Roger Silverstone, Media and Morality: On the Rise of the Mediapolis. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007.
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AbstractThis book is the last work of a distinguished media scholar. Roger Silverstone was one of the founding fathers of media studies in the UK, serving as the first Professor of Media Studies at Sussex University, and then the first professor of media and communications at the London School of Economics. Over the course of his career, he authored or edited 12 books and contributed to numerous volumes and academic journals.This last book is a testament to Silverstone’s sustained commitment to understanding how media shape the ways in which people make decisions and judgments. In this work he has articulated a raison d’etre for media studies, offering an urgent argument for media analysis as crucial in contemporary discussions of justice and increased human rights. Silverstone begins Media and Morality by highlighting what he believes are the narrowed imaginings that have resulted from the West’s dominance of news frameworks at the exclusion of other frames of meaning. Because the media provide these frameworks, he argues, they ‘define the moral space within which the other appears to us, and at the same time invite … an equivalent moral response from us, the audience, as a potential or actual citizen ’ (p. 7). Silverstone then moves to a discussion of the public in a plural world. Building upon the work of Hannah Arendt, Silverstone argues that the public is an aspect of what it means to be human, because people can only experience meaning in relation to others.We need insights that enable us to imagine what it would be like to be in someone else’s place, he argues: in other words, we need a ‘media polis ’ – a space in which people who come from differing places within the plural world can make an appearance to one another. However, as Silverstone notes, the problem is that the media ‘trade in otherness, in the spectacular and the visible ’ (p. 47) exaggerating difference or eliminating it.What we need from media instead is a ‘proper distance ’ (p. 47). Not only must we question how others are depicted, but we cannot allow our consumption of media images of suffering to result in feelings of sympathy that are devoid of action.This sense that our felt response to