The rise of nation-wide mediated public counter-spheres in times of crisis: cases of Italy and Russia

TitleThe rise of nation-wide mediated public counter-spheres in times of crisis: cases of Italy and Russia
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Bodrunova, S. S.
Affiliation (1st Author)School of Journalism and Mass Communication, St.Petersburg State University
Section or WGPolitical Communication Research Section
DateThurs 27 June
Slot CodePOLT3a
Slot Code (Keyword)POLT3a
Time of Session14:00-15:30
Session TitleMediatization of politics, scandals and corruption media
Submission ID5582

Political&economic protest movements of 2009-2012 in the world, as well as political conflicts of the Arab spring, have fostered discussion about the role of hybridized media systems (Chadwick 2011), especially of web 2.0 media, in stimulating nation-wide ‘spill-over effects’ when mediatized communication turns into massive protest action. Cross-national similarities in network-building and communication patterns within protest communities were spotted (Castells 2012, Dang-Anh et al. 2012). But despite of the growing body of research upon the Arab revolutions or the Occupy movement, few attempts were made to compare the roles of media in conditioning spill-overs in established vs. transitive democracies. We argue that, in cases of the more-or-less-established Italian democracy and the doubtfully-transitive Russia of 2011-2012, there were similarities in how and why media drove protest, as well as dissimilarities with the Arab wave. The similarities may lay deeper than just in direct linkage of the protests to the declining economic conditions or rapid political dissatisfaction, with new media, allegedly, playing just disseminational/organizational roles. In both countries, we argue, a two-year span before the outbreak of protests saw a gradual split of the respective national mediated public spheres, which may mean that the crisis played a ‘framework’ role in polarizing media and public, but was just indirectly responsible for the spill-overs themselves. In 2011-2012, in both Italy and Russia, nation-scale counter-spheres of hybrid nature formed, with informing/discussion cleavages cutting across channel or ‘old’/‘new’ media differentiation, as alternative-agenda media appeared massively both online and offline. The role of these counter-spheres in fostering protest was not only organizational but also ‘cultivational’, as it had established shared negative consensus upon political establishment and emasculated political discourse within the communities most probable to protest. In each case, the formation of an alternative-agenda-based counter-sphere provided ambivalent ‘creative destruction’ to public discourse, as it brought in bigger democratic potential thanks to growing variety of opinion and information sources (Dahl 1979) but also fractured and fragmented the mainstream social sphere, making polarized audiences lose touch with each other. The two cases provide evidence of possible comparative perspective in terms of predicting political spill-overs, at least in capitals and big cities. In considering what plays a bigger role in triggering spill-overs – national socio-political context in correlation with the type of political hybridization of media systems (Adam&Pfetch 2011) or more universal mediacratic trends (Puyu&Bodrunova 2013) and hybridization trajectories, the author concludes with suggesting several criteria for modeling and predicting spill-overs in democracies. In politics, these are the growth of grassroots anti-systemic/radical politics and mediacratic fusion of national media and politics; in media, the level of structural online/offline media parallelism, particular changes in patterns of media consumption, the rise of alternative-agenda media clusters and the level of shared agenda between mainstream and counter-spheres are suggested.

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