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Media events in an age of the Web and television: Dayan and Katz revisited

Nordic Journal of Media Studies's Cover Image
Nordic Journal of Media Studies
Media Events in the Age of Global, Digital Media


When Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz published their seminal book Media Events: The Live Broadcasting of History in 1992, television occupied centre stage, whereas computer networks were only beginning to be used. Since the late 1990s, television and digital media have co-existed and co-evolved in still more entangled ways. In this article, I ask how the supplementing of television by a new media form, the Web, has affected the ways media events as understood by Dayan and Katz can unfold and be conceptualised. Based on a medium theory perspective where focus is more on “media” and less on “event”, I introduce the article by tracing how Dayan and Katz understand television as a medium. Then follows a brief account of the vast literature about Media Events, with a particular focus on how digital media are conceptualised. With these two sections as a stepping stone, the Web's digital features are outlined, followed by a historical analysis of the interplay of the development of the Web and a concrete media event: the Olympics from 1996 to 2016. Finally, this web historical outline is used to re-evaluate Dayan and Katz's conceptualisation of media events. The analysis is guided by three themes – liveness, control, and participation – pivotal for Dayan and Katz's understanding of media events as well as the history of the Web.