Archive for the ‘Com 546’ Category

Farewell my friend, we’ve had a long ride,
you saw me through while stressed out I cried,

I’ve shed those tears in your blue gaze,
while you stuck there with me in the roughest of days,

When I was ambitious and opened too much,
I knew you’d come through- like a ready-made crutch,

Our relationship has had its ups and downs,
you’ve seen me smile and endured my frowns,

(more…)

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I have just completed my Com 546 Technological Evolution paper on animated filmmaking and how innovation has helped the industry rise to the top of media creation. You can read my paper here, or simply by clicking on the next page over at the top of this screen.

It is rare these days to find someone who doesn’t use some form of digitally enhanced communication. But why do we prefer the various modes that we do? Well according to a study by Olivine Wai-Yu Lo and Louis Leung, there may be a lot more to our choices than we thought.

 Email versus instant messenger; which is your preferred mode of communication? For some it may depend on the message, whereas for others the choice is driven by the level of interaction that each one facilitates. 

 While some may think of digital communication as a simply another mode to converse, the web provides a lot more than that. The study found that extroverts would tend to utilize more face to face or phone interaction whereas introverts tended to prefer digital communications via instant messaging and email. It was found that loneliness and depression were driving factors for some introverts to adopt digital communications. It provides an outlet to communicate and fulfill their social and psychological needs without the anxiety of having to think on the fly. Sure, instant messaging is considered “real time” but it is definitely not as mentally demanding as a face-to-face conversation. People can type and edit responses as much as they like before they click ‘send,’ whereas with verbal communication they would only get one chance to express their true message.

Youth are also adapting digital forms of communication at rapid rates especially at the college level. This is because the mediums help them to be social with multiple users at one time, building their networks and “friends” within their communities. What I thought was interesting about this study was not so much who adopted the technologies, but what kind of contact those technologies were utilized for. For example, the study found that email was more popular to maintain professional or academic relationships, whereas instant messenger was used more for personal contacts, close friends or community members. This was one area that was not explored in-depth within this study; although I think it is somewhat clear from my own observations why this occurs. 

Recently my boss (owner/CEO of my company) sent me an instant message. I have never talked to the man; he doesn’t even live in this state. Needless to say I was caught off-guard and put in somewhat of a panic. Because I had never met him I was over-analyzing everything I typed in response to his messages. We have not built a rapport that allows us to be able to decipher appropriate tones within our messages. At one point in this extremely awkward conversation he stopped writing to me for about five minutes. I panicked. Did I say something wrong? He later sent me another message which indicated that I did not, however the whole experience caused me great anxiety. The next day he emailed me some information and I was so glad that he had transitioned to that medium. I did not think that the think on the fly mode of instant messaging was appropriate for our first mode of contact. The idea of emailing and being able to answer at my own pace eased my anxiety and I immediately stopped over-analyzing everything I said.

So why do we use various modes of digital communication? Well, according to this study it’s because certain modes facilitate some relationships better than others. In my opinion, digital communications have aided our social lives much more than hindered them. There are arguments that those who are completely integrated into digital communications are missing out on valuable interpersonal communication, but if you go by this study, those people (digitally integrated introverts) aren’t having that type of communication anyway, so what’s the harm in them utilizing the net to express themselves? Internet communication is better than no communication.   

Leung, L. & Wai-Yu Lo, O. (2008). Effects of gratification-opportunities and gratifications-obtained on preferences of instant messaging and e-mail among college students. Telematics and Informatics. Volume 26, Issue 2. P 156-166. Retrieved from ScienceDirect.com: doi:10.1016/j.tele.2008.06.001

The evolution of media-related technologies has resulted in patterns of adoption that can be utilized for future development. In Social Aspects of New Media Technologies authors Williams, Strover, and Grant look critically at why new media technologies are or aren’t adopted.

The most common aspect of adopted media technologies is convenience. The cell phone and the VCR were widely adopted because they resolved problems that other technologies could not. For example the cell phone provided people with the opportunity to make calls when away from home (and not at a pay phone). Likewise, the VCR allowed people to record shows and movies while away from home. In both cases the technologies provided the convenience of portability in a sense that the consumer no longer had to be in the home to utilize the technologies.

Some technologies require mass adoption before they can be utilized. In Social Aspects the authors discuss the fact that e-mail and facsimiles would only be successful if they were adopted on the scale of “critical mass” meaning that enough people were using them to make it an effective means for two-way communication. It reminds me of a discussion I had with a good friend of mine about text messaging. My friend is an “old school” adopter and didn’t have text messaging until this past month. Well two months ago a mutual friend had texted her to go to a concert. Unfortunately, the text was never received and my friend missed the concert. The technology was of no use because it was not being used by both parties. The same was true with the evolution of email and fax, if it was not adopted on a wide scale the technologies would have failed.

