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Studying Mediatization Processes through the Multi-dimensional Lens of Life Transitions

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This paper argues that if we want to study the impact of mediatization processes on everyday life, it is fruitful to employ a ‘life transition’ perspective and merge two competing perspectives in current mediatization research, namely ‘the institutional’ and ‘th cultural’. First, the paper discusses the impact of mediatization processes on everyday life. Online, interactive, networked and mobile media are becoming indispensable (Jansson 2014) parts of our everyday worlds (Hepp & Krotz, 2014) over the life cours and woven tightly into the fabric of social institutions (Hjarvard, 2008). As media use becomes increasingly embedded in other practices such as work, leisure, and family practices, media usage in itself becomes ‘invisible’ (Livingstone, 2009) and taken for granted (Ling, 2012). Consequently, researchers must embrace an interdisciplinary approach and employ theoretical and methodological perspectives that highlight and reinforce nuanced understandings of the complex and multiple ways in which we engage in and make use of different media over the course of life. This paper argues that studying and comparing the role of media specifically in major life transitions, such as retiring, moving from home, or becoming parents, is a productive perspective for mediatization research. Social roles get redefined and patterns of communication evolve and transform as we move through life. Within and between life phases we (re)build and maintain our identity and relationships with media and through media. The life-transition perspective sheds light on the cross field between media-communicative practices and practices related to the transition from one social role to another. Concretely, it entails analyzing media usage related to a process over time, ‘a before’ and ‘an after’, and at an individual as well as at a collective level of human experience. Consequently, the life transition perspective unites two different ritual spaces: the everyday, practical, action-oriented sphere and the extraordinary sphere relate to the rites-of-passage. The intersection between the ordinary and the extraordinary, and between rituals as adjective and rituals as noun (Rothenbuhler, 1998), highlights the role of media in the complex interplay between social structures (macro-level), soci institutions (meso-level), and individual actors (micro-level). On this basis, the second part of the paper discusses the strengths and challenges in two competing approaches to mediatization research, namely the institutional perspective focusing on the role of media in the structural change of culture and society (Hjarvard 2008, 2013) and the cultural perspective centered on the relati between everyday media-communicative practices and socio-cultural changes (Couldry & Hepp, 2013; Hepp 2013; Hepp & Krotz, 2014). The institutional approach has a great explanatory force, whereas the cultural approach is remarkably context-sensitive. Hence, the paper argues that merging the two perspectives creates a connection between interaction, media, communicative practices, and institutional logics that in conjunction with a focus on life transitions contributes a new analytical perspective for studying the impact of mediatization processes. Lastly, the paper exemplifies how this particular life transition perspective has guided a study of the mediatized conditions of the transition to parenthood.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year31 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2018
EventECREA 2018: Centres and Peripheries: Communication, Research, Translation - Lugano, Switzerland
Duration: 31 Oct 20183 Nov 2018


ConferenceECREA 2018

    Research areas

  • Mediatization, Life transitions

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