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Regular version of the site

Book chapter

Media Event

25 years after the first publication of Media Events: The Live Broadcasting of History (Dayan and Katz 1992), not only has the concept of media events firmly taken root in media theory, but it has also been developed considerably as a result of multiple critical interpretations. Going beyond a neo-Durkheimian ritual perspective, which emphasized the integrative role of ceremonial media events, has allowed a number of authors to identify such genres as ‘disruptive’, ‘traumatic’ or ‘conflictual’ media events, including, first and foremost, terror, disaster and war (Cottle 2006; Dayan 2008; Hepp and Couldry 2010; Katz and Liebes 2007; Mitu and Poulakidakos 2016). However, there is another type of events targeting social and cultural change, which do not exactly fit the ‘integrative/disruptive’ opposition, even if these events take the form of protest, for ‘protests and strikes are agreed forms of sanctioned disruption’ (Katz and Liebes 2007: 159). Until protest grows into a revolution and civil war, it is an instance of ‘ritual’ chaos, constituting a part of the order. Events of this type show some features of social drama and cultural performance (Turner 1974, 1982; Alexander 2006, 2011). Nevertheless, not every ‘transformative media event’ (Mihelj 2008) has such radical goals and sweeping scale.

‘Transformative media events’ are initiated in public spaces by citizens, whose disagreement with certain social conditions and/or a call for change they express. The transformative power can be an inherent element of the event (for instance, in the case of a protest action), or can emerge as a result of public response to a published opinion or document (such as a YouTube video recording police abuse). The latter case includes practices of ‘sousveillance’ (Mann et al. 2003) or ‘citizen witnessing’ (Allan 2013) directed at the democratization of social relations. A key feature of ‘transformative media events’ is their tight connection to the ‘citizen media’, by means of which they become visible and powerful. In this context it seems useful to consider media events as ‘user-generated media events’ (Mitu 2016), ‘new media events’ (Neverson and Adeyanju 2017), ‘transmedia events’ (Bacallao-Pino 2016), etc.