Mediatization as Structural Couplings: Adapting to Media Logic(s)

Part of the Transforming Communications – Studies in Cross-Media Research book series (TCSCMR)


The integration of media logic in mediatization studies has been fiercely debated. First of all, the applicability of the concept has been contested on the grounds that media logic is advancing a linear conceptualisation of mediatization. In addition, discussions of how social systems adapt to media logic have resulted in rather ambivalent notions of autonomy and functional differentiation. Consequently, mediatization studies have been divided in two opposite views regarding the relevance and applicability of media logic in studying processes of mediatization; one camp generally rejects the notion, while another has accepted the concept cautiously. This paper intends to overcome this division by acknowledging both the pitfalls and potentials of the concept of media logic. For such an endeavor to succeed a major re-interpretation of the concept of media logic is required. The paper suggests that the systems theoretical notion of structural coupling offers such a starting point. It describes how social systems are increasingly becoming structurally tied to the media system while upholding their operational autonomy. Thus mediatization designates a process of structural adaptation to the logic of the media systems, which is always context and systems specific, determined by the self-sustained structures of a given social system. The argument proceeds by discussing both the resemblances and differences between mediatization and media logic as well as looking into some of the critique raised against the use of media logic in mediatization studies. Following this review, the paper proposes an alternative approach to studying media logic based on the systems theoretical notion of structural coupling. The paper then goes on to show how such a model implies a fundamental change in our perspectives on media logic, from a simple conceptualization of media adaptation as a zero-sum game to a more complex notion of structural interaction. It also implies an analytical re-orientation away from questions of power and dominance towards questions of co-evolution. Finally, the paper demonstrates that the notion of mediatization as structural coupling allows for a plurality of media logics, opening up for an understanding of media logic as a more diverse concept, which nevertheless maintains a systematic description of mediatization. In the final section, this mainly theoretical argument will be illustrated by a case study of organizational adaptation to mediatization, which also serves to demonstrate the analytical potential of the isomorphic vocabulary of systems thinking.


Structural Coupling Media logicMedia Logic System-theoretic Notions Social Systemssocial Systems Political communicationPolitical Communication 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Aalborg UniversityCopenhagenDenmark

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