Approximate Knowledge and Vagueness of RepresentationJan Krasni
In this paper, I will deal with the problem of vagueness in multimodal representations within the discourse of online news coverage. In spite of the combinations of videos, pictures, tables, graphs, and written and spoken text in online media formats, the represented content mostly reassembles only those elements provided by news agencies which are already circulating ‘in the ether’. This is a trend visible not only in the online appearance of large newspapers and TV stations, but also in local and global news aggregators. Mostly it is visible in sections of these formats entitled (for example) ‘background’, ‘related’, or ‘in depth’, which are created after a topic has been established as worthy of continuous coverage over period of time. The knowledge produced by this kind of representations does not rely on any alternative sources to those in the given media coverage system. In addition, media providers rearrange previously published news in online archives so that they can be searched chronologically or by topic. By doing this, the new information is framed by references to past coverage - and this determines the borders of approximate knowledge of the topic.
In order to exemplify this phenomenon, I will analyse online coverage of the financial crisis by the German economic and financial magazines Wirtschaftswoche and Handelsblatt, both of which are aimed at expert readers. I will use the theoretical framework of social semiotics and multimodal discourse for the analysis, and the notion of intuition to explain how the approximate knowledge is constituted and accepted in spite of the perpetual self-referencing within the online media dispositif.