Medial Shaping from the Outset: On the Mediality of the Second Presidential Debate, 2016


  • Martin Luginbühl Universität Basel
  • Jan Georg Schneider Universität Koblenz-Landau, Campus Landau



Medialität, mediale Durchformung, Verfahren der Zeichenprozessierung, Technik, Presidential Debate, politische Kommunikation im Fernsehen


In the present article we argue that all communication is medial in the sense that every human sign-based interaction is shaped by me­dial aspects from the outset. We propose a dynamic, semiotic con­cept of media that focuses on the process-related aspect of media­lity, and we test the applicability of this concept using as an example the second presidential debate between Clinton and Trump in 2016. The analysis shows in detail how the sign processing during the debate is continuously shaped by structural aspects of television and specific traits of political communication in television. This includes how the camerawork creates meaning and how the protagonists both use the affordances of this special mediality. Therefore, it is not adequate in our view to separate the technical aspects of the me­dium, the ‘hardware’, from the processual aspects and the structural conditions of communication. While some aspects of the interaction are directly constituted by the medium, others are more indirectly shaped and influenced by it, especially by its institutional dimension – we understand them as second-order media effects. The whole medial procedure with its specific mediality is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition of meaning-making. We distinguish the medial procedure from the semiotic modes employed, the language games played and the competence of the play­ers involved.




Luginbühl, M. ., & Schneider, J. G. (2020). Medial Shaping from the Outset: On the Mediality of the Second Presidential Debate, 2016. Journal für Medienlinguistik, 3(1), 57–93.