The Reality of the Media: A Systems Theoretical Study of the Danish Media's Role in Society

Jacob Munk Østbjerg

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

In its essence revolution brings radical change, which is also the case for digitization. For all the digital services the global community appreciate it for, the disruptive impact of digitization redefines society and everything there were before. Especially media, a central pillar in social life, are still adapting to the digital age. That is why this master’s thesis sets out to deepen our understanding of conventional media in modern times by investigating how media is affected by digital disruption. As the thesis’ title reveals, referring to German sociologist Niklas Luhmann’s The Reality of the Mass Media (1996), Luhmann’s systems theory is the pivotal point of the study, and not just the theoretical scope. As the project comply with inductive approach, the selection of system theory is grounded in the empirical material. In this case the data was gathered through six interviews with seven executive editors of leading media organizations in Denmark. According to constructivist principles the interlocutors’ communication contribute to and derive from the construction of media as a system, and thus served as the ontological subject of the thesis. Through thorough examination of Luhmann’s extensive body of literature the theory contributes to the methodology as a framework – the self-reference model – based on the concepts self-reference, difference and autopoiesis, is developed for analyzing the data. The analysis identifies characteristics of the constructs of systems as organization, program and system. On the organization level I find that systems being individual and clusters of media differentiate themselves on parameters culture, structure and nature. On the program level access and speed are classified the factors that describe the collective evolution of the industry. When combined they reveal a third factor – the fundamental need of attention. On the system level I find that the media’s coupling to the political system is weakened while its connection to the economic system is strong. Lastly this level reveals above findings are caused by the emergence of social media, which has reshaped all mass media, meaning news, advertising and entertainment all compete with each other today. Finally, after discussing the findings, the study concludes that digitization has revamped the mass media system, and news media today rather contribute to the function it previously possessed more control over – that of conducting society’s systems’ self-observation.

EducationsMSc in Business Administration and Organizational Communication, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageDanish
Publication date2018
Number of pages277
SupervisorsAnne Vestergaard