Technologies of the Third Mediamorphosis Commentary

Posted: February 10, 2010 in Com 546

Telegraphic news was the first medium to facilitate a need for immediacy and a feeling of connectedness, according to technologies of the third mediamorphosis by Roger Fidler. I think this notion is compelling, as I had never really thought about the root of society’s expectation for immediate and readily available information here in America. To think that something as simple as the telegraph was the root for all of today’s social media addictions is very interesting to me and explains why social media have become such a craze today. We crave real time news and updates, and have been for over 100 years.

In reading technologies of the third mediamorphosis I was intrigued by the way history truly has repeated itself. As media technologies became more readily available and more advanced consumers acquired a hunger to obtain information at a faster rate. Media producers also took advantage of markets that could reach wider audiences at cheaper costs. For example radio “newspapers,” or news broadcasts, popularized as the radio became a staple in American households. Producers found that this new broadcast medium was much cheaper than traditional print media because they no longer had to worry about print and delivery costs. They would also be able to report the very latest news as broadcasts could be updated up to the very last minute, whereas production for the print newspaper had to be cut off much sooner to allocate time for printing and distributing. The idea that print media were in danger even in the 1800s is intriguing, as we are seeing a much similar scenario today. Except this time the shift isn’t caused by opportunities in radio broadcasting or even television. It’s the internet. As traditional newspapers are turning  to producing online versions of their reports, print formats are disappearing from the shelves. Producers have figured out that the web medium is not only cheaper than print, but it allows them to publish information in real-time.

In today’s society the newspaper is too slow for many to receive their news. Oftentimes we don’t want to wait until the next morning to check the sports section for scores or read about the accident that stopped traffic into on the way to class. A day later is too late. We want this information in real time, so we turn to the net, and mass media producers have been forced to do the same.

McLuhan’s theory about print media distancing us and digital media bringing us together is also an interesting notion. This is because in the beginning, according to Fidler, print media was the first form of mass communication to provide that feeling of connectedness with the outside world. Nonetheless, as technologies became more advanced the expectations of society grew and people not only wanted, but required their information at a faster rate. The development of the radio and television changed the media world forever, putting a voice or a face to the daily news as well as providing updates at rapid rates.

McLuhan’s early vision of a “globalized village” via electronic media is equally if not more relevant today than in 1967. Where TV and radio allowed for people to feel more connected by putting a face and voice to the message, internet based media have now allowed us to not only receive that information, but respond to it. Before the widespread production of online media most people wouldn’t call up our local news reporter and ask questions or give critiques, nor could we contact people in the places being reported to get first hand accounts of the events at the ground level. The internet has changed it all.

Take, for example the coverage of the Haiti quake. I thought it was interesting that the example of how news transmission has been transformed in Fidler’s book was the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. He speculated that had that been covered today there would have been immediate coverage followed by extensive speculation as the story unfolds. This was exactly what we saw in the coverage of the Haiti quake, only this time there was a new medium to facilitate this spread of information, the internet. The responsibility to spread word about Haiti wasn’t just at the hands of reporters, it was in the hands of everyday citizens as well who could create posts to their social media channels and donate directly to causes online. News spread literally like wildfire, or maybe even faster, and we couldn’t get enough. Today our global village truly is the internet, and it has facilitated a new feeling of connectedness with people around the world thanks to the early innovations that put us on the path to real time news.

Resources

Fidler, R. F. (1997). technologies of the third mediamorphosis. Mediamorphosis: Understanding new media. Journalism and communication for a new century. Chapter 6. (81-88). Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press.

McLuhan, M., & Fiore, Q. (1967). The medium is the message. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

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