Katrin Voltmer and Lone Sorensen Mediatised transitions: Democratisation in an age of media abundance

Emma Tsoneva, Katrin Voltmer, Lone Sorensen
2016 unpublished
Executive Summary This paper applies the concept of 'mediatisation' as a theoretical framework to transitional democracies. In doing so it addresses the question of how recent changes in the media environment impact on the dynamics and outcomes of struggles for democratic transition. The argument is based on two propositions: First, mediatisation is best understood as a transformative process that defies clear cause-effect attributions. Second, besides journalistic media as institutions of
more » ... c communication, communication technologies have also to be considered as a crucial factor that drives the mediatisation of politics, and indeed transitional politics. We conclude by pointing out that mediatisation in emerging democracies is a multi-faceted and often ambiguous process that is shaped by the political, social and cultural context in which it takes place. It thus results in different configurations of the mediapolitics nexus than in established western democracies, at times serving to strengthen democratic transition, at others to undermine it. The paper:  Presents an outline of the concept of 'mediatisation', which provides a conceptual framework for understanding how an ever expanding media sphere interacts with and shapes public communication and ultimately the institutional processes of democratic politics. The focus is on aspects of political communication but also brings in technological perspectives of media and communication to broaden the largely institutional understanding of mediatisation in the political communication field.  Discusses the communicative dimension of democratisationthe way in which the communication environment creates opportunities as well as constraints for democratic transformations and how in turn the transition process re-configures public communication.  Addresses questions around the quality of emerging 'fourth wave' democracies: to what extent they provide spaces for effective participation and allow for a comprehensive mechanism of accountability. We focus on two aspects of this: the transformation of citizenship and how citizens incorporate media and communication technologies in their activism and how this affects grassroots mobilisation; and the transformation of power and how political leaders and governments adjust to 'media logic', thereby giving way to new institutional forms of representation. are of these far-reaching changes in the communication environment on the processes and outcomes of recent transitions. This question lies at the centre of the current paper. While most of the existing democratisation literature has focused on institutional perspectives of transition, much less scholarship has been devoted to theorising and empirically investigating the communicative dimension of democratisationthe way in which the communication environment creates opportunities as well as constraints for democratic transformations and how in turn the transition process re-configures public communication (Jebril et al., 2013; Voltmer, 2013; Zielonka, 2015). Successful democratisation not only requires political, judicial and often economic changes, but also the transformation of public communication that goes far beyond the formal guarantees of freedom of speech and press freedom. By moving the dealings of power from secretive spaces of negotiation into the arena of public scrutiny and popular decision making, the transformation of public communication raises a broad range of issues: who has access to the public arena of debate; how can political leaders move from a language of propaganda to a language of persuasion that addresses citizens as autonomous individuals rather than subjects; how is a national conversation about the past and the future of the country possible in a multi-channel environment? The four countries that are studied in the project 'Media, Conflict and centralisation, whereby citizens move into arenas of communication that are outside the control of elite politics. Yet, like party politics and government, the emerging forms of citizenship are also highly dependent on and shaped by the media, in particular internetbased platforms. These new communication technologies not only empower and enable a new repertoire of political action, they have also brought about new organisational forms of mobilisation. It can therefore be argued that the transformation of citizenship is part of a wider process of mediatisation that involves both new dependencies on the 'logic' of mediated communication and new opportunities of voice and action. Mediatisation and communication technologies Political communication scholars understand mediatisation as an institutional process that involves independent actors who are making strategic choices to shape and manipulate their relationship. In this approach, communication technologies are seen as external to the process. In other words, it is journalism that interacts with and transforms power politics, whereas communication technologies are seen as tools that are used to optimise an actor's communication efforts. The problem of excluding technologies from an understanding of mediatisation becomes particularly evident with regard to the internet. Clearly, the internet is not an institution in the traditional sense like a media organisation; yet at the same time, more than any other medium before, it is transforming political action and political
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