Media, signification and information. The mediatization of the public sphere : between dualization and democratization

  • Verstraeten, Hans, (Administrative Promotor)
  • Elchardus, Mark (Co-Promotor)
  • Degeeter, Debbie, (Collaborator)

Project Details


The following research problem is at the basis of this research project: at the core of this project is the question what role television, the new information technologies and the press play as information media in the current transformation of the public sphere. In particular, attention will be paid to the analysis of possible social dualization processes. In the GOA-project this basic problem will be examined mostly on the level of the public.How does the television viewer deal with such transformation and dualization proccsscs? What is their concrete impact on the media user's life, experiences, ideas? Where do these meanings really come from?The research on the signification processes on the part of the public consists of two essential levels:1. The semantic level. After having analyzed the contents of the three different media and the social, technical and integrative codes used to do so, we will concentrate mostly on the construction of meanings (signification) by the public. To what extent can dominant, aberrant or negotiated decoding be detected?2. The pragmatic level. How does the media user integrate the decoded meanings into his everyday social practice? Watching television, working with Internet and reading the daily newspaper are all considered integrative parts of the social practice. The social viewing situation is indeed crucial. In particular, the social interaction processes that are triggered off when watching television, using information technologies and reading newspapers or magazines, will be prominent in the research. The ideological power, on the side of the sender as well as on the receiver's, can only be revealed on the pragmatic level (cf. John B. Thompson, 1990, blz. 225-238, 1995; Peter Dahlgren, 1995, blz. 18-23; Joshua Meyrowitz, 1985, 1995).Similar signification processes do not come about in a social vacuum. On the contrary, each signification process functions within pre-structured social relationships and the viewer continually draws from a reservoir of possibilities, abilities and means, which are all socially distributed in a highly unequal way. (see Klaus Bruhn Jensen, 1995; J. Corner, 1991). Therefore, these signification processes will be examined among three different target groups, which differ significantly when it comes to the availability of economic, cultural, social and symbolic capital (Pierre Bourdieu, 1979). Prior to this, the extent to which dualization processes are going on,when it comes to the accessibility and availability of different kinds of capital, will be analysed.Furthermore, it will be researched in a concrete and intensive way how the signification processes concerning the informative output of the media, brought about by the three public groups, are affected by the extent of availability of Bourdieu's kinds of capital.However, an "a priori deficit-hypothesis" must be avoided. If a sub-public has less access to a particular kind of capital, it must not be stigmatized as being more or less competent in producing meanings. Yet, the question how distinct public groups construct, produce and integrate which meanings from the informative television output, is the focal point in this research proposal. Although it might seem obvious that different publics are characterized by signification patterns in accordance with their socio-economic, political and cultural background, this has hardly been examined in a systematized way.
Effective start/end date1/01/9731/12/01


  • communication
  • sociology

Flemish discipline codes

  • Media and communications
  • Sociology and anthropology