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The new Architecture of Communications

research-paper by Jean Seaton, published by Journalism Studies

The new architecture of communications has two symbiotic features: an overwhelming abundance of information and communications and the emergence of narrow, ‘silos’ of information and opinion that have developed partly in response to the copious complexity available, partly because of the enhanced tools developed to navigate the variety. The weak ‘bridging’ links to many opinions that the media used to produce can be replaced by ‘strong’ personalised links to narrow views. In addition the democratic space of negotiated, re-distributive communicative space is dis-appearing. The article examines the practical working out of these tendencies in institutions by examining the new British Army doctrine which puts communications at the centre of action, and considers the ways in which silos emerge. It argues that we need new kinds of oversight. It argues that the UK tradition of extending the range of voices given platforms is a better response to the contemporary architecture of communications than the classic focus on individual freedoms of speech. It argues that the BBC, international and domestic, concerned with tone and feelings, is one of the few institutions we have constituted and built (albeit accidentally) to perfectly match this contemporary shape of communications.


Photo by Kir Simakov on Unsplash

Jean Seaton

About Jean Seaton

Jean Seaton is Professor of Media History and the Official Historian of the BBC. She will publish in the Autumn of 2024 the next volume of the Corporations story, Holding the Line: the BBC and the Nation, taking Lord Asa Briggs work forward for Profile Books. This involves everything the BBC did in a tumultuous decade from the conflict in Northern Ireland, to the invasion of the Falklands, to Not the Nine O'Clock News, the Proms, the early music revolution, devolution, Dennis Potter's greatest plays, Attenborough's revolutionary series Life on Earth, and Radio 1s most influential moment, as well as the role of women in the Corporation, programmes for children and a tense and complicated relationship with the government. The historian was given privileged access to BBC archives, but also gained privileged access to state papers. For the first time the Corporation's history is seen in the round. It has depended on several hundred interviews, and explores both the programme making decision that go into the making of an iconic Television series like John le Carre's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but also the high politics around the imposition of the broadcasting ban.


Jean Seaton
16 July 2016
Published By
Journalism Studies
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