meta process (i.e., similar to globalization) based on various forms of communication practice of social and cultural world construction [13]. At the same time, the boundaries of the media and social networks, professional journalism and “citizen journalism” are blurring. The mediatization fundamentals were taken from the media and cultural studies and social science [6, 11]. The researchers conceptualize media as a social institution, from a cultural and material “perspective” [14]. For instance, one of the last theoretical approaches of mediatization proposed by Nick Couldry and Andreas Hepp in “The Mediated Construction of Reality” (2016), was realized within the framework of the figurative approach of Norbert Elias (1978) [15] taken from social science, at the intersection of social and media studies, the social-constructivist and cultural framework [16]. In 2020, the concept of digital ‘deep mediatization’ provided first by Couldry and Hepp advances the traditional sociological figuration and institutional approach [17]. Typology of mediatization studies includes such directions as institutionalist, social-constructivist, and material. Mediatization is classified as direct and indirect, at macro- and micro levels, etc. To evaluate different effects, mediatization “demands cross-disciplinary work - with political science or pedagogy or the sociology of the family, for example - in ways too rarely attempted” [10]. For instance, socioeconomic context and effects are not included to the research agenda as a rule. In the time before a New-Normal-past, even several years ago leading European researchers traditionally stressed, that “questions concerning the positive or negative outcomes of mediatization cannot, however, be answered on a general level; they must be addressed through an analysis of the specific contexts in which mediatization occurs and by explicating the normative framework of such evaluations” [14. P. 6]. The mediatization proponents mention that its concept is not just a concept reflecting the ever-increasing influence of media on different sectors of society and culture but a “paradigmatic shift” in media studies [6. P. 315] and social science in general. The mediatization opponents argue that it is best understood as a sensitizing concept that guides empirical research and the interpretation of findings rather than as either a new paradigm or a middle-range theory in competition with others. Theу call on proponents of mediatization to understand social and media change within modernity within a variety of domains, in the context of existing theories and the other meta processes of modernity over a wide timescale (recent decades, centuries, millennia) [10]. How to analyze and theorize mediatization in the New-Normal-present? At the ICA 2020 conference, Andreas Hepp and Wiebke Loosen argued that it could be theorized as a ‘mediatized collective break’ during which all of us are experiencing the ‘refiguration of public connection’ [18]. In 2021, Hepp describes New Normal as deeply mediatized and identifies four points for analysis, such as people’s expectations having been mediated, a mediated experience of the pandemic itself, an ongoing media-mediated analysis of the course the pandemic takes and repeatedly confrontation with the idea of a media-based ‘solution’ to individual problems brought up by the pandemic. “There are also ‘collective actors’ who play an important role in the ‘making’ of deep mediatization”, such as social movements, for example, the open-source movement, pioneer communities, etc.” - he added [19]. This specific environment and situation creates a number of key questions and dilemmas in the field of media and communication studies. Does New Normal mean just the ‘refiguration of public connection’ to be analyzed and theorized by mediatization scholars? Does the traditional approach of analysis address the contexts in which mediatization occurs work in New Normal? To describe change, there needs to be included in the research framework we are identifying some of the basic elements and aspects that drive the transformation parameters of mediatized communication models rooted in digitalization, datafication and Internetization. In the mid-2010s, the AI-driven datafied and mediated economy was rising as normative in the majority of developed and many developing countries. Media becomes (or has to become) a normative element of the so called quadro helix (4H) of innovative economics communication model (‘state-to-business-to-science-to-citizens’) [20]. It means that exactly media effects in 4H are strongly needed to evaluate effective communication. Thus, in a new type of datafied digital economy media effects - and the mediatization framework of research - could be the most effective. It determines the expansion of the framework of mediatization, taking into account the realities of the quadro helix, social economy, economy of innovation, innovation communication, etc. In the era of the Internet and the data colonialism, digital datafied mediated communication model a priory includes digital platform and data owner as the main normative autonomous media actors and (quasi) subjects. At all the levels of mediatization, macro (state), meso (institution), micro (individual). All of the subjects are influenced by data-driven mediation, provoked directly and indirectly by these (quasi) subjects and their specific media logic. However, these new core (quasi) subjects of datafied mediated economics are rather new for media studies [21] but determine the new structure and typology of mediatization studies. Professional and social essence and function of the media differs due to media platforms. For instance, a media platform is not a ‘traditional’ institutional actor like media holding or supra-individual actor like state. As a normative (quasi) actor platform influences and transforms not only media and socio economy but politics and other spheres. The platform’s media logic is radically different from all previously existing and studied media realities. Just two examples: in 2021, Twitter bans President Trump and Google decides to ban all of the opponents of the idea of global warming - and for the first time a media platform (and its owners) became not only an economic and social but a real independent political actor. Thus, even before the advent of the New Normal, media and mediatization are already significantly transformed. Let’s explore some of the changes that can be defined, without exaggeration as being paradigmatic. Firstly, the effects of mediatization are becoming more popular and more important than media effects. It means that in media studies, mediatization is becoming a leading trend. It allows us to confirm the relevance of the idea of mediatization as a ‘paradigm shift’ in media research (which is constantly being criticized). We propose to designate the current situation as a reverse paradigm shift. Second, the effects of mediatization can no longer be limited to cultural and social effects; the disciplinary framework of research is significantly expanding - even within the quadro helix of the digital economy. It necessitates a broader interdisciplinary approach (and also indicates the evolution and increasing importance of the concept of mediatization). Thirdly, the effects of the functioning of media platforms, despite the specifics of their medialogic, have a significant impact not only on the mediatization, but all spheres of life. The media (platform) is transforming from a tool of the traditional class and economic struggle of the bourgeoisie into a means of production for digital ‘data colonizers’. In other words, the essence of media in the economy and society is changing radically and reversibly. Nowadays, mediatization becomes a meta process that has been under the critique of academic research earlier [10]. It could not be possible to analyze mediatization phenomena by continuing to follow traditional mediatization studies borders, especially while they are blurring. As an open meta element and process of New Normal it needs a new conceptual meta vision. New Normal mediatization as transgression? Media is a tool of transition and change ‘by origin’. According to Roger Silverstone, mediation requires us to understand how processes of communication change the social and cultural environments and vice versa [22]. The very next ‘new’ media provokes radical social and cultural transition and transgression (it is a commonplace that according to Plato, even Socrates expressed concern over writing as ‘a new media tool’). Every emergent media is always surrounded by controversy because it presents a shift in patterns of communication and social structure that is potentially threatening to established powers [23]. Digitalization, internetization and datafication create the ground for radical socioeconomic and sociopolitical ‘data turn’ [20] and mediatization as a double reverse paradigm shift. In other words, it means a transgression (COVID-19 pandemic and New Normal is a sort of transgression). De facto, transgression (trans means “through”; and gradi “to go”, in Latin) is a fundamental character-ristic of human existence and relation to reality, since the very transgressive separation of man from nature. There is a history of transgression in society since 14th century, and transgression research since last century seems to be challengingly transgressive and challenging transgression. The term and concept of transgression refers to (post)modernity and non-classic philosophy. The researchers insist that the German term ‘Aufhebung’ (the untranslatable German verb aufheben means to overcome while maintaining) which is close to transgression was proposed by Hegel in the “Phenomenology of Spirit”. ‘Aufhebung’ means going beyond social being and achieving the position of an external observer in relation to the phenomena under consideration which describes only one of the possible meanings. The essence of transgression as a phenomenon and process has many interpretations in various fields of scienсe. Transgression is a space of transition from one fixed state to another. The term is fixing the phenomenon of crossing an impassable border, first of all, the border between the possible and impossible. Transgression as a violation of the border is possible only when and where such a border exists, and, on the other hand, the existence of the border presupposes its violation. Moreover, in