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Conventionally the verb “mediate” has the meaning of interposing something as a means for connecting two things. Mediation, for instance, functions in the form of a third person in Christian theology, reconciling humanity with God, or in law, citizens with the state.
In philosophy the structure of consciousness mediates the relation between the objects of sense and our perceptions to produce knowledge of things and others. In media studies mediation takes the form of means for transmitting messages between parties: the state and the citizen, and the market and the consumer. In each of these cases the processes of mediation involve the technological, institutional, or symbolic means for connecting things. Discussion on mediation thus tends to focus on the question of the adequacy and authority of these means. In the case of media, this question emerges in the representation and mediation of differences between social categories such as class, race, and gender. Metaphors such as mirror, reflection, window, and frame (McQuail 1994: 64-6) have been employed to explain this mediating function. And issues of media power, consensus, bias, distortion, ideology, hegemony, and agency of the media audience have emerged to critically engage with this mediating function. In each of these, the referential capacities of media texts, and the social power of the media industries and audiences are, in varying degrees, in question.
Today the processes of mediation are inseparably linked to technologies of production, distribution, and consumption. Instantaneous networks, high-definition images and digital sound reproduction point to a technocapitalist society that desires pure communication, without noise or interference. The means for communication, however, are firmly entrenched in economic, technical, and political processes, and the question of mediation remains crucial for understanding the social world.
- McQuail, D. (1994) Mass Communication Theory: An Introduction. Sage, London.