Mediated emotion and social change
Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, Cardiff University
This seminar proposes a framework for understanding the role of mediated emotions in shaping the capacity of social movements to effect change.
First, I will set out a typology of “mediated emotion.” The typology suggests that when we talk about emotionality in mediated contexts, we are dealing with a particular form of emotionality which differs from emotions as they circulate in individual bodies. Mediated emotions are performative, discursively constructed through journalistic narratives, and usually collective and political.
Mediated emotion is performative in the sense that it is based on the performance of actors in the public sphere. This raises questions about which emotions do gain purchase in the public sphere, why and with what consequence.
Secondly, mediated emotion is discursively constructed through the narrative of journalists. When we speak of emotions in news coverage, it represents journalists’ interpretation of behavior of actors. But it also facilitates the sharing of particular legitimate ways of talking about our feelings and hence the conditions of possibility for shared action.
Finally, mediated anger is usually collective and therefore ultimately political. In media coverage, emotions are often described as belonging to or articulated by collectives, in marked contrast to how emotion discourse operates in everyday talk.
Based on this typology of mediated emotion, I draw on scholarship and specific examples of social activism to understand the implications of particularly prominent political emotions, including anger, shame and love, in framing grievances, mobilizing citizens, and bringing about social change.
The seminar is based on a work-in-progress paper which further develops suggestions originally made in Emotions, Media and Politics (Wahl-Jorgensen, 2019) in the specific context of considering the relationship between public emotions and social movements.
About the researcher
Karin Wahl-Jorgensen is Dean of Research Environment and Culture at Cardiff University, and a Professor in the School of Journalism, Media and Culture. She holds a PhD from Stanford University, USA, and an honorary doctorate from Roskilde University, Denmark. Her research focuses on journalism and citizenship, and she has authored or edited ten books, close to 80 journal articles and more than 45 book chapters. Recent books include Emotions, Media and Politics (2019, Polity), Digital Citizenship in a Datafied Society (2019, Polity, with Arne Hintz and Lina Dencik), and Handbook of Journalism Studies, 2nd edition (2020, Routledge, co-edited with Thomas Hanitzsch).
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