Reading 3: “Media Work” by Mark Deuze

I just posted the PDF of this chapter on Blackboard. It’s more academic than anything else we’ll read this semester, but it’s worth your time digging through some of the knotty concepts and terminology.

So, why are we reading this?

As Mark Deuze writes in the preface: “The aim of the book is not only to prepare media students to become competent media practitioners, but to also enable students to become competent citizens in a media-saturated ‘hyper-reality,’ where meaningful distinctions between public and private life, work time and non-work time, local and global, or lived and mediated reality are fading.”

We’re living at a time when our ability to make effective use of media—digital media—is becoming increasingly important, in virtually all institutions and all walks of life. Whether or not you plan to be a journalist after graduation, knowing how to function in this digital culture is critical. As we’ll see, so often journalists and news organizations go digital but without any cultural competency, and wonder why no one responds to their efforts, while websites like Craigslist continue to draw loyal users by the millions.

So we want to develop an understanding of some of the aspects of this culture … such as:

–How we develop relationships with our media.

–How we apply to mediated experiences the same conventions as we do in in-person or otherwise “real” encounters (where does the virtual end and the real begin?).

–How are notions of collectivity and community being redefined as people find new ways to connect and collaborate via social media?

–How are consumers pushing back in trying to more fully control the flow of media threatening to overwhelm them?

Look for these ideas and others in this reading, and connect them with trends in your life. What else in this chapter speaks to you about the way in which digital media and digital culture are changing the way we live, work, and play (for better or worse)?

Please respond before class Wednesday.

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14 Responses to “Reading 3: “Media Work” by Mark Deuze”


  1. 1 Caitlin W September 9, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    This article was really, really interesting. A few things stuck out for me: most importantly, the blending of work and play is positively disturbing. I don’t think this is a new trend; I remember talking about it years ago in school. But I do believe that, as the article points out, as technology becomes more and more advanced, work can really feel like it is following you. Particularly for those of us going into the field of media production, the fact that blogs are updated so frequently means little “off” time if we are to be successful news reporters. The dichotomy of the increasingly networked yet socially isolated society also fascinates me. Is there a way to combat this? I ask this because I feel that it should be combatted, to some extent. I like the idea of keeping in touch with friends I made abroad, for example, but I don’t want to lose touch with the people I can actually meet here in Austin because I am spending all of my time with virtual friends. This also plays into the idea of our society fragmenting ideologically: people don’t have to interact with others who have differing viewpoints, because they can find like-minded people virtually. On the positive side, people who once felt isolated in their “real life” community can now find solace online by connecting with others like them (GLBT kids from small towns seem like a good example.) Another point that REALLY hit home was the idea of imminent job loss – the positive spin given precarity/fluidity has merit, I think, in that people are able to really explore multiple interests and won’t feel “stuck” in a job. On the other hand, I tend to agree that stability can also give a lot of freedom to people; particularly in the news media, if we are constantly concerned with losing our jobs, I could see a scenario where reporting suffers. There are many, many more interesting ideas in this article. What did everyone else think??

  2. 2 Brittany September 9, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    I was really intrigued by the line in the piece that said, “People cannot simply rely on parents’, priests, professionals, or presidents for truth anymore –they have to go out and construct their own narrative, to come up with ‘biographical solutions of systemic contradictions’.”

    This brought to mind the proliferation of the Google search. I experienced this with the family that I babysit for. One evening before mom and dad have left for their date, 10-year-old Reagan asks dad a science homework question. Dad doesn’t know, so he replies, “Google it.” Reagan promptly walks to the computer, types in his query and returns to his homework to write down the correct response. It is so true that people don’t really rely on others for answers anymore. I can’t remember the last time I asked someone a question. Now when I don’t know the definition of a word or the context of a particular reference, I wait till I am home and go look it up on the computer. Why should I ask someone and risk the embarrassment of admitting the things I don’t know when I can just Google it from the comfort of my apartment? Gone are the days when we need others to get our “truths”.

    I also tuned into the description of our society as “a liquid modern society…where uncertainty, flux, change, conflict, and revolution are the permanent conditions of everyday life.” I found this interesting in light of our reading the history of the internet. I think all those words accurately describe the proliferation of the internet, technology, blogs, etc. Things in that realm of society are uncertain, and always changing. It’s almost scary to think about how different they will be in the future.