Similarly, we are seeing the evolution and adoption of social media technologies at a rapid rate. I believe that a main reason for this is that it is becoming so widespread it is almost impossible NOT to get involved. Markets are utilizing these technologies to communicate with their consumers, and consumers are using them to communicate with eachother. When meeting someone it is now not uncommon to be asked if you have a Facebook page. If you don’t, you’re almost an inconvenience for those who choose that media outlet as their means for communication. At the same time, if a majority of consumers refused to use social media technologies they would fail just like the cell phone and fax.

While convenience is a main driver in the adoption of new media technologies, there can be some emotional attachment to these technologies as well. In Social Aspects researchers conducted a study to see why people watched TV. Some consumers were ritualistic meaning they watched the same shows every week at the same time. The TV became a constant in their lives, something they could rely on. Others turned to the TV as a companion of sorts, and would select programming in accordance with their mood.

I think that the emotional connection to new media technologies is what makes them sustainable over time. For example, the cell phone has provided people with the opportunity to stay connected with friends and family, therefore it has become an essential piece of their emotional state. Likewise, email and other forms of online communication do the same thing-they make people feel connected to the ‘outside world’ and facilitate emotional connections. In my analysis, it seems like mass adoption occurs when the technology solves a problem, promotes convenience, and allows for use that can be emotionally stimulating.

 Grant, A., Strover, S. & Williams, F. (1994). Social Aspects of New Media Technologies. In Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research (Chp. 16 pp. 436-482). Austin: The University of Texas. Retrieved from University of Washington EReserve.

My, how far we have come in the past century. From the evolution of telecommunications to the democratization of the internet, America has seen a dramatic shift in the way we communicate over the past hundred years. Will we ever see the death of mass media monopolies? That is yet to be seen, but clearly the growth of social production and data networks has started a break-down.

The widespread use of alternate forms of communication via the worldwide web has resulted in the slow disintegration of traditional mass media; but this shift may not be a bad thing. In 1997, Ben Bagdikian expressed his concern with mass media in his Afterword from the book Media Monopoly. He addressed the nature of mass media and how it was supposed to be objective and impartial, but in reality was a business driven by advertising. Executives decided what news was important to consumers, while, of course, taking their advertisers into account. With the exception of the occasional eyewitness news piece, everyday citizens had no way to dictate what news was important to them. Unfortunately, when Media Monopoly was written, only 13 years ago, we generally relied on these narrow-minded outlets to obtain our news.

At the end of his Afterward, Bagdikian states that the airwaves do not belong to the broadcasters or the advertisers, by law they belong to citizens in the United States (Bagdikian 1997). It was clear by this piece that Bagdikian wanted to see mass media democratized. The current disintegration we have seen with companies like the Seattle PI going out of business and Reader’s Digest going bankrupt may seem like a bad thing-but it represents a shift in mass media production. Those companies weren’t ready to capitalize on that shift.

The rapid decline of traditional mass media has forced outlets to reevaluate their production methods by converting to an interactive space on the web. The shift to internet production has allowed citizens to participate in media creation in ways that were inconceivable 50 years ago. We can retrieve news from various sources and select topics of our choosing; not to mention the fact that we have seen a rise in citizen journalism. This has been facilitated a great deal by the current social media revolution. Newspapers like the Seattle Times allow users to comment on and discuss articles online, and websites like ABCNews.com solicit their readers to contribute to news stories, and provide input regarding which topics are more important to them.

In his book Bagdikian talks about the ongoing conflict between what is good for business versus what is good for society (the two are not interchangeable). With networked mass media communications society has a voice to say how they feel about what news is produced as well as how outlets are producing it. This is what I would consider great for society. At the same time, advertisers can now pay these media outlets to reach specific demographics or groups whereas they used to have to buy placement for full subscriptions in the print contexts. This is what I call great for business. If mass media are able to survive the shift to the online realm then I believe it will ultimately result in better media production as a collaboration of consumers and producers, leading to better results for all.

Bagdikian, B. (2007). Afterword from the book The Media Monopoly. Boston: Beacon Press. Retrieved from http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Media/Afterword_Bagdikian.html

Here is some food for thought.

Garrett Harding makes an great point in The Tragedy of Commons article from a 1968 edition of Science Magazine about there being a problem when there are too many cows in the pasture of commons. Likewise, would the world wide web be able to better facilitate democracy (in Benkler’s terms) if it were not “polluted” with the uneducated material that makes it more difficult to get to the good stuff? This is the tragedy of commons on the internet.

If politically interested users, such as those in Around the WOrld Wide Web in 80 Days,  are only researching or visiting sites that are of their interests and are joining organizations that have similar beliefs does this facilitate extremist ideas? They are likely not getting information from each side of the debate, only joining social platforms to reinforce their own values and ideals as correct.

In the beginning of the Tragedy of Commons it talks about there being some human problems that do not have technical solutions. While that may have been a valid argument in 1968, is it still valid today? Considering that better education can solve almost all, if not all problems, and the internet facilitates educational access, couldn’t it be a means to solve merely all problems (if used properly)?

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.