May 23, 2006
To be liquid, or a zombie? Is that the question?
Mark Deuze really got me thinking with his admitted little polemic here. He says it's a draft, a bit of thinking out loud as he puts together his thoughts for an ICA group. I find the thinking provocative and worthwhile, and so even if it is a draft, I want to point up my favorite bits.
There's one paragraph I'd like to permanently keep for my rotating quotation on another blog, but I'd hate to enshrine forever words the author wasn't yet completely happy with. It's in bold below.
Liquid and Zombie Journalism (Studies)
REMARK: In my identity as board member of the 'Journalism Studies Interest Group' of the International Communication Association, I am working on a brief essay on a proposed future of journalism (practice, studies, and education) for our newsletter. It is intended to be polemic - so here goes. Comments are appreciated!
Liquid and Zombie Journalism (Studies)
If the object of journalism studies is journalism, it becomes inevitable that we, like reporters and editors all over the world, question the legitimacy and credibility of our field. Because why would society today still need a journalism? It is an industry without a public support structure (other than advertising), it delivers a product without consumers, and serves a (model of) society that, for all intents and purposes, is dead.
Journalism is, paraphrasing Ulrich Beck, a zombie institution. In its traditional ways of doing things, as a modernist interpretative community and sense making practice it has been dead for a while now, yet it is unable to fully come to terms with its own demise.
In a digital age, the vast majority of people in overdeveloped nations actively engage in practices of disintermediation, bypassing cultural intermediaries like advertisers and journalists to produce and consume their own public information.
We cannot, not even implicitly, assume that mainstream, corporate, and national or even global journalisms can or should somehow be held responsible for bringing everyone back into the fold.
Today's societal context of journalism is one of a networked hyperindividualism slowly but surely replacing what is commonly understood as 'community': an oppressive notion of living in a place where there are no strangers - where social cohesion is determined by an absence of difference. Examples are sprawling middle class exurban neighborhoods in the United States and Australia, or (guard-) gated communities in countries like South Africa, Brazil (“condomínio fechados”), Mexico and China. Do we really want to reify a journalism that provides the social cement for these kinds of ethnic enclaves, for such horrendous examples of publicness?
Liquid modern togetherness gets particularly expressed in the single-issue, voluntarist and monitorial social networks emerging in the in-between space of online and offline interactions, as well as in the practices of what Henry Jenkins calls a globally emerging convergence culture - a liquifaction of the cultures of production and consumption in the way people mesh their media. In journalism, this trend takes root in so-called 'citizen journalism', [...]
However, among the professionals in the newsrooms of these organizations such initiatives or experiments are generally met with fear or disdain. Why? Because an outright embrace of the complex prosumption process of convergence culture forces the zombie institution of journalism to admit its culture, its consensual ways of doing things, its formula, is dead.
As scholars of media and society in our studies of journalism, I strongly believe it is our responsibility to dismember the pervasive rhetoric of solid modernity in our assessments of newswork, thus letting journalism die in peace. In its place, we must reconstruct a professional identity for media practitioners that is liquid: a liquid journalism. This journalism truly works in the service of the network society, deeply respects the rights and privileges of each and every consumer-citizen to be a maker and user of their own news, and enthusiastically embraces its role as – paraphrasing James Carey - amplifier of the multiple and concurrent conversations post-national society has with itself. A journalism studies that fails to acknowledge the evolutionary changes expressed in tomorrow's new media ecology will become a zombie journalism studies - alive, but dead at the same time. Let me make it clear that I am not arguing that this 'new' social context for a liquid journalism is in any way preferable or 'better' than anything that came before - it just connects more profoundly with most people's everyday lived realities.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference To be liquid, or a zombie? Is that the question?: