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The Duality of Media: A Structurational Theory of Public Attention


James G. Webster; e-mail:


Digital media offer countless options that compete for a limited supply of public attention. The patterns of use that emerge in this environment have important social implications, yet the factors that shape attendance are not well integrated into a single theoretical model. This article posits such a theory using Giddens's notion of structuration as an overarching framework. It identifies public measures that distill and report user information as a pivotal mechanism that coordinates and directs the behaviors of both media providers and media users, thus promoting the duality of media. The theory is then used to understand evolving patterns of public attention in the digital media environment.