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What is DIstinctive about Mediation? Experience and Expertise in Media



If great material resources and specialist technical knowledge are no longer required for individuals to act as mass communicators, what resources are required? This paper reviews social theories of production that can help to shed light on the matter. It explores the nature of knowledge required in the production of content meant for a mass audience, and the manner of its validation. The paper progressively conceptualizes mass communication or mediation in terms of ‘media experience and expertise.’ It begins by framing the discussion of media production in terms of mediation and symbolic/media power, and teasing out knowledge and competence as problems that merit special attention. It then draws on two parallel areas of scholarship to think through the blurring of formerly neat boundaries between interpersonal and mass communication; producer and audience; and expert and layperson. First, the renewed interest in the lived experience of professional producers that is spurred by media production ethnographers. Second, ongoing debates in Science and Technology Studies (STS) around knowledge production and public participation. The paper concludes with a discussion of outstanding issues with respect to media theory and proposals for future work.