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The Correlation Between Mediatization And Religion

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In this essay I will explore a variety of topics relating to the concept of mediatisation and mediated communication. I will critically discuss the concept of mediatisation, it’s impact on society with it being no longer conceived as being separate from cultural and other institutions as well as describing the mediatisation of religion throughout this essay. I will also be dwelling on scholars such as Hjarvard and many other relevant authors and theorists as well as discussing how the media affects us personally and how it can shape our minds into viewing a mediatized world. Towards the end of this essay you should fully understand the concept of mediatisation and I will also conclude how mediatisation has led to religion becoming mediated.

What is Mediatization:

In order to fully comprehend this essay it’s important that we take a first look at understanding the concept of mediatisation as this will be our main theoretical framework . Mediatisation is considered as one way of theoretical framework in which we can view the relationship between the media and society. There has yet to be a wider definition accepted of the term, however according to the famous scholar Hjarvard (2008) “Mediatization is to be considered a double – sided process of high modernity in which the media on the one hand emerge as an independent institution with a logic of its own that other social media institutions have to accommodate to. On the other hand, media simultaneously become an integrated part of other institutions like politics, religion, work and family as more and more of these institutional activities are performed through both interactive and mass media.” The media is increasingly shaping our views on culture and is becoming increasingly important in the production and circulation of various forms of knowledge. It has now become the principal for public discussion relating to a variety of topics such as politics and many more.. Many of us share our political views and other views which aren’t political on social media sites such as Twitter. It has become quite clear that the media has now become central to “modernity’ and social change.

The Impact of Mediatization on contemporary society:

According to Hjarvard (2008) “Contemporary society is permeated by the media, to an extent that the media may no longer be conceived of as being separate from cultural and other institutions”. In order to fully comprehend this statement, we must study the ways in which the social institutions and cultural processes have changed their characteristics and their structure to the presence of the media. This altered message of how we begin to understand the media’s importance doesn’t essentially mean that ancient queries relating to aspects just like the effects of mediated messages on public opinion or the purposes to which people use the media, are no longer relevant. However, it does mean that understanding the importance of media in the modern society and culture can no longer rely on models that conceive of the media as being completely separate from the society and culture. A significant share of the influence media exert arises out of the fact that they have become an integral part of other institutions and organisations operations, while they also have achieved a degree of self-determination and authority that forces other institutions to a greater or less degree to submit to their logic. The media certainly are a part of the fabric of culture and society and an institution which is independent stands between other social and cultural institutions and coordinates their mutual interaction.

The duality of this structural relationship sets up a number of preconditions for how the media messages from given situations are used and perceived by its senders and receivers, thus affecting the relations between the public. Thereby, traditional questions about the media, it’s usage and effects need to be taken into the account of the circumstances that society and culture have become mediatized. Hjaravrd deduces that the media has become an integrated part of today’s society especially since we now have the existence of other new social media that we use in our daily lives. New social media, a set of identity-centric information and communication technologies, otherwise known as ICT’s, enables the production and sharing of digital content in a mediated social setting (Studstzman 2009) such as Facebook and Twitter. These social media sites have successfully attracted millions of users with many of them integrating these social media sites into their daily practices and transformed them from a situation of information scarcity to one of information abundance. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are some of the most visited sites on the internet with many users engaging with and sharing their opinions on various topics and issues such as cultural, political, social, religious, etc. With the current upcoming UK election, celebrities such as Dua Lipa have been taking to Instagram to post stories encouraging fans to vote Labour and not Conservative. This is a prime example of how politics becomes mediated.

