Contemporary risk communication and experiential knowledge

J. Gaffey

Centre for Law and Justice, Charles Sturt University.,

Some contemporary forms of risk communication are reliant on new technologies such as digital and social media. A central consideration when examining this type of risk communication are the new forms of interaction these mediums allow. Older news formats, such as television or newspapers, present as a one-way communicative event from producer to consumer. Differences in meaning the audience may construct from this communication have often been considered as occurring at the point of consumption. There is an implied separation between producer and audience. However, technological change, in particular the continued growth of digital and social media, has brought with it specific forms of connectedness between the producer and the audience as well as between audience members. It is connectedness and shared experience, albeit at a distance.

Two main observations about contemporary risk communication are discussed. Firstly, drawing on news consumption data, it is argued that these new technologies provide the consumer a more active role in engagement with information about risk. This becomes a dynamic process with the consumer playing an active role in searching out personalised news and information. The type of information sought is context dependent and can be delivered with immediacy. The consumer therefore becomes active in the production of information about risk.

Secondly, drawing from interviews conducted as part of PhD research, it is argued that the late-modern audience manages risk by utilising information presented through the experiences of others. This can be understood as having its origin in an earlier shift towards a late-modern form of risk management where experiential knowledge is given authority.


John Gaffey is a lecturer in Justice Studies and PhD candidate with the Centre for Law and Justice at Charles Sturt University.


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