Comparing Media Cultures

Authored by: Nick Couldry , Andreas Hepp

Handbook of Comparative Communication Research

Print publication date:  April  2012
Online publication date:  June  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415802710
eBook ISBN: 9780203149102
Adobe ISBN: 9781136514241


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The aim of this chapter is to develop a perspective for researching media cultures comparatively, a perspective we would like to call “transcultural.” This perspective is needed, because much media and communication studies research within the field of “intercultural communication” and “international communication” still adopts a “container theory” (Beck, 2000, p. 23) of society, interpreting “media cultures” as always “national,” and conducting subsequent research as though media cultures were bounded by the territorial containers of national states. But the present media landscape is marked by a greater complexity: in the wake of media globalization, that is, the increase of media communication across national borders as well as the addressing of audiences in multiple states by particular media products (Tomlinson, 1999), we have to be wary of reducing all cultural patterns in media communication to those that can be characterized as national. Some such patterns may be much more related to deterritorialized entities that lie beyond the national context: for example, certain professional journalism cultures (Mancini, 2007), transnational diasporas (Georgiou, 2006), or other forms of deterritorialized translocal media cultures (Hepp, 2008). To be sure, the national context does not disappear altogether and results in a certain “banality” (Billig, 1995)—that is, an unproblematized horizon of media coverage, especially within political media communication. However, as soon as we look at broader questions of culture, we see that some forms of media culture are deterritorialized, even if others remain national-territorial in the sense that the nation and its territory are important reference points for articulating their meaning. Comparing media cultures under these complex conditions calls for a multilevel, transcultural research perspective (Robins, 2006).

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