Facebook and Twitter have also played an increasing role in Politics especially American with constant debates/discussions online about the behaviour of president Donald Trump and these sites have also facilitated an online community to raise funds for the Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims as well as assist innovation that plays a significant role in cultural change. The existence of interactive and collaborative features produced by these social media platforms have allowed the dimension of political, social and cultural advancement to become more prominent. However, it appears questionable to simply claim that social media alternately acts as the ground of political revolution or creates new social identity and induce cultural change (Boyd, 2011, Green 2011, Hoffman & Kornweitz 2011). A single click on a merely tweet or a Facebook group do not always make people politically activated or socially changed. Boyd (2011) emphasises that it seems to be only a “majestical lustre” that the structure of technology instantly influences people’s behaviour. Correspondingly Green (2011) also voices an interesting quandary if social media actually enhanced the democracy itself. It is reasonable since Twitter and Facebook are not a replacement for motivation that are at least required for a revolution to be taken place or a new community to be formed. Nonetheless it is likely understandable from current events that social media certainly has the power to be able to persuade and pursue as by providing platform toward social community, political revolution and cultural advancement yet bring negative and positive consequences for all three of those subjects.

The Mediatisation of religion:

Using the concept of mediatisation, we can clearly see that religion is becoming increasingly subsumed to the logic of the media, both in terms of symbolic content, institutional regulation and individual practices. The media has become a channel of communication that has become the primary source of religious ideas, practices and also a language that the media mould our minds with the concept of religious imagination in accordance with the genres of popular culture. Michael Biling’s theory of “Banal Nationalism” is very inspiring to look at. This concept/theory of “Banal religion” is developed to help us understand how the media provide a constant backdrop of religious imagination in society. If we look at the media as a cultural environment we can see that it has taken over many social functions of the institutionalised religions, providing both moral and spiritual guidance as well as a sense of community. As a consequence, in the modern western societies it has been said that institutionalised religions play a less prominent role when it comes to the communication of religious beliefs hence the idea of elements of banal religions taking to the front of the stage and causing religion to become mediatized.

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With the existence of most sophisticated media technology, the supernatural and metaphysical phenomena have required an unprecedented presence in today’s modern society. Movies such as Harry Potter, Lord of The Rings, Narnia and many other blockbuster movies have unicorns, magicians, elves and monsters who seem possessed by evil and spirits working for the good. These media representations of the supernatural world have acquired a richness in detail, narrative and character which makes the supernatural world appear natural to the human eye. The idea of the supernatural world is furthermore supported by its everyday character in the media especially with the emergence of programmes such as Buffy the Vampire. The supernatural world is not only just associated with the genre of fiction, during recent years there has been factual programming on television showing an increasing interest in supernatural, paranormal and traditional religious issues. There has been many countries such as the US, UK and Denmark which have produced movies/programmes associated with ghosts, paranormal activity, exorcism and reincarnation.

However, we must note that it is not only superstition or new religion that has gained a lot of interest and a higher presence in the media. Institutionalised religions such as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc have also achieved some great coverage across the media with the emergence of factual programs on these religions as well as journalistic coverage. A lot of religious institutions are now frequently appearing in various forms across the media such as documentaries on religious issues like Ireland and the Catholic church with their scandals, the Tuam babies and discussion programmes such as when Ireland was voting for Repeal the 8th. It has certainly become clear in recent years that the media has become a platform which has allowed and catered for the discussion of religious ideas and movements through communication on the internet. The Mediatisation of the Catholic church has been led by documentaries such as the Magdalene laundries and has been leading to the growing decline of faith in Ireland. Irish people have now become more open minded in terms of religious beliefs over the years, we no longer accept the mistreatment of LGBTQ people as we feel that is no longer accepted in modern society and have now moved on to legalise gay marriage as well as abortion.

This increased emergence of religious themes in the media may be seen to falsify the ideas, that secularization has become the hallmark of high modernity and that the media have become agents of enlightenment. According to (Demerath, 2003) we may interpret this development as an increased tendency towards a re-sacralisation of modern society in which secular tendencies are gradually being replaced or challenged by the resurgence of Christianity, Islam and other newer forms of religion. However, if we look back on a longer period of time, it is clearly visible that a prominent secularization of society is present and during this time process the media have taken over many social functions that would be carried out and performed by religious institutions. Various rituals, worship, mourning, celebration are all linked to social activities that would rely on institutionalised religion but have now been taken over and reshaped into a more or less secular activity by the media. It is much more important for us to understand how the modern media not only represents religious issues but also changes the authority and ideas of the various religious institutions and alters the way in which people communicate with each other when it comes to dealing with religious issues. It can also be said that the increased presence and availability of such forms of faith across national television have increased the legitimacy of “superstition” and has also challenged the cultural prestige of the institutionalized church. Many documentaries, films and books based off these institutionalised religions can completely reset our agenda on how we view them for example Dan Brown’s best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code. A Danish Bishop has also stated that after the screening of the TV series The Power Of The Spirits “Danish Culture will never be the same after this series.” (Lindhardt, 2004).

