Cornelia Bogen: Structures of European Communication History The Case of Health Communication

This paper presents a comparison of health discourse in times of different media revolutions, focusing in particular on the rise of the “typographeum” during the 18th century, with the emergence of the digital revolution today. Three structures of media evolution are identified in the discourses of professionals and medical laymen over these three centuries, i.e., the communicative structure of contradiction, of sensationalism, and of self-reference. Focusing on melancholy, a main topic in health communication in various countries of Western Europe during the age of enlightenment, and depression in the present, it is argued that the presentation of medical information is probably determined more by media processes and media strategies of attracting the public’s attention, rather than by the increasing knowledge of medical science. Thus it is suggested that when it comes to the analysis of developments within European communication history, evolutional, transnational, and actor-oriented perspectives have to be taken into account.