certain cases, the border can be established as a result of a transgression, therefore it can be understood as a positive expansion of the boundaries. Transgression can be determined only by knowing the boundaries and only by an outside observer of the system. Blurring norms, taboo and boundaries transgression permanently asserts and denies the limit at the same time and needs new transgression. Transgression describes the specific destructive and explosive, and innovative function or a social, cultural, political act or a characteristic. Paradoxically, to transgress is to go beyond the bounds or limits set by a commandment or law or convention, it is to violate or to infringe. And to transgress is also more than this, it is to announce and even to contradict a commandment, the law or convention. Transgression is a deeply reflexive “act of denial and affirmation” [24. P. 2]. According to Blanchot, transgression “is overcoming an insurmountable limit” [25]. For Bataille, the “transgressive way of thinking’ is a sort of ‘inner experience’ and a sort of hedonistic autism [26]. He substantiates the philo-sophical, literary, economic, theological strategies of transgression and convinces that it lifts the prohibition without destroying it. Sometimes, the exception is more interesting than the normal case because it “not only confirms the rule, the rule itself exists only due to the exception” [27]. Gournels and Gunkel consider that “first, transgression is a social fact that is not completely contained within, and not completely apart from the social; second, transgression is anomalous but necessary to the functioning of the norm, what Slavoy Žižek … has termed ‘a constitutive exception’; third, transgression works beyond mere opposition and resistance to an inhabited Other; fourth, transgression embraces desire and play in order to self-consciously question the stasis and seriousness of the status quo, and thus while its politics are ambivalent, its power is both unquestionable and necessary” [28. P. 8]. Transgression is realized on two levels: at an institutional and individual level of transgression, which do not exclude each other. However, at meta level transgression is a specific original version of anthropological and sociogenesis. It is obvious as a striving beyond the boundaries of rationality and expediency of capitalism, especially in the data colonialism era. (Is it possible that the New Normal is the next stage? Then the transgression becomes the key approach to any research.) Transgression is one of early cultural studies’ key terms used in media cultural studies. Discourse on transgression dominates social and cultural studies and media culture in particular. For instance, one of the most widespread ideas, models and analytic categories is carnival as a phenomenon of socially permitted transgression, described by Bakhtin in “Rabelais and his Word’ (1965) [29], and widely used not only in cultural and media cultural but also in political studies and related disciplines. Nowadays, media researchers traditionally are interested in a variety of transgression ‘taboo-breaking’ topics but it’s rather narrowly focused, not the cross-disciplinary or complex analysis of mediatization in dozens of articles. For instance, the authors of the special Transgression series of Amsterdam University publishing house explore such topics as analysis of forms of media culture that violate moral, legal, cultural and social limits; high theory and its use in the context of transgressive media culture discourse; Trans, in any variety e.g. human-species-gender-sexuality, and so forth [30]. Researchers of transgression in digital era and digital 2.0 are also deeply connected only with topics of media culture, such as mediatized political mashups, sex, pornography and other “non-conventional” scientific problems [28]. In 2021, the latest special issue of the International Journal of Cultural Studies on media and transgression inquiries into the uses of transgression as a critical concept to query contemporary media culture which is discussed in case studies from political satire to online trolls. According to the editors, nowadays “transgression points to the energy that fuels the media ecology - from content and content production to audience practices and the policing of content ownership”. The researchers are focused on such problems as the (conscious) overstepping of moral and legal boundaries, that challenges written and unwritten rules. They claim that “frisson of rule breaking and the reward of rule re-establishment (whether by powerful parties or everyday gossip) are transgression’s bookends. Together they support the cyclical rhythm of media culture that maintains not just our interest as viewers but our interests and connectedness as citizens, whether in celebration, outrage or condemnation” [31]. Therefore, staying at the ‘not-to-distant-past’ theoretical, conceptual, methodological and thematic position, mediatization theorists do not reflect the transgression effects of growing media ‘meta invasion’ in New Normal. However, in New Normal the provocative concept of transgression provides some new lenses through which we could see and understand mediatization as a