Banal religion: The idea of the term “Banal Religion” is a very important concept to understand when it comes to discussing the mediatisation of religion and really helps us to further understand how religion has become mediatised by the various forms of media. Michael Billig (1995) develops this concept in his book on nationalism and cultural identity. It is meant by banal religion that we have to consider that the media not only report on the established religions but they also deliver in a sense their own kind of religion through fictional formats, news formats, etc. However, this type of religion has become less coherent and less elaborate of the religions we find in institutions. The media describe a backdrop of our understanding on what religion is in a modern society but not by giving explicit, elaborate religious narratives but rather by giving fragments from both institutionalised religion, folk religion and the religion produced by the media themselves for instance those portrayed in Harry Potter movies, Lord Of The Rings, The Da Vinci Code and many more. So Banal religion is the kind of religion that in a sense is a more fundamental character, it’s about symbol, images, short narratives that may or may not be considered as religions by people who use the media.

How The Music Industry portrays religion: Another important element that shows us how the media affects religion is by looking at the music industry. Many artists are using music videos to portray religion such as Lady Gaga and her music video for her song “Judas”. In her music video she states that she is in love with Judas and people of a Catholic faith may find this offensive however the message she is trying to portray is how she is in love with a toxic person who is bad for her but she still wants them. Some fans even take to Twitter stating that Lady Gaga is their religion. Religion can also be portrayed in various song lyrics from other artists.

Another example of how the music industry portrays religion is how the celebrities themselves talk about, one really good example is Matty Healy from The 1975 who is an atheist. He recently did an interview with Ted Talks where he stated that if you’re piously religious in today’s society you should be ashamed of yourself. He also stated that he was bored of certain religions as well because certain racisms are aligned with them thinking that you can’t criticise them and you can’t criticise Islam as a set of ideas, you can’t criticise these kind of these because you’re inherently criticising people. He talks about how religious people are always allowed to be offended and doesn’t know when he is allowed to be offended as an atheist. “I have to get up every day and read something abhorrent that’s happened in the name of religion and I never get a day where I’m allowed to be offended. Where are my rights as an atheist?” he talks about how people use the internet to create this “perfect profile” of ourselves when we should be trying to connect with one another despite race/colour/sexuality as he loves people for who they are. He also briefly mentions how we all live with this phenomena that we will all live forever and never going to die. Thousands of his fans have interacted with this interview online, discussed it and supported Matty which is another example of how the media mediatises religion. His views can be sometimes controversial and the religion is also portrayed in their song “Nana” about Mattys nan who passed.


To conclude this essay, we can see that from performing a critical assessment on the concept of Mediatisation, we can begin to understand the meaning of it and fully comprehend its concept. By looking at how the media affects society, politics and various culture issues using the theoretical framework of mediatisation we can clearly see how it may no longer be conceived as being separate from cultural and other institutions. Also by carrying out at critical analysis of the mediatisation of religion and considering factors such as films like Harry Potter, Paranormal documentaries, religious documentaries, music videos, how celebrities talk about religion, understanding the concept of banal religion and various religious opinions/debates shared on social media we can state that religion has certainly been meditated. The concept of Mediatisation also shows us how powerful the media can be and how it can completely change religion, culture, politics and society. By using Mediatisation as a key aspect/theory in this essay we get a deeper meaning and insight into how religion becomes enchanted and how the media can act as a backdrop into producing these fantasies, banal religions and completely reshaping our view. Online debates/discussions about religious issues in Ireland has certainly proved that religion has become mediated especially with the Magdalene laundries scandal which has caused many Irish people to turn away from Catholicism. Modern society has led to the emergence of new views, religious caused by the media, thus religion has become mediated.


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