So for our Honours course we need to complete coursework. Coursework that is worth 50% of our grade. Lame. I have been trying my hardest to complete my next assignment – due next Monday, which is a research proposal for a 3000 word paper due at the end of semester.
This is what I have so far. Words are just not working for me today. I would *love* opinions on what people think on this paper. (note: not directly related to my actual thesis *lame* but I have to do what I have to do).
Understanding the emergence and development of online support groups through Mediatisation
The aim of this paper is to give a theoretical argument for new forms of communication created via online support groups and structure of these groups within the media and information society. It looks at the emergence and development of online support groups, whilst giving a critical history on self help and support groups. It will analyse the notion that media technologies can potentially be held responsible for this change and see to what extent ‘old mass media’ (the traditional face to face support group) endure the new media environment (online support networks).
The term ‘Media Logic’ was introduced in the 20th century to denote the influence of independent mass media on political systems and other institutions, and in recent years has been reworked and labelled ‘mediatisation’ in an attempt to encompass both old and new media (Schulz, 2004; Krotz, 2007). Since the new media are not seen as substitutes for the old ones, the number of media environments grow and media environments become differentiated (Krotz, 2007).
The “mediatisation of communication” (Krotz, 2001, p. 19) changes the characteristics of the way we perceive society itself as “media worlds and living environments merge” (Bauer, 1996, p. 2). If social life outside a mediatised context is hardly imaginable, this can be extended into other realms of our everyday lives. On the one hand, mediatisation refers to ‘‘a meta process of shifting media,’’ and on the other hand, it is a ‘‘micro process affecting human actors and their social relation ’’ (Krotz, 2012, p. 36).
According to Schultz (2004), a basic assumption of mediatisation theory is that the technological semiotic and economic characteristics of mass media result in problematic dependencies, limitations and overstatements for the people engaging with these technologies. The transition from the process of mediatisation in the late 20th century (the mass media) to the processes of implied ‘new’ media can be defined by four variables. Those variables are extension, in time and space; substitution, of unmediated and mediated processes with new mediated processes; amalgamation with non-media activities in social life; and accommodation of society to media logic.
The conceptual framework is based on the assumption that digital media ‘are not that new’, that the effects of ‘old’ mass media are seen to ‘endure the new media environment’ (Finnemann, 2011) and that the main perspective is that of convergence between old and new media. This is exemplified by the prominence of face to face support groups that are still represented within society, though there has been a discernible increase in the eminence of online support groups that are now available.
Over the past two centuries, media technologies have matured as part of everyday social practices. Generic technologies like the telephone and the telegraph have developed in conjunction with communicative routines or cultural practices, such as chatting on the phone or sending short messages over the wire (Dijck, 2013).
Media technologies can be held responsible for socio-economic change and this is substantiated by McLuhan’s ‘medium is the message’ slogan (McLuhan, 1994). He argues that the central mediating factor in any society is the medium of communication itself, rather than the communication.
Opposing the assumption that technology is socially conditioned, social constructionism acknowledges some influence of technologies on culture and communication within society. It assumes that understanding, significance, and meaning are developed not separately confined within the individual, but in coordination with other human beings (Leeds-Hurwitz, 2009). It also seeks to uncover the ways in which individuals and groups participate in the construction of their perceived social reality (Burr, 1995) and by extension the way they participate in online environments.
Contrasting to the notion of social constructionism, the emergence of technologies are not seen as neutral nor the principle factor of social change as exemplified in technological determinism. Technology, more rather arises from human society and takes questions of agency and intention into consideration (Higgins, 2001). This is comparable to the Humanist Theory which stresses that individuals are recognised as having agency, power and responsibility over the social forms and technologies that they create (Lister, 2003).
Support groups are an important formation within society and can come in many differentiated forms. They can be a helpful tool as they allow members to share comparable experiences and similar challenges they may be facing, which can lead to the exchange of social support (Gottlieb, Maitland et al., 2013) and provide the opportunity for social comparison with peers (Campbell, Phaneuf, & Deane, 2004).
Online support groups offer participants benefits that face-to-face groups do not: greater accessibility in terms of time and geographic proximity and the ability to obtain information without face-to-face interaction. Participation in online support groups can also be a source of empowering outcomes such as feeling informed, increased confidence with physicians, increased acceptance, confidence, and optimism; and enhanced social well-being (Blank, Schmidt, et. al., 2009).
This paper will critically explore the development of online support groups by analysing the way new media environments have been shaped and constructed from external factors. It will analyse the notion that media technologies can potentially be held responsible for this change and see to what extent ‘old mass media’ (the traditional face to face support group) endure the new media environment (online support networks).
When technological and social change occurs simultaneously, questions of cause and effect need to be considered. Are computer technologies the basic cause for changes in social interaction and communication or do new media just adapt to the needs and characteristics of modern society that has evolved independently from technological advancements?
This paper will argue that both technological determinism and social shaping theories of technologies present effective models on the development of technology, but will present a conceptual analysis using Mediatisation Theory as a framework for discussion. This research paper will aim to explore how the technological tools we shape determine our behaviour and thus are more influential on our futures. This is an important concept to explore as how specific technologies have developed give an important insight into the use and acceptance of the modes of technology.
Analysis of the development of the traditional support group will be explored as well as the support groups shift to an online medium and the theory and reasons why this shift occurs in society, making reference to the development of Web 2.0 technologies and their influence in the changing media landscape.
This paper will contribute to the understanding of our media landscape and the convergence between old and new media through the mediatisation theory. It will explore the notion that media technologies can potentially be held responsible for this change and see to what extent ‘old mass media’ (the traditional face to face support group) endure the new media environment (online support networks) and the advantages and disadvantages of these methods.
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