Exploring the Media Ecology

Of all the media theorists Marshall McLuhan is perhaps the most famous and in the 60s, there was perhaps no more well known academic figure in the entire communication discipline. McLuhan’s ideas have stood the test of time, yet at the time of their conception they were widely dismissed by the scientific community for reasons we will return to later (Scolari, 2012). In recent years the theory most accredited to McLuhan, the media ecology, has enjoyed a high degree of resurgence, with organizations such as the Media Ecology Association (MEA) leading the way. This theory, as Neil Postman proposed in a 1975 address, focuses not on specialization, but rather on making more generalize, bigger picture, connections (Salas, 2007). The media ecology can best be viewed as a framework, a way of looking at the world through the lens that mediums and technology are far more influential than the content of the messages they provide. This is the basic concept behind the phrase that epitomizes McLuhan’s contributions to this theory, “the medium is the message” (McLuhan, 1964, p. 7). Before we delve further into the tenants and contributions to the media ecology theory, it is useful to look at the metaphor around which it is organized, that of an ecology.

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I forgot. Oops. A case study in impression mismanagement in the political sphere

Every four years we hold elections for the most powerful position in the world, the President of the United States. It is a position that requires a strong, intelligent, even-keeled person because they represent our country on the world stage. The term “stage” is one that evokes images of the theater. In fact, you could look at any human interaction in that way, a performance on a particular stage. That concept is what Goffman’s Dramaturgical theory addresses. Goffman’s theory has been criticized for being apolitical, however, as this study will demonstrate, this is not the case and Dramaturgical theory can be applied to the political sphere.

One concept from Goffman’s theory is the idea of “Impression Management”. This is the way we go about assessing a situation, consciously or unconsciously, and determining which behaviors to portray and which ones to mask in a particular situation. In politics, this may be consciously monitoring what a candidate says during a debate in an effort to remain ideologically consistent. Mismanagement of ones impression can cause one to lose face, something that, especially in the modern political world, can be devastating to one’s campaign. In communications studies face refers to “the image of yourself that you want others to see and believe” (Wood, 2010, p. 243) The purpose of this study is to investigate the consequences of mismanaging one’s impression in the political sphere. These impression mismanagements are called “political gaffes” and have been the fall of many campaigns and even presidencies. During this study I investigated Rick Perry’s recent political gaffe and the consequences of it. The purpose of this study is to answer the question: how does impression mismanagement effect our perceptions of our leaders and potential leaders? A secondary question central to this research is how politicians attempt to recover from those gaffes. Hopefully, through a better understanding of the public reaction to political gaffes, we will be able to pave way for further study on the recovery from instances of impression mismanagement.

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