In the journal Global Policy Ben O’Loughlin and Andrew Hoskins introduce the concept of ‘Arrested War’ to describe how mainstream media is re-appropriating the images and stories that describe contemporary conflicts. Comments on this article are very welcome, to Ben.OLoughlin@rhul.ac.uk
In the past two decades we have passed through three phases of media ecology, and each has shaped a different way media have entered into the operations and understandings of war and conflict. The 1990s saw the final stage of broadcast era war. National and satellite television and the press had a lock on what mass audiences witnessed, and governments could exercise relative control of journalists’ access and reporting. By the turn of the millennium, mass internet penetration and the post-9/11 war on terror signaled a second phase, that we called the emergence of Diffused War. Here, the embedding of digital enabled more of war and its consequences to be recorded, archived, searched and shared – war’s mediatization. An unprecedented sense of chaos and flux beset both those conducting war and mainstream media organisations used to having a monopoly on its reporting. Content seemed to emerge from nowhere, effects had no causes, and uncertainty reigned. This was a wild west moment in which much of the media ecology felt ‘out there’, beyond; the centre could not hold.
But today, the centre has adapted and come back stronger than ever before. The mainstream is the media ecology. User-generated content and its chaotic dynamics ‘out there’ have been absorbed and appropriated. In the 2000s Al-Qaeda established a jihadist media culture outside the mainstream, only dipping into mass television and internet spaces to deposit a video or spectacular act of violence. Today, to the extent they can stay one step ahead of the CIA and moderators, IS rely on Twitter, a mainstream US platform whose affordances IS are happy to work within. The mainstream has enveloped the extreme. It has regained its powers of gatekeeping, of verification, of defining agendas. Any content that is acclaimed as alternative, oppositional or outside, only acquires significant value when acknowledged and remediated by the mainstream. Virality and spreadability, key concepts of phase two of the ‘new media ecology’, are not part of a sustainable, user-generated phenomenon, but are ultimately arrested by the mainstream.
What we are describing is the realignment of our media ecology [...] Continued reading here.