meta process transgressing not only culture and society but economics and politics, more comprehensively and study it cross-disciplinary. Universal total of New Normal transgression engages with interdisciplinary areas and methodologies, including those drawn not only from media and mediatization studies, social science and philosophy, but beyond from economy and politics, etc. and opens up a pioneering approach for media research. Mediatizations and transgression: Mapping the research field In mediatization studies, the concept of transgression allows us to reveal the transgressive and analyze the ways of its expression in New Normal almost for the first time. The Russian RUDN Journal of Studies in Literature and Journalism presents a pioneering attempt to explore mediatization through its empirical and theoretical analysis using the lens of transgression. In this special issue of the RUDN journal we wish to explore the many ways in which media are embedded in current total transgression and to start mapping the research field despite the fact that transgression means the destruction of any boundaries. The aim is both to substantiate the theory of mediatization and provide a richer understanding of the role of the media in current both global and local mediatized changes. Of course, there are more questions than answers in this field of mediatization research and in this special issue. But we hope it helps the reader himself to put together from the scattered, at the first glance, topics the contour of the general map of transgression mediatization in New Normal. The first section of the Journal is theoretical. Our study identifies the “reverse” paradigm shift and characteristics that reinforce the special place of mediatization studies in medialogy. In the New Normal at the meta level, the idea of transgressive mediatization as a complex vision of actual practices and their conceptualization is proposed. The new concept ‘opens the boundaries’ of the classical field of research for interdisciplinary analysis. The institutional essence of media transgression is the first paper! In his research, Viktor Kolomiets implements the idea of mediatization as a process of transformation of media as it is. He analyzes the mass communication industry under the pressure of digital transit, which breaks traditional business practices and is transgressive by definition. Behind the industrial transformation the more crucial conflict is seen between the relatively free digital environment and the institutionalized state-controlled media. Journalism is a traditional ‘core sphere’ of media but its existence nowadays seems to be very contradictory due to a great number of challenges perceived by the media themselves. Greg Simons and Dmitry Strovsky are breaking the rules to find out that the interactions and reactions between the cognitive imaginations of the ideal form of journalism and the physical realities of the forces shape and affect the profession - and find another sense of transgression in journalism. The institutional boundaries and practices of the profession are under a great deal of strain between the ideal imaginations and expectations. There is cumulative effect of the ideas and elements, proposed by the authors could be a revolution from the original academic vision and conception of practice. In recent decades social media is also rather a traditional mediatization field. To describe the ontology of transgressive social media, Valentin Stepanov proposes the T-Magic formula. Three Ts stands for transformation, transfiguration and transgression. It displays digital space and digital time navigation. Pioneering ideas of research allow Stepanov to discuss social media and social capital, anthropology of digitalization from this point of view. The theoretical foundations of transdiscursiveness, proposed by Anna Kostikova and Sergei Spartak, allow us to fix its new characteristics in the conditions of crucial digitalization of society. In response to the crisis of understanding in mediatized everyday life, the authors turn us back to the idea of discursivity of human civilization and propose to rethink the concept of possible worlds - to renew social strategies and communications in terms of the philosophy of language. The problem of strengthening biopolitical control as a consequence of the corporeality deep mediatization is discussed by Ekaterina Alekseeva. The article argues that the deep mediatization of corporeality is a complex and inevitable process. The author suggests that theoretical approaches such as cyberfeminism or xenofeminism show that the corporeality deep mediatization as a transgressive alliance of people, media and technology can open up new opportunities for creating different life forms out of control. Marina Shilina and Julie Wirth analyze the communication essence of an immersive media project. To designate the research direction into the essence and effects of immersive media practices, the authors propose the term ‘generative mediatization’ to describe the effects of personal and socio-cultural development obtained by the user and based on experience. Such a new type of transgressive user experience deepens the user-centric approach and provokes