Thoughts from my study of Horror, Media, and Narrrative

Mediatized Rituals

In his article, Mediatized Rituals:  Beyond Manufacturing Consent, Simon Cottle develops the concept of mediatized rituals, arguing that although ritual has traditionally been seen as a consolidating force, it also provides a space for contemplation, which can potentially lead to the manufacture of dissent and resistance (2006).  In essence, Cottle argues that all people do not react to media ritual in the same way, making it unfair for scholars to assume that the act necessarily draws individuals together—it is important to note, however, that Cottle does not rule out such an occurrence, but merely suggests that consent is not the only outcome possible. Cottle also draws an important distinction between mediating and mediatizing, describing the latter as a function that goes further than simply reporting an event—the event, then, changes because of its intersection with media and media becomes an inextricable part of the event.

Cottle goes on to note the historical distrust of ritual as something that runs counter to reason, representing a primitive form of engaging in the public sphere. To this end, Cottle mentions Habermas’ writings on the collapse of the public sphere but counters this by citing a lack of understanding regarding the role of emotions and symbols in modern culture, a sentiment supported by authors like Stephen Duncombe (2006). Symbols, Cottle argues, represent one of the tools that humans use for communication and need to be honored in this respect. I would also suggest that Cottle’s position counters the argument that ritual has no place in postmodern culture—to consider ritual as inherently misleading or false discounts the process by which audiences receive information and make meaning.

Cottle then goes into detail describing six types of media rituals, two of which are most immediately relevant to our studies:  celebratory and conflicted media events. Celebratory media events, arresting and singular in focus like a press conference, increase the legitimacy of the proffered viewpoint; on the other hand, we have conflicted media events, which serve to showcase intense disquiet. In both cases, the event comes to signify more than the literal, operating on multiple levels. Cottle also incorporates Fiske’s argument to suggest that the media event can have a function and importance related to the physical event but that this is not necessarily the case. Yet, the development of satellite links, and a resulting 24-hour news cycle, would suggest that most current physical events are at least mediated, if not mediatized. It follows, then, that we need to understand the ability of media rituals to shape our society in various ways.

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