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Framing vs. Transversality

Stepping Outside The Frame & Thinking Transversally – Are Industries & Professions such as the Music Industry and Journalism ‘Dying’ in the Digital Age? How has their Transformation kept them very much ‘Alive’?

The field of “new media studies” has a shifting nature, whereby continuous changes and transformations in the the development, appropriation and actual use of new media technologies, along with the way they impact industries, means that producer and consumer practices continue to change (Murphie, 2006).

As such, a defining feature of the “field” is transversality. Essentially,

“…a transversal is a line that cuts across other lines, perhaps across entire fields – bringing the fields together in a new way, recreating fields as something else”. (Murphie, 2006)

The media issue this post will explore is how we step outside the frame and think transversally.

Framing vs. Agenda Setting

When media scholars talk about the process of ‘Framing‘, what they are referring to is how the media ‘frames’ both what and how we think, feel and do. The media creates limitations and foundations through which we “we come to think what’s true, what’s useful information, what we know, [what we] first perceive, feel, sense [in] the world – and how all these might come together” (Murphie, 2012). In terms of news media and journalism, framing defines how news media coverage shape mass opinion (Wikimedia, 2012).

So how does differ from what’s known as agenda setting,  in which the media doesn’t tell us what to think, but tells us what to think about? Are they different processes, or are they the same?

Scheufele & Tewksbury (2007) argue that framing and agenda setting differ in terms of accessbility and applicability effects. Framing evokes the notion that how an issue is characterised in news reports influences how it is understood (applicability effects) as opposed to just making the issues prominent and salient (accessibility effects) (Scheufele & Tewksbury 2007; Wikimedia 2012).

On the other hand, McCombs (1992) argues that “the news not only tells us what to think about; it also tells us how to think about it”. As such, framing is seen as “second-level agenda setting”, in which “first-level agenda setting determines issue importance, while second level agenda setting draws on repeated discussion of specific issue attributes” (McCombs 1997; 2004; Wikimedia, 2012).

Framing vs. (or, “and”) Transversality

“If framing is the attempt to build a zoo, transversality is when the animals are set free …” (Murphie, 2012).

Essentially,transversality is “what moves/connects dynamically across/through frames” (et al. 2012). For example, when events occur, the process of framing can only partially capture what takes place. Events themselves are more dynamic, not static, unpredictable, and thus reflect the creation of transversals.

The way in which media and industries continue to transform, and altering “typical” practices  can be examined through framing and transversality. Two particular areas that will be briefly examined are the music industry and journalism.

The Music Industry

The music industry, since the advent of digital technology and the internet, two key issues have emerged (Murphie, 2012):

  1. “capitalist exploiters/creative supporters” VS.  “pirates/sharers in a new world of collaboration”
  2. “business models that work” VS “no one makes money”, with both sides claiming to be better for “creativity” etc

iTunes has changed not only how people can legally purchase music - in terms of digital vs physical copies - but has altered the whole music production process, in which iTunes itself receives 20-30% of the income from sales through only serving as a platform to sell music.
Artists now get 61% of the sales income, but they are still being set back by more expenses they look after.

Is iTunes a platform that can counter musical piracy? Or should musical piracy and file-sharing be capitalised upon? Here are two contrasting views on musical piracy by successful musicians Jack Black and Dave Grohl:

“I would rather have a venue filled with people singing every word to every one of our songs than making sure that everyone of them bought the record to do so” – (Dave Grohl 2012).

News Journalism

News organisations and the media exemplify multiple frameworks in the way in which news is conveyed. Firstly, news is framed though the presentation and/or layout of newspapers, websites, digital platforms or broadcast packages.

News websites such as The Daily Telegraph website frame what and how to think about news stories through the way they are positioned and placed on the webpage layout.

The following Charlie Brooker video presents a satirical representation of how broadcast news reports follow the same production presentation, almost like a musical “refrain” if you will, that is repeated every time because it has become standardised practice:

But journalism and news is transformed when it is experienced transversally, for example, when people interact with the news organisations via their Twitter or Facebook platforms for instance, and decide what they choose to read. Furthermore, Twitter trends and the abundance of info will also influence what is consumed.

Another avenue we can explore are issues such as Traditional Journalism vs. Non-Traditional Journalism. Professional journalists are concerned about getting the accurate facts, getting valid sources of information, and providing a balance article. In comparison, non-professionals aren’t the same. There is the debate as to whether digital journalism is “killing” traditional journalism, or rather creating more opportunities for journalism.

You can say that “specialty” journalism styles are being lost to the online, digital world, such as thorough, in-depth investigative journalism. But, on the other hand, you could say that the transformation in the way in which news is accessed (such as through various platforms) and the increase in multiplatform journalism means that new specialties can develop.


McCombs, M. 1992 “Explorers and Surveyors: Expanding strategies for agenda-setting research”. Journalism Quarterly 69 (4): 813–824.

 McCombs, M. E.; Shaw, D. L., Weaver, D. H. (1997). Communication and democracy: Exploring the intellectual frontiers in agenda-setting theory. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

 McCombs, M (2004). Setting the Agenda: The mass media and public opinion. Maiden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Inc. ISBN 9780745623139.

Murphie, Andrew (2006) ‘Editorial’, [on transversality], the Fibreculture Journal, 9 <>

Murphie, A. 2012 ‘Lecture Seven/Eight Slides – Framing and Transversality’, for the ARTS3091 Advanced Media Issues course as part of the University of NSW B Media (Communications & Journalism) degree.

Scheufele, D. A., & Tewksbury, D. 2007. Framing, agenda setting, and priming: The evolution of three media effects models. Journal of Communication, 57(1), 9-20

Wikimedia 2012, ‘Framing (Social Sciences’, Wikipedia, last modified 10 April 2012, <>

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Posted by on April 15, 2012 in Week 7 Tutorial 6


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