Risk, the mass media and personal biography
Ulrich Beck’s formulation of the ‘risk society’ stresses the central importance of the media, yet is surprisingly reticent about analysing it. This article begins with Beck’s positioning of the media within risk modernity, and argues that in two major dimensions – the different media narrativizations of risk and expertise, and the mutability and mobility of people’s risk identities in their everyday experience – his analysis is significantly lacking. In the Australian research on which this article is based, the authors draw on long interviews as a methodological device, and the ‘border crossings’ contained in risk biographies as a central concept, in examining people’s construction and reconstruction of risk. Rather then Beck’s somewhat universalizing notion of ‘blind citoyens’ facing the catastrophic democracy of environmental risk, we find here a public which draws on a number of circuits of communication in facing a wide range of risks via very specific biographical and social histories. The article examines these situated logics and temporally articulated biographies of everyday life via case studies.