Questioning (Deep) Mediatization: A Historical and Anthropological Critique
The mediatization thesis maintains that media technologies, beginning with print, have profoundly changed human experience. One of its major claims is that media have allowed a new “disembedding,” or “distanciation,” from the here and now, in a process which now culminates as a so-called deep mediatization. Relying on cultural history and anthropology, this article questions this claim. It contends that mediatization theory is premised on a modern/naturalist, human-centered view of the world as a homogeneous physical nature, dominated by human beings who must resort to technologies to communicate at a distance. This outlook disregards ancient and/or peripheral non-Western ontologies, and cultural practices such as correspondence, theater, religion, and human language itself, which have long enabled rich forms of distanciation. Such neglected ontologies and practices now combine with modern technology, and could be fruitfully incorporated into mediatization research, both historical and contemporary.