Crime, culture and the media in a globalizing world

Authored by: Eamonn Carrabine

The Routledge Handbook of International Crime and Justice Studies

Print publication date:  August  2013
Online publication date:  August  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415781787
eBook ISBN: 9780203837146
Adobe ISBN: 9781136868504


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It is often said that we live in a media-saturated world, and this chapter will explore how some of the dynamics between crime and justice are conceived of in an era of global interconnectedness. The transformations in media technology wrought by print, telegraph and wireless communication, which gave birth to the electronic age from the mid-twentieth century, have led to the phenomenon of mediatization. Defined as a powerful force eroding divisions between ‘fact and fiction, nature and culture, global and local, science and art, technology and humanity’ to the extent that ‘the media in the twenty-first century have so undermined the ability to construct an apparent distinction between reality and representation that the modernist episteme has begun to seem somewhat shaky’ (Brown 2003: 22, emphasis in original). In other words, the advent of postmodernity has meant that it is becoming increasingly impossible to distinguish between media image and social reality (Osborne 1995: 28). This blurring of boundaries is captured well in the following passage:

Today, as criminals videotape their crimes and post them on YouTube, as security agents scrutinize the image-making of criminals on millions of surveillance monitors, as insurrectionist groups upload video compilations (filmed from several angles) of ‘successful’ suicide bomb attacks and roadside IED (Improvised Explosive Device) detonations, as images of brutality and victimization pop up on office computer screens and children’s mobile phones, as “reality TV” shows take the viewer ever deeper inside the world of the beat cop and prison setting, there can be no other option but the development of a thoroughgoing visual criminology.

(Hayward 2010: 2, emphasis in original) It is significant that Keith Hayward is drawn to the concept of the ‘Mediascape’ (Appadurai 1996) in his attempt to develop a visual criminology that can grasp how the power of images plays a decisive role in shaping the social imaginary. Of course, the 2011 protests and revolutions in the Middle East were also characterized by distinctive forms of cyber-organizing through social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, which helped shape grassroots political activism while also enabling new forms of surveillance dedicated to countering dissent.

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