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Reality and Media Reality

Michael Morgan


Since the earliest days of mass media, researchers, social critics, politicians, and the general public have been concerned about the extent to which media representations reflect or deviate from “reality.” Over the years, a great deal of research and public debate have revolved around the kinds of images of the world that are created and disseminated by media, and how they compare to the “real world” as revealed by official statistics or other objective indicators (→  Media and Perceptions of Reality ). The first problem research in this tradition must confront is the question of what constitutes “reality,” which is a topic of longstanding philosophical deliberation. Similarly complex is the question of how – and even whether – we can comprehend reality. Many theorists argue that humans construct what is perceived (and treated) as reality through social, cultural, and psychological mechanisms and structures. In a sense, this reflects Shakespeare's notion in Hamlet that “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” (act II, scene ii). Berger & Luckman (1966) argued that reality is knowable only as a mediated phenomenon, and that this is always ultimately a social process. Through intersubjectivity, we share a sense of “everyday reality” with others, but this is socially and culturally constructed (→  Constructivism ). There is thus a fundamental debate ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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