What is new media?
In this essay I will be talking about what new media is, how it has evolved and changed over the years into what it is now and what it could become. New media has effected nearly everyone in some kind of way whether it is from a T.V or their computer at home and I’m going to digress the effects and influences of this. I will look into the research by Marshall McLuhan; a communications theorist who looked into how we use tools to extended our senses and abilities. I will also be looking into Vin Crosbie’s research and the three ways of communication.
Before we go into new media we have to understand where it came from. Radios covered cities from after 1920’s and newspapers before that. Due to radios being able to reach a great distance almost instantly, it was a great medium for allowing news coverage to spread faster than ever before and in new media that is even more prevalent now. Newspapers have largely transitioned to the internet and many radios have gone digital too. This is partly due to the fact that many people own a smart phone. In fact, according to eMarketer over one billion people owned a smartphone and that was in 2012 alone. Now that many people have devices that allow us to share our thoughts and
Marshall McLuhan was the first major communications theorist, and wrote a book called “medium is the massage” which focuses on how the medium influences us all and the effects it has on us. Marshall says that the medium is anything that extends or enhances ourselves which would not normally be possible without such a medium. So for example, a telescope extends our sense of vision which means we can see things we would not normally be able to see without such technology. Marshall Also argues that because the medium can be so beneficial, we have an over reliance on them such as using a car to get us to places fast and timely. Due to it being so helpful we tend to forget the effects it has on us and the planet. Which means that the pollution caused and the obesity that could come from less exercise is overlooked due to how beneficial it is.
He also goes onto saying how desensitised we are to technology and the more time we spend with it can become dangerous. The Television for example, has been around for many years and we do not see it as been dangerous in a particular sense, but the message the TV sends to the viewers can change the thoughts and perceptions of what people think, couple this with the fact that over a billion people have a T.V and it can become a dangerous vehicle that the viewers are not aware of. News Companies can have their own agenda and put their own message into a story which has the power to control and manipulate what people think. Marshall also talks about how the medium can influence the message and medium can change so fast that it is often overlooked the effects it has on us until it become apparent years later when it is too late to do anything about it. An example of the medium shaping the message could be a news report about crime which could potentially lead many people to believe that there is a lot of crime happening in our society changing our social perceptions when in actuality, crime could be at an all-time low but we are made to feel like we are in danger.
Vin Crosbie argues how there are only three mediums and uses this analogy. This consist of land, water and air. Land is the first transportation medium due to being able to walk naturally, but vehicles were created to extend our ability in order to get to places faster. Second is water in which we created transportation vehicles such as boats, rafts from an early age. The last is sky due to the development of us creating planes, balloons, drones etc. Which meant sky was created by technology and was only recently possible when compared to the previous two. This analogy relates to the three types of communication which I will break down.
There is also only three types of communications that exist also with this view. They are known as Interpersonal median, mass medium and the new medium.
Interpersonal median is “one to one” and dates back to the days when humans first learned to communicate. In todays times technology has allowed us to extend our voice using transportation vehicles such as phones, so we can send a text message to somebody else and this concept is still one to one, sending a letter is also another example of this. By using vehicles such as these, we can we can communicate with each other faster and eliminate distance. The advantage of this medium is that what you say to somebody face to face cannot get lost in translation like it could using many to many. By being able to see the body language and tone it is easy to understand, better yet, what they say can be unique and tailored to each other. The more people you add to the conversation the more likely the message is going to be lost and harder to control.
The mass medium also known as the “one to many” is the idea that one person who could be a leader for example, talks to many people at once in order to spread the message. Again with technology this has been amplified and become more powerful with this being able to spread globally across the internet via videos, articles people etc. The sender has complete control over the content and the receiver has no control over this which could be seen as a disadvantage. But an advantage could be that the message gets spread to many people very quickly and can be done without technology. There is a theory called the two-step flow which shows how the message gets spread to people. It starts by the mass media spreading the message to many opinion leaders. Then the opinion leader spreads that message to an individual or group which is how the message gets passed down from the mass media. One problem with this is that the readers that look up to and trust the opinion leaders could believe what the option leader is saying, but if the opinion leader’s source is incorrect or untrue then misinformation is spread. The mass media could use this to their advantage too, knowing how people trust their opinion leaders allowing them to control and manipulate readers. (see figure 1 for image)
The last is mass media which is only possible due to technology just like how I said above with only being able to fly with technology. This gives people the ability to send a message to many and can be spread infinity to others. This has many advantages such as being able to have equal control to the senders and receivers. One example of this could be a website you visit can be tailored to the content you like and could be entirely different to what somebody else sees due to different interests. This has a problem in its self though as it creates a bubble if you will, were the content you see is the only thing you will see and will not expand or look at anything new or different. What I mean by this, is that the internet is international and you can get content all around the globe but you may restrict yourself to just news in your area and nowhere else. It has its own set of problems such as a message could get lost in translation from is being spread from person to person losing its meaning, being manipulated and changed until the message has been perceived differently to what its originally meaning was. A new media vehicle may not just be a website though, it could be a game which people play.
Looking at Marshall McLuhan’s research and how he talks about technology being an extension of ourselves, extending our abilities like a car being an extension of our legs for example. I find myself agreeing with the views he has on this and brings up excellent points about how we don’t realise a mediums advantages and disadvantages until years later. A smartwatch for instance, the effects of long term use have yet to be seen – the way we interact with each other or the Bluetooth radiation it emits. Vin Crosbie on the other hand talks about the three ways of communicating and just like Marshall McLuhan I agree with this theory also. A T.V is just a T.V by itself but is a vehicle for media to be transported across, also the three ways of communicating like many to many make sense in the fact it is only possible with technology and has great potential and power. New media has incredible amounts of information and is still evolving and growing by people with new ideas every day and has many exciting possibilities.
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