It used to be said that what we see every moment of our life: in front, at our back and sideways is ideology. That must have now been replaced with the mass media. That is, in front, at our back, to the left or right and even by the bedside is the mass media. It could be the widescreen television set booming by the side just as it could be the handset and the access it grants to every imaginable platform – newspapers, text messages, top sites and what have you. So, the ubiquity of the media is beyond capture in language use. But, what does ubiquity translate to and whatever it translates to, is it good or bad, both for the individual consumers and the society as a whole?
This is the question that a 194 page book – All Media Are Social – has set out to answer. Released last April,(2020) it means there has been nothing like this before. That is to say this book does not share much with Clayton Childress article of that title published in 2012, full eight years ago. Unlike that one which is also interesting, this is just a month or so in the market with no reviewers yet, though without being authoritative about that.
From the title, it is bound to be controversial because the two authors obviously have a broader concept of the ‘social’ beyond the social media. Spread over eleven chapters, Andrew M. Lindner and Stephen R. Barnard, associate professors of media related research agenda are inviting actual and potential readers to think about broader issues of media in terms of power relations. That means issues how the society and big media companies interact. Is it one of interface or domination? They are putting on the table the question of what the media might be doing to identities through representation, from race, class, gender, sexuality, environmental protest movement to the likes. It is taking on board the dynamics of state-media relations, the impact that the social media might be having on the body and many more such issues.
It is thus a sociological text on the media as a social institution rather than a study of the social media. The tensions that have developed in the academic study of Mass Communications as well as the practice of the journalism profession in the aftermath of the Cold War means that this book cannot be better timed. Questions relating to for whom do the media speak at a time when meaning no longer resides in the writer but in the reader; what objectivity might mean in professional journalism at a time the ‘news as discourse’ paradigm is on the theoretical ascendancy and whether the highly contested claim of “CNN Effect”, for instance, is a case of emancipatory journalism or ‘humanitarian imperialism’ are there begging for more authoritative interventions in the post Cold War. It remains to be seen how the authors have intervened in each of the key controversies and what weaknesses as well as great insights they have brought to bear on them as academics based in two different universities in New York.
Readers should be in good hands, the authors being products of well established centres for the study of Mass Communications and the associated disciplines of Sociology, Political Science, Linguistics and Literature in the United States.