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'Everyone has a story to tell': mediation and self-representation in two UK institutions

Thumim, Nancy (2009) 'Everyone has a story to tell': mediation and self-representation in two UK institutions. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 12 (6). pp. 617-638. ISSN 1367-8779

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Identification Number: 10.1177/1367877909342494


This article addresses a global phenomenon: mediated selfrepresentations by ‘ordinary people’, and focuses on public cultural institutions. In order to address how processes of mediation shape institutionally mediated self-representations, the article explores two UK projects, the Museum of London’s London’s Voices and BBC Wales’ Capture Wales. It is suggested that processes of institutional mediation are constituted through tensions in four key areas: the purposes of the projects; the construct of the ‘ordinary person’; the construct of ‘community’; and defining and achieving quality. I argue that critical analysis of the production processes shaping self-representations is crucial to examining the challenge to the power of media institutions implied by their inviting ‘ordinary people’ to represent themselves. The article concludes that, while institutional power is not fundamentally altered in the projects discussed, nevertheless empowerment of participants does have the potential to effect shifts in the role of public cultural institutions; and this is important at a time when that role is questioned, worldwide, as a result of technological, social and political developments. Finally, I suggest that the notion of mediation processes as constituted through tensions, provides analytic tools with which to critically examine the self-representation landscape.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2009 SAGE
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2011 14:36
Last Modified: 20 Feb 2021 04:20

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