a new paradigm shift in mediatization studies. To find new theoretical ideas, Evgenia Nim provides the analysis of the possibilities and limitations of the figurative approach to the deep mediatization study. The researcher proposes to analyze the multifunctional platforms that become a single digital infrastructure for many figurations and could be the ecosystem for a mediatized social life and use a more radical interpretation of media logics as human-machine logics. The second section of the journal opens up the transgressive optics for empirical studies of mediatization. The article by Sergei Samoilenko supports Valentini’s (2006) observation that the EU’s inability to tailor its message to different audiences. In the context of European mediatized politics, the idea of an integrative European identity is unlikely to become a unifying power for the fragmented citizenry. Audience segmentation and fragmented media lead to multiple transgressions including the formation of new public spheres and growing ideological polarization. In Kazakhstan, omni-mediatization became the strategy for political parties and opposition movements, according to Mariyamgul Kussainova. She analyses the transgressive concept of transmedia storytelling as a promising direction of their strategies. Author is of the opinion that the main features of mediatization of public policy in Kazakhstan are a paternalistic format of interaction and politics through social media to protect society from surrogate opposition, “the growth of political populism” and disinformation. Theorizing mediatization, Can Bilgili and Olena Goroshko focus on discus-sions and research on the intertwining of the media with the awareness of the audience (or consumer) about the content of transmedia stories in the context of media literacy. The study focuses on the Turkish and Ukrainian audience knowledge about transmedia applications. They examine the competence of multi-media viewers who use social media and follow traditional media - the television channel - to understand and be aware of the content transitions between different media tools and platforms. Television was chosen as the traditional media for the research study due to its widespread viewing in Turkey and Ukraine. Dmytrij Sharonov analyzes the concept of hypermedia as a transgressive aspect of deep mediatization of the relationship between the company and its stakeholders. He concretizes the model of recursive communication for the correct interpretation of the discovered phenomena. The author believes that the philosophical reflection, ecological approach and transition to trans-disciplinary methods of researching the problems of deep mediatization in the digital era is inevitable. Larisa Sharakhina, Vera Achkasova and Liudmila Azarova point out that the media and the environment crucially shape each other and operating conditions for other institutions. For the first time, the authors use mediatization optics for corporate communication and media relations strategies analysis and find the specific discursive “configurations of configurations” built up in layers, constantly referencing each other. In times of social media, social institutions are affected by media, particular in medicine. Marina Shutova and Yana Rocheva focus on the new interaction clinic-to-doctor-to-patient digital mediated models. Pioneering study of the transformative effect of mediatization in medicine reveals the efficiency of com-municative constructivism, validates the transformation tendencies in medicine as a social institution and blurs the boundaries of the traditional research field. Growing ubiquitous digitalization of mediatized communication, especially in New Normal, provokes the interest of Elena Chankova and Oleg Sorokin to the phenomenon of communicative competence of an individual. The researchers insist that the communicative competence of an individual is a factor which determines the effectiveness of interactions in the context of technological, semantic and institutional changes and the integration of the communicative space of society. In the third section of the Journal the reader can compare realities of mediatization in a global and local theoretical context while reading the interviews with the leading researchers in their fields, Professor Andreas Hepp and Professor William Dutton. Many of these pioneering research questions left wide open. Nevertheless, mapping transgressive New Normal mediatization research field the contributors of this special issue stay pioneers, literally and metaphorically. Let us, together with the authors of this special issue of Mediatization in the Digital Era: From Transition to Transgression, cross all the boundaries because only an external observer of any system has the most interesting and rewarding view and role, which is paramount especially for a scientist. Bon voyage and good luck!


About the authors

Marina G. Shilina

Plekhanov Russian University of Economics; Lomonosov Moscow State University

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9608-352X


36 Stremyanny Ln, Moscow, 115093, Russian Federation; 9 Mokhovaya St, Moscow, 125009, Russian Federation


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