  3. 3 Laura C. September 9, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    I agree with Caitlin in that this new notion that Deuze mentions of blending work and play, while intriguing, is also disturbing. For instance, many news outlets are now turning to Twitter to keep real time updates available to the world about news… but, rather than just updating during working hours and the occasional breaking news story at 2 a.m., are journalists now going to be expected to blog, twitter, and text news 24/7? While handy for the consumer, as someone going into the workforce, I am not going to want a job where I have to be dedicated 24/7. I realize that this is part of being a ‘good journalist,’ in terms of dedication, but it also isn’t realistic. Instead of just watching the nightly news over dinner after I come home from work, if I’m an op-ed columnist, will I have to blog about my opinions as I watch the news? This is a silly example, but I think it has definite reprecussions for us entering the workforce.

    I think the idea of media and consumerism is also very interesting. With the internet and media enabling us to research products ourselves, we are able to engage in a new sort of consumerism that was not possible 10 years ago. I am a big advocate of fair-trade coffee and other products, and I learned about the issue in one of my government classes and quickly researched it more myself. I found the whole idea of paying a few cents more for a product to ensure fair treatment of workers to be completely fascinating, and now I can Google different products worth buying before I go to the store. Fascinating!

  4. 4 Briana C September 9, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    First off, this article was both exciting and scary. I feel a little overwhelmed after reading it. The media and journalism is so wrapped up in this new “Glocal environment” where there are endless possibilities, but in essence, there is always a fear of the unknown. This new liquid life is full of variables and unknowns, and i think fledgeling professionals, now more than ever, have to go out with their big boy/girl pants on. Our job is to always stay on the cutting edge. If you fall behind technologically, your work becomes irrelevant, and doesn’t perform its basic function which is to inform people (if no one’s reading/accessing it).

    In the age of web 2.0, people now relate with their media as if it were their own personal secretary. When i want to know if i have time to go to happy hour on a Tuesday night, I can look at my calendar on my phone and see my schedule. The iphone makes it easier than ever to consolidate your calendar, phone book, the internet, and entertainment all on one device. Going one day… scratch that… one hour without my phone seems impossible. I think the key thing is that it keeps me CONNECTED. I feel a little lonely without my phone, or that i may be missing out on some crucial information if i don’t check it for a new message. In this age, we have developed a relationship of dependance on our media to keep us both informed and connected.

    As the lines blur between the real and the virtual, i actual contact still has an edge over the virtual in my opinion. It’s like real butter vs the fake “i can’t believe it’s not butter” stuff. Who wouldn’t take the real thing instead if they could? While virtual technology has some benefits, i think it’s only preferential if there’s no way you an get the real thing. My frame of reference here is ichat. My best friend lives in North Carolina, and we love to use the isight in our laptops to talk. This technology is awesome, because i can see him and talk to him. While i’m grateful for ichat, i would much rather see him face to face in person. Yet, in some instances such as e mail, it’s easier to communicate in a less confrontational way.

    Social media is changing the world, as the article points out, by making our communities larger yet smaller at the same time. People with specified interests (local) can communicate and trade and share ideas with people who hold those same interests (global) all over the world. This gives us a new sense of connectivity, which is cool. We can join communities that focus on what we are interested in with people who are like us from all over the global society, and this fact is a major component in the “precariousity” theory.

    As long as consumers control the media, meaning they will most likely control my job, i’ll remain a little worried. If you follow the train of money, it leads to the most innovate, creative, and connected companies. But, these companies tend to hire people for a specific purpose for a fixed amount of time (short term). I guess i have to come to terms with the fact that i may work for a million different companies in the future with no real concept of job security like my parents and their generation have. But, on the upside of that, it will make for a pretty impressive resume!
    -Briana

  5. 5 Kristin September 9, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    In this “liquid” life the author describes, nothing is secure, everything is in constant flux, and the future is only as predictable as to know that it is unpredictable. With this in mind, jobs in every sector of the global economy are insecure. Not only can we not plan on holding jobs for long periods of time due to competition from other workers, but also, we don’t even know how long that career will exist.

    This fits neatly with the warnings journalism students are inundated with from the moment they declare their major: your job may not exist in the future and don’t expect to make any money even if you get hired! So, basically, our role is to be as liquid and flexible as the world we live in. Clearly, adaptability is the key.

    As this class has taught us already, journalism, as it has entered the digital culture in a very real way, is blurring the lines between real and fake. What legitimizes a journalist nowadays? Obviously anyone can publish whatever comes to their mind these days, so the only questions become: what do people read? What do people trust? What are people looking for? And then, as journalists, we must answer that call.

    Social media has created the most accessible and easy to distribute community communication possible. Collective efforts have limitless boundaries of space and time. With new inventions like facebook, Wikipedia, and community blogs, the word “shared” only begins to describe the possibilities.

