Theses Doctoral

The Life and Death of Mass Media

Dotan, Natan

There is a paradox in our understanding of the media today. Popular accounts often proclaim that mass media is dead while newspapers routinely report that new Hollywood box-office records have been smashed. In this dissertation I aim to resolve this paradox and to determine whether or not mass media is in fact in terminal decline. I propose two new concepts - the principle of cheap publicity and the mass media tendency - and I use a computer simulation to demonstrate that these provide a parsimonious explanation of the paradoxical structure of today's dominant media. This leads me to the conclusion that mass media is not in terminal decline; rather, there has been a shift in the social locus of mass media. Throughout most of the American 20th century, massification played a central role in the guiding logic of media firms. Beginning in the 1970s though, these firms began adopting strategies of audience segmentation. In the decades since this rupture mass media has lived on as the emergent outcome of audience behavior rather than as an innate characteristic of media technologies or institutions. I discuss the implications of this finding for the structure of the contemporary American public sphere and for the experience of publicity today.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Sassen, Saskia
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 6, 2014