Global Media Events: Kennedy, Titanic, and Fukushima

Global Media Events: Kennedy, Titanic, and Fukushima

Christian Morgner (University of Leicester, UK)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9967-0.ch001
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This chapter will address the theory of the media event by Dayan & Katz from an international perspective. Both authors have studied and analysed a number of media events, but have ignored the global nature of these events. Furthermore, their focus on television as the prime medium has ignored historical approaches, namely, the sinking of the Titanic or was not yet applied to the range of new media, in particular social media, for instance, during the Fukushima disaster. This chapter will revisit these events, but discuss this event from a global perspective. How was it possible that the entire world would focus its attention to this event? What narratives, networks, symbols where required to create a density that made this event outstanding, created a before and after? How could a global audience be reached; culturally and technological? This research will look into material from various world regions, North America, Europe, Asia, Latin-America and Africa. On the basis of this material the chapter aims to extend Dayan & Katz original theory of the media event, through the dimension of the global media event, but also by opening this theory to research the role of other media technologies and settings. Theoretical considerations will address the role of global rituals and social media practices, but also the role of time and simultaneity of media messages and patterns, narratives and gestures of the media events' audience. On the basis of this more analytical frame of reference the global nature of other media events and media technologies will be discussed.
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Introduction: Dayan And Katz Revisited

Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz’s (1994) publication, Media Events: The Live Broadcasting of History, is the first comprehensive study that examines media events from a theoretical and empirical perspective. The theoretical core is marked by a combination of neo-Durkheimian sociology, cultural anthropology, and Max Weber’s typification of different types of authorities. The empirical analysis consists primarily of video material of a number of events that stretch from the 1960s to the late 1980s; nine particular events are mentioned (Dayan & Katz, 1994, p. 4), as well as empirical research on five of these (Dayan & Katz, 1994, p. 236, footnote 3). These core theoretical features, material, and analysed events lead the authors to a definition that can, in principle, be summarised using the term “ceremonial television” (Dayan & Katz, 1994, p. 1). This term, which the 1996 French translation of the book, uses as its title, relates to three core aspects: the event (a) has a unifying quality (it is watched by millions), (b) is experienced in a live setting (these events are preplanned, so everyone can participate, and their occurrence is well-known), and (c) has an integrating quality, as it transcends conflicts and differences. More abstractly, the event consists of a factual, temporal, and social dimension (Luhmann, 1995). The factual dimension refers to a common theme or narrative, the temporal dimension addresses the flow of messages in a temporal setting that is always “now” (face-to-face communication), and the social dimension debates the integration of various people. It is the third aspect which takes the lead, limiting the book to ceremonial occasions, and this notion of the ritual and ceremonial has been applied and discussed in a range of studies (for an overview, see Couldry, Hepp, & Krotz, 2009).

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