Speed, image, multiplicity and “thunderingness” : 4 aspects of the modern media system

Posted on August 31, 2008. Filed under: conference, English, Francais, Medias | Tags: |

Two days ago concluded MEDEF’s 2008 Summer University. Hosted this year on Polytechnique’s campus South of Paris, it is a privileded time at the end of French’s long summer holidays before the start of September’s “back-to-school” rush. Several thousands entrepreneurs gather to listen and learn from leaders and experts, to share experience and start conversations, with an objective to change the ways business and management are thought.
Like last year, I attended some of the conferences and chose to share one with you, and bring to you the conversation that started last Thursday evening on images and medias.
During a conference on the power of medias (“when medias discredit, when medias allow”, see the full 1h30 conference soon here), the moderator (French journalist and former TV anchorman Guillaume Durand), asked former Prime Minister Michel Rocard about the role of medias in democracy’s improvement.

After a short introduction on a personal anecdote on the limits of freedom of speech (when national defense was endangered by medias during the first Gulf war), Michel Rocard presented the 2 main roots of the terrible disagreement between decision-takers (politics and entrepreneurs) and commentators :
– an event is part of a concept and a history, a continuum with a future hope, a goal, and does not exist only on its own, with its own beginning and end, as commentators present it,
– medias need to be profitable, to attract audience and advertisers, and information is not a neutral public service as politics would sometime like.
Why is it so difficult ? Michel Rocard suggests 4 reasons :
– speed : the system requests decision-takers to comment before having the time to analyze the information in its context,
– image : the development of images favor emotions, drama, and exclude contextual information
– multiplicity and competition : because of the noise produced by so many actors (information theory), medias are competing for attention
– “thunderingness” (“tonitruance” in French) : is a version of the growing invasion of privacy

Let’s concentrate on his opinion on image and relay his request to validate his hypothesis to scientifics and researchers such as Alain Berthoz (professor at College de France, member of the Academy of Sciences, director of the LPPA and specialist of cognition issues), Andre Gunthert (director of the laboratory of contemporary visual history at EHESS, see his blog). His original words :

Je voudrais formuler l’hypothèse – mais je demande à l’université, à la science de vérifier cette hypothèse – l’image ne fait pas travailler les même neurones qu’un texte écrit. Devant un texte écrit on peut prendre le temps de relire à une phrase qu’on n’a pas compris, voire de se lever pour aller chercher un dictionnaire ou un atlas. L’image passe à toute allure, et l’image ne laisse pas le temps d’approfondir l’intellectualité, la compréhension. De cela résulte que l’image ne peut techniquement – c’est pas la faute des journalistes donc la guerre est inutile – l’image ne peut colporter que de l’émotif, de l’affectif, du dramatique. Elle ne peut pas transporter d’information de contexte.

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