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On the mediation of everything: ICA presidential address 2008

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As our field moves beyond the traditional dualism of mass and interpersonal forms of communication to encompass new, interactive, networked forms of communication whose influence may be traced across multiple spheres of modern life, it is commonly claimed that ‘everything is mediated’ and that this represents a historically significant change. This article inquires into these rhetorically grand claims, first noting the parallels with other processes of mediation (e.g. language, money, myths), second raising questions of value since, unlike for other forms of mediation, the media’s role is typically construed as negative than positive and, third observing that the difficulties of translating ‘mediation’ into a range of languages reveals some conceptual confusions. As a step towards clarification, I contrast the terms ‘mediation’ and ‘mediatization’, these roughly, mapping onto situational and historical influences, conceived primarily at micro and macro levels of analysis respectively. I then argue for a broad conception of mediation that encompasses those processes variously referred to as mediatization, mediazation or medialization. The analysis is illustrated by unpacking the claim that ‘childhood is mediated’, before concluding that distinct aspects of the concept of mediation invite communication scholars to attend to the specific empirical, historical and political implications of the claim that ‘everything is mediated’.

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