As I have mentioned before, the idea of this blog is to reflect on the relationships between society, media, and sport. Maybe an initial topic that is interesting to think about is the role of media in society and how it is played out in sport. Whereas we can focus on the different roles media play as by the BBC’s mantra of informing, educating, entertaining – or by looking at Marshall McLuhan‘s notion that the medium is the message, or how it fosters a sense of imagined community in the words of Benedict Anderson – we can start simpler by just looking at the latin roots of the word medium – the singular of media. Medium refers to the middle, or the act of mediating something. In our case, communicating information between two or more individuals or entities.
So, what better than a football derby where passions are polarised to show the role of media in passing information to both sides? To show this role I will reheat some old social media data (social networks on Twitter) I have from a Brazilian football derby – arguably the biggest derby in the world – Grêmio vs Internacional or simply Grenal. The game was played mid-March 2019 and was symbolic because both teams decided to field their reserve sides generating massive social media buzz before, during, and after the game.
The first characteristic we can see from the social network is how polarised it is. We have basically two large communities, one of Grêmio supporters and another from Internacional supporters. Those are represented by the thousands of small dots (nodes) around the bigger Grêmio and Internacional nodes. But the interesting point is that there are some very important people – the nodes’ size reflect prestige in-degree – who are go-between for those two communities. And unsurprisingly those intermediaries were either journalists (individuals) or media outlets (traditional or new).
If it wasn’t for those intermediaries connecting the two communities then the information in one side would have not reached the other side. And the beauty of this polarised social network is that we can see those connections through the multiple lines (edges) linking the two sides. And because of the prestige in-degree algorithm we can see the power those intermediaries have because their bigger node size in relation to other members of the community.
In a polarised world where we can decide to complete shut our eyes to the other side – as by following only Internacional or Grêmio Twitter handles – the role of media professionals and outlets become even more important to conciliate those sides. For this reason, good communication is even more fundamental for mutual understandings and conflict reduction.
At the end of the day it does not matter if we are red or blue, we are all members of this one big community.