A revolutionary shift in how we relate as a society and even what defines a society is swiftly and quietly occurring. A new kind of media, spawned by advances in technology is quickly and steadily replacing the old forms of written and printed letters, newspapers and magazines and may soon extend to books.
The most natural form of communication is interaction. Newborns communicate with their caregivers, who communicate back. Throughout most of human history immediate interaction was only possible when people were in close proximity. This communication can involve the most senses, as we see, hear, smell and perhaps touch and even taste (for instance, kiss) each other. It is our basic, essential form of communication.
Our predominant sense is visual. Over 60 % of a healthy human brain’s space is dedicated to visual perception. The second favored perception is sound.
A Brief History of How Media Developed
The earliest methods of communication that traveled over great distance were based on sight and sound. One could send signals through smoke from a high place or via musical instruments such as horns, such as a ram’s horn or a drum. However, these messages had to be simple, complex ideas could not be communicated.
Messengers could be sent, but the original message might not be identical to the one conveyed. Pictures could also be sent with a messenger to show the idea(s) behind the message. The earliest writing was a form of art known as pictographs. Sight and sound, including art and music, continued to be the primary methods for communicating information.
Since only a few people could read, a paradigm for communication from one individual or a group to another group developed. Essentially information was received by one media distributor, which then broadcasts it to the community.
Until the late nineteenth century, distance equaled communication delay. News traveled slowly. When news arrived it was communicated by calling the people together in some way. After the printing press was invented more people learned to read so local newspapers and print media became the way of disseminating the news.
The invention of the telegraph meant news traveled faster, but it was still disseminated via word of mouth and print. Telephones allowed for more information to be quickly conveyed, but only top one person from one person. Mass news dissemination still continued to rely on printed media.
Radio and then television changed that. News could be delivered as it was breaking by reporters who were on the spot. Printed media and movie reels were used for more in-depth coverage plus editorial opinions.
While a few people were able to make their views known via books, art and films reaching many people, the majority of people could only influence those in their own immediate circle. Access to large scale publishing and broadcasting was limited or expensive. The advertising industry blossomed into mega profits as companies paid information channels to disseminate “news” of their products. Few individuals can afford a major media advertising and PR campaign to make their news and views known.
This paradigm can be useful and effectively convey important information that people need to survive or make their lives better.
Dictators, both political and religious use this type of communication have used this paradigm to control people. The fewer media distributors there are, the easier it is to control what information people receive.
The people who control the channel(s) that broadcast information to any group basically control the group. When many differing, even conflicting, channels of information are available the group or society enjoys more freedom.
Enter the World Wide Web
From its beginning, the world wide web allowed people to send messages and images quickly over a distance. People could “chat” even with total strangers, post messages to bulletin boards and create their own web sites. One could meet more people, but it was difficult to create any interesting or meaningful communication with more than one or just a few people via email.
The original paradigm of news being sent to a source, such as a town crier or newspaper, radio or television show, which then conveys the information to the community, remained the same.
Blogggers Begin the Media Shift
The early blogs were much like web sites where anyone could easily voice their opinions. When the technology developed that easily allowed for comments the paradigm began to shift. Anyone could write a comment, which is posted, and often replied to by the blogger and further commented upon by others.
New kinds of news and magazine sites developed where breaking news stories were immediately posted and commented upon. Bloggers, some of whom were journalists and reporters, were uncovering news and making ideas and information known that was then picked up by the old, regular media of newspapers, TV, radio and magazines.
A New Paradigm Emerges from New Media of Blogs and Online News and Magazine sites
Blogs and online magazines and news sites that encourage comments are understood to be New Media. The paradigm has shifted from the old one way flow of information to a two way, responsive communication flow.
The degree of the shift for any site depends on the amount of freedom allowed in the comments. My blogs, and most of the ones I frequent and post comments to allow people to voice any opinion as long as it is on the topic, does not use profanity and is not raciest, sexist, treasonous, etc.
Again the amount of freedom is indicated by the number of information sources plus the degree of conflicting information allowed. Recently, I have seen several blogs here individual comments could qualify as blog articles, as they were that long and well conceived.
A recent development is that individuals can subscribe to updates on comments to any individual blog via email. This lessens the time lag and allows for further dialogue, although it is not as immediate a chat, or Twitter.
New Media is Social and Quickly Responsive
New Media functions to allow more of the essential original communication paradigm experience for groups.
Social media sites like Ustream and similar sites are currently the best New Media platforms but only when they are broadcasting in real time . In real time these broadcasts include interactive keyboarded chats where participants and audiences interact freely with one another, as well as phone in availability. Ustream and sites like it, have the capacity to actively involve more people communicating, engaging the senses of sight and sound in real time.
Twitter , Tumblr , Facebook and sites that have the capacity to allow many viewers to simultaneously message and exchange information in real time conversations potentially including many participants are the second best examples of New Media. All of these sites are also called Social Media.
A fourth communication paradigm shows the interaction possible on sites like Ustream, Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. Notice how it resembles the original paradigm.
Can Old Media Survive?
Old Media is floundering in our new age of immediate interconnectedness. Many print newspapers, including The New York Times are desperately chasing lagging readership and advertising revenues. These are being blamed on the economy, instead of being recognized as a problem with adapting to the new paradigm.
Of course, most Old Media is founded on the paradigm of their own superior expertise and information. The slogan, “All The News That’s Fit To Print” implies a superiority of knowing what information we need to know.
Old Media seems to have an ongoing message and position of, “You Need Our Opinion and Information, We Don’t Need or Want Yours.” This worked before we had the technology to allow for inter-connectivity.
When old media goes online it basically replicates its ongoing print presentation. This may seem to provide immediate additional advertising and even subscription streams of revenue, but it hurries the demise of the newspaper, magazine or television show itself. In the long run all that is accomplished is legitimizing the relevancy of obtaining pertinent information from an online information source.
Consumers shift to participate with a welcoming, responsive interconnected New Media Site with similar information. During