Troubled Closeness or Satisfied Distance? Researching Media Consumption and Public Connection

Couldry, Nick and Markham, T.. 2008. Troubled Closeness or Satisfied Distance? Researching Media Consumption and Public Connection. Media, Culture & Society, 30(1), pp. 5-22. ISSN 0163-4437 [Article]

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There is a key ambiguity in media phenomenology which Raymond Williams expressed better than anyone when he wrote about media as:

… a form of unevenly shared consciousness of persistently external events. [Media] is what appears to happen, in these powerfully transmitted and mediated ways, in a world within which we have no other perceptible connections but we feel is at once central and marginal to our lives. (Williams, 1973: 295–6, added emphasis)

We cannot grasp this paradox unless we accept that media, particularly broadcast media, are important in the phenomenology of everyday experience, something Paddy Scannell’s work has done so much to establish as a dimension of media research. We need, however, a more differentiated view of the varieties and tensions at work within this phenomenology, which we will try to develop by drawing on our recent empirical research1 which asked what everyday media consumption contributes to people’s orientation towards, or away from, a world of public issues beyond the purely private. Through written or spoken diaries produced over an extended period of three months, and interviews/focus groups with participating diarists during a fieldwork relationship lasting up to one year, we tried to understand from multiple perspectives how individual citizens fit media use into their wider practice and how this contributes, or not, to their sense of orientation to a public world. Our research complicates Scannell’s account of how media expand the horizons of everyday life, at least in relation to the public and potentially political dimensions of media consumption.

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Media, Communications and Cultural Studies



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Date Deposited:

10 Oct 2011 12:04

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29 Apr 2020 15:30

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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