    Media, while more abundant than ever before, is also more personalized than ever before. While everywhere you turn in this modern life, some piece of information is begging to be noticed, it is also easier to ignore. It takes more effort for news, ads, or other entertainment to be noticed. In the same way, people are making the choice, taking the power of news into their own hands, and letting the news or information of their choosing come to them, rather than the opposite. In this way, both the obscure and mainstream should have an audience. So, while we may not have any job security and live in constant uncertainty, we still have the power to choose what we see hear and pay attention to.

  6. 6 Holley N September 9, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    One thing that caught my attention in this chapter is the discussion about how people no longer participate in social institutions like they once did. But, the activities people do engage in, they get involved because they want to be involved. So that makes me think about this whole explosion of the Internet, and users’ fascination with creating and joining groups and social networks online…obviously, we do it because we want to. But, I don’t think that people have been withdrawing participation in social institution, so much as the participation in such institutions has relocated to the Internet. But, to come full circle, I think the reason involvement has moved to the Internet is because the online sphere allows you to participate whenever you want to (as the reading suggests.) As a result, we can all be a part of these “imagined communities,” and I think there is a merging between the virtual and the real. Our participation in the virtual is replacing our participation or activity in the real. I think Deuze makes this point when he says, “…perhaps people are finding new ways to connect with each other, collaborate, and participate in social life that move beyond traditional notions of collectives and communities.”

    Another point I thought was interesting is how the author talks about how the mass media used to be the “social cement of modern life.” I think this is very true, the media used to be the concrete in our life, and now people are looking for their own truth, while the media has become just one of the many sources available to us.

    As far as the boundaries between the way we live, work, and play, I think it is frightening how much they are becoming blurred. Our lives have become so centralized to this web phenomenon that I think sometimes we can miss important things in real life. I have to agree with Briana on her iChat example. I think the same goes for the countless online communities that are out there. I mean we are all human, and we all want to feel like we are a part of something. However, while I think all of these online connections are great, it is hard to replace actually seeing a person face to face. I think it all goes back to how this digital world has left us super connected, yet completely disconnected all at once.

  7. 7 jbechdel September 9, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    Not surprisingly, a lot of the comments I read above use the words “scary” “disturbing” and “insercure” to describe the society described in this chapter–our society. I share those feelings to an extent, but lodged somewhere in the mid-section of the chapter is an idea that I think can bring some hope to people. The author stated that the development of our current society is based largely on and shaped by human characteristics. Taking the “glass half full” approach, I see that as a positive. If “change elections” can bring a candidate to shout “Enough!” during an acceptance speech, than the people as a whole can do the same. Sure, there’s a lot of crap on the Web, but that type of content couldn’t exist without the content that we find meaningful and good.

    In terms of how we develop our relationship with media, I think this chapter is fairly simple. First of all, it’s on our own terms. We no longer sit around the dinner table and watch Peter Jennings and all of the “important” stories of the day. Instead, we shop around for what interests us. In regards to what doesn’t, we remain blissfully ignorant. He said we’ve moved from skeptical (“well, sure Jennings said that, he’s biased!) to monitorial (“that’s not news [to me], but this is!”). It’s on our own interests and on our own terms.

    The casual labor portion of the chapter is perhaps the most unsettling. Stability soothes us, and the thought of bouncing from job to job isn’t exactly comforting. He argues, though, that the precariousness of that situation can be empowering: by diversifying our resumes, we become more marketable to future jobs. I guess my question is, Sure, but where does it end? Are we living in a soceity where nearly all skilled jobs are insecure? If so, who is writing our society’s version of 1984?

    Finally, toward the end he stated that we’re moving from neighborhood communities (those of proximity) to communication bonds. As a result, he says, no one is “outside” anymore, because we are the media. I either don’t understand this, or don’t agree with it. It seems to me that this article largely overlooks those who are left out or behind because of financial disparity. It’s acknowledged a few times, but I would imagine that the widening gap and stratification of society is having bigger effects on us (or will) than some media-related issues. This kind of thinking may be a bit too local, and not global enough, though.

    Also, if it still says “jbechdel” instead of my full name, I guess I’m going to need help figuring out how to change that. –Jeff Bechdel

  8. 8 Samantha G. September 10, 2008 at 12:07 am

    Developing relationships with our media in 2008 is, according to the reading, based out of our individual and personal needs or wants. Our relationship with media is one sided, we go where we want, when we want, and get what we’re looking for.

