Sociology of Media

Inge Baxmann, Timon Beyes and Claus Pias (eds.), Social Media – New Masses, Zürich: Diaphanes, 2016, pp. 151-171

18 Pages Posted: 15 May 2016

Date Written: August 11, 2014


The discovery of media can be regarded as one of sociology’s crowning achievements. No other phenomenon sheds a brighter light on the turbulent nature of modern society. Moreover, there has hardly been another concept within the field that has yielded more theoretical and empirical promise. At the same time, possibly no concept has been better suited to free sociology from the restrictions of examining the transition from traditional to modern society in order to focus on phenomena that allow it to treat even modern society in historical terms, that is, to assign modern society a beginning and an end. My first aim is be to revisit Talcott Parsons’s discovery of media and to elucidate his understanding of the concept. My second concern will be to show how Niklas Luhmann refined Parsons’s concept and supplemented it with his ideas of symbolically generalized communication media, dissemination media, and mass media. With such ideas, and with his engagement with the works of Fritz Heider and Marshall McLuhan, Luhmann was able to place the concept of media on theoretically and empirically firmer ground. My final section will draw upon one of Luhmann’s cultural-theoretical hypotheses to propose a panoramic notion of media archaeology that allows us to observe various societal phenomena as the result of engaging with the dissemination media of communication. In light of such engagement, it will be possible to identify four media epochs of human society that can so far be ascertained and to describe them according to their various forms of culture, structure, integration, reflection, and negation.

Keywords: Media, Society, Sociology, Culture Form

Suggested Citation

Baecker, Dirk, Sociology of Media (August 11, 2014). Inge Baxmann, Timon Beyes and Claus Pias (eds.), Social Media – New Masses, Zürich: Diaphanes, 2016, pp. 151-171, Available at SSRN:

Dirk Baecker (Contact Author)

Witten/Herdecke University ( email )



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