Nick Couldry, PhD, is Professor of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the Director of the new Centre for the Study of Global Media and Democracy at Goldsmiths. Prior to this post he taught at the London School of Economics in the Sociology and Media Departments. His research interests are media power, media and place, community media, and voice.
Couldry presents another hybrid consumer-citizen, the productive consumer. He rejects the “plugged-in monad model” of the person buying indiscriminately online because this version ignores the feedback loops involved in what impels us to buy certain products. He challenges the assumed hierarchy of producer v. consumer because while it used to be that the producers were centrally located and the consumers, scattered, this no longer applies. Now production is as decentralized as its distribution patterns.
Per Sen’s (1999) discussion of freedom, Couldry submits economically based values are (and should be) secondary to social or political concerns. Without this arrangement, trust in the established political system is an impossibility. Oscar Gandy (2002) argues that information flow and storage have raised critical questions about how to assure trust in markets and politics. He calls “the real digital divide” (as cited on 24) to be embedded in market and political language.
The new networks of trust, meanwhile, are shaped by local possibilities and innovations, where people generate “new contexts of public communication and trust, whether as frameworks primarily for consumption or for citizen participation (or both). Here the productive and distributional potential of the Internet is central, without excluding the importance of other media” (26).
In his research project with Sonia Livingstone, Couldry set out to evade the following typical media assumptions/habits: (1) the privileging of formal political spaces, (2) the primacy of national connections over other forms, (3) the notion that one medium will have a greater capacity for connection-sustaining than others, (4) that media have a meaningful impact on how connected people feel, (5) the assumption that people even have a sense of public connection in the first place, and (6) that people ought to have a larger linkage with the public realm outside their own lives.