    “Today’s citizen is not only skeptical and anti-hierarchical, she is also what Schudson calls “monitorial”: scanning all kinds of news and information sources for the topics that matter to her personally.”

    This manner of looking for news reflects the idea of media becoming something that is consumed and the debate of consumption being a positive or negative.

    While reading the chapter there were a lot of points that I think are defining of the questions were supposed to answer in this post.

    The idea of community being redefined can be attributed to the ability everyone has to completely hone their virtual social network to their liking.

    The digital media and culture are changing our daily lives for the better for the most part. It allows us to be more informed and knowledgeable. It allows us to communicate instantly and more directly. It challenges us more by creating expectations that didn’t exist before, things are expected to happen faster, more accurately and in a much more efficient manner. We are streamlining our every day, and creating a world where we are dependent on these devices and the ability to have everything at our fingertips.

  9. 9 Jane Kim September 10, 2008 at 12:22 am

    I agreed most with the discussion on the Network Society.
    Manuel Castells (2000) defined a network society as “a society
    where the organizational arrangements of humans in relation
    to such crucial everyday life-issues as production, consumption and experience are made of networks.”
    Deuze argued that although recent technological,economical, and cultural developments have made networks the dominant form of social organization and people are now connected to others across the globe, it has also functioned in increasing social isolation.

    I think the cause of this phenomenon may be connected to the “phase of disorganized capitalism” that Lash and John Urry (1994) suggested. In this age, individualism is key, and everything can be customized to your own personal preference.
    So now even though we are connected to all the information in the world, we can choose what our interests are, and access and participate in niche communities that are within our narrow interests. Most online news sites that send e-mail newsletters, allow you to choose the sections of your interest so that you will only be sent information pertinent to those topics. You may get the news everyday, but you may be only reading the Lifestyle section. This individualism limits the capacities of the Web and can make your world even smaller.

    The task at hand is to figure out a networking system that can bring those isolated individuals by tapping into their interests, and also lead them to a bigger world. I think this is why bringing blogs and mainstream media together is so important. People will seek out blogs and communities that speak to their interests and give them individual expertise. However, if they limit themselves to their narrow tastes, they will end up being socially isolated from the broader world. Mainstream media should play the role in creating a global connection between these isolated communities and individuals.

  10. 10 Raquel September 10, 2008 at 2:19 am

    Like Briana, some of the ideas discussed scared me, like the idea of technology supplanting labor, and others drew my attention.

    I’ve heard various times that regardless of what work sector you enter, it’s a good idea to specialize in a subject you can master. The reading contradicts this perception in the part where the author cites Michael Arthur, who discusses a “boundarylessness” as a labor trend consisting of multiple employers, from which the employee learns diverse skills and doesn’t necessarily concentrate in one field.

    It’s interesting that the author links the nature of family in this age with “non-spaces.” It seems to me that this nature parallels the nature of the internet, in the sense of anonymity and temporary exchange. Also in the sense of personal information spaces in which people go beyond themselves and present kind of like an alter-ego on the online sphere.

    I think we need to feel comfortable with the unexpected, like Kristin pointed out. I know it sounds lame, but like the quote “expect the unexpected” fits perfectly to the lifestyle we’re leading these days.

    The notion of a “runaway world” evokes the idea that everything’s so fast, it’s as if the world were going to end tomorrow, literally. Since communication has taken an immediacy characteristic, it’s as if we were living on the brink of something new, constantly. But it’s part of the characteristic of the times, to be able to adapt quickly to change.

    I’m really interested in the idea of customizing products, like the cover of Time two years ago. I see it in many aspects of my life, little things like today I got in the mail an ad for Dallas Theater Company, and although it typically advertises buying the whole season, the ad invited you to choose among the shows the season for yourself, you decide what your season will be like.

    A few quotes that caught my attention:

    “The way an organization operates has become reflexively interdependent with all kinds of related sectors of an economy that is at once local and global”
    Today I reflected on this idea. In the student chapter of SPJ here at UT, we have different committees: fundraising, public relations, watchdog, ethics and diversity, and multimedia. But I sat thinking that on the long run multimedia is the ultimate link to all of them. They’re definitely intertwined between themselves, but they all become stronger when you add the multimedia aspect to it. Sponsors can be advertised online, events too, news related to ethical violations can be posted and transmitted online, and of course, without all this content the multimedia committee would make no sense.

    “Individuals have to come to terms with the management of an endless supply of online information, goods and services”
    Like this weekend, there’s a Freedom of Information conference and one of the issues they’ll discuss is how technology affects a transparent, open government. Right now there’s an effort to make government expenditure more transparent in Texas, through the website http://www.window.state.tx.us/comptrol/expendlist/cashdrill.php.

