Media Regime Disruption and the Conditions of Public Reflexivity

Ben O’Loughlin (2020):

International Journal of Communication, 14, pp. 6113-6132. Open access

Abstract. This article examines public debates about disruption to the media regime of Western democracies precipitated by the Trump and Brexit elections. Delli Carpini and Williams introduce the media regime concept to explain how media and politics in a given era hold together structurally and are superseded. This article highlights what conditions for public reflexivity emerge during such a disruption and transition, while renewal of media and political institutions continues in parallel to disruption. I explore the conjuncture of formats, contexts, and content in 2016–2019 elite public debates. I find that these broadly map onto the macro-, meso-, and micro-level changes Delli Carpini and Williams identify. I use this to demonstrate the form and content of reflexivity claims generated as elite actors attempt to give meaning to these changes. Despite uncertainty in these debates, there is normative value to the attention generated on fundamental questions about the nature of connectivity and the nature of the social. This disruption presents opportunities for scholars to build new research trajectories and inform public debate as we transition to a new media regime.

Extract: “The media regime concept brings two advantages. First, it offers far more scope to situate an event or process as conjunctural—as an intersection of macroeconomic, geopolitical, and cultural trends; mesolevel actions by specific institutions and organizations; and micro-level individual behaviors. Locating what a disruption is an instance of makes the public deliberation of it possible. If it is a disruption of a media regime, then it becomes comparable to other disruptions of media regimes. This conceptual specificity is necessary because, until we agree what the type of problem is that we are deliberating, then we debate at cross-purposes (Boltanski & Thévenot, 2006; Dewey, 1927).” (p. 6116)

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