Upon first encountering this term, the thoughts of most individuals, including myself, immediately turn to the Mardi Gras parade or your best friend’s 21st birthday party. However, when one delves further into the notion of ‘events’ and more specifically, ‘media events’, this definition becomes increasingly blurred.
The difficulty we find in pin-pointing, let alone defining, a media event is primarily based on the ever-changing nature of said processes in a world where, as Andrew stressed, changing changes. This is particularly true in today’s media environment where traditional mediums including newspapers no longer solely claim monopoly on creating and publicising media events. Rather, new mediums including the vast array of social media and other online domains has meant that even everyday events such as going to school have the capability of becoming media events. Whereas previously, an event was only recognised and awarded credibility through the attention it garnered through traditional and broadcast media, the way news moves is no longer linear. As such the likelihood of an original source of an event being found through a video gone viral online is equal to that of a media event that has been promoted through video footage played on the nightly news broadcast.
With the term ‘event’ having been defined generally by Foucault as something that has a beginning and an end: “Every human experience, activity, idea and cultural form can be analysed as an event or as a series of events”, a ‘media event’ may be more specifically viewed as this same event that has been published in print or online with the aim of garnering attention, promoting discussion and gaining publicity. Furthermore, not only can everyday events become media events but another phenomenon termed ‘Weird Global Media Events’.
According to Ken Wark, such events are, “’Events’ in the sense of singular irruptions into the regular flow of media [and everyday life].” In layman terms, this refers to a break in how we would normally associate political, economic or cultural events and the ‘weirdness’ of this event attracts global attention and publicity. The proliferation of this category of event may also be attributed to the concept of globalisation whereby the world is shrinking due to rapid technological advancement. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 is one such example of ‘Weird Global Media Events’ where the whole world stood still watching the break in the political conventions of that particular period.
Therefore, the term ‘media events’ is becoming gradually difficult to pin-point and will continue to do so as the lines between users and producers online become blurred and the hierarchy of media used to promote events are gradually disappearing.
Wark, M 1994, Virtual Geography: Living with Global Media Events Indianapolis: Indiana University Press