  11. 11 pieper12 September 10, 2008 at 7:00 am

    After reading the article, it is obvious that the “liquid life” Deuze describes is a life that is every-changing and the workforce is fluctuating almost daily. There seems to be positive and negative aspects to this life full of flux and some of it seems pretty intimidating.

    It is exciting that individualism is taking over. In almost all aspects of live, the individual is finding ways to cater whatever they are involved in to help accomodate themselves. There is a clear shift from people becoming “subscriptionally” involved in a news-media outlet or religious organization. From disciplining oneself to going every day , to taking part whenever one feels like it. This makes our behavior towards these institutions unpredictable and dependent on our wants and needs.
    Also, with the always-changing media outlets, the world seems to be getting smaller by the day, connecting people from networks all across the globe.

    Although this new “liquid” lifestyle is exciting, it is also daunting. For instance, Deuze comments on the idea that although it is exciting for the world to become smaller with the use of the internet, it is also moving at a rate that is almost too quick and the people have to adapt to it almost daily. I agree with Laura on the idea of journalists having to keep up with almost every new media outlet and how it would be almost impossible.

    Deuze explains that a key to surviving this phenomenon is adapting and accepting that things are changes and they are changing permanently. Again, an intimidating, yet exciting thought. The people are intoducing new technologies to this idea of “Mediapolis” an it looks like we are just going to have to do our best to keep up.

  12. 12 Mollie B. September 10, 2008 at 7:39 am

    Echoing what others have said earlier, I agree that this article points out some things that cause me to worry about our futures in the journalism industry. I understand that our job as journalists is to provide people with the latest news. But why does it seem that there’s this general opinion that if I want to be a successful journalist I must always be plugged in or connected with my audience at all times?

    The idea that the lines between work time and non-work time are either blurring or merging is a little disconcerting. Now it’s not that I’m afraid of a little, ok, a lot of hard work that I’m sure I’ll face in the future. What worries me is with the way our industry is changing, I’m afraid we may find ourselves working all the time but not receiving any sort of gain or advantage from it.

    I’ll admit that I found this article to be a bit overwhelming and I’m not sure that I’m really grasping everything that was discussed in it. However, one idea that I know I’ve discussed before is that with the media people are becoming more connected yet isolating themselves at the same time. I think then that a goal of our industry should be to continue to encourage people, while they are connecting via the media, to then connect face to face. For example, if a community has created a blog to discuss issues with zoning laws in their neighborhood and they want to bring about change, not only should they connect with this blog, but they should then connect in person and actively seek the change they want in their community.

  13. 13 Caroline Page September 10, 2008 at 8:21 am

    After a summer that included trying to lift my friends up who were discouraged by the job-finding process – not due to their lack of qualifications – reading this article that hammered in the reality of how liquid jobs are today, is less than inspiring. I know that was not the focus of the article, but the uncertainty of my future career is very much in the back of my mind all the time, so Deuze’s piece just reminded me of that again!

    Anyway, the following quote struck a chord with me: “The relationship we develop with a device like the cell phone exemplifies and extends the ways we interact with the world and the social environment we have come to live in: inevitably individualized, completely isolated yet instantaneously connected to everyone else.” I wholeheartedly agree with this concept and find that it parallels our relationship with media. I am guilty of complaining of the intrusion and obligation to stay constantly socially connected because of my cell phone, however I do love the endless capabilities of my iphone and am always on or checking it. As this article emphasizes, our society is individualized and many feel they can not trust one news source or reporter – we have to take the news in our own hands and explore many different sites and stations to find truth. We do that by being “instantaneously connected” and often search solely for the stories that interest us.

    Although I am a child of the technology boom and don’t know what I would do without being able to go to the internet at the drop of a hat to look anything up, shop for something I need, research any imaginable subject, etc., there is no replacement to one-on-one real life human interaction. I will always be a traditionalist in that regard. It is still clear to me where the virtual ends: if I’m actually interacting face to face with another human! Our social networking capabilities are amazing, but there are some things I would rather do in person and that includes most shopping experiences, dating/meeting guys, having personal conversations with friends and family. On the other end, I don’t know how I would look for a job and try to network with professionals without email and the ability to find people’s contact information easily.

    p.s. does anyone else have the problem that you can only type your response in the tiniest size font that you are unable to change? is it just me?


  1. 1 Video day! YouTube, social media, and video journalism « The Future of Journalism Trackback on October 16, 2008 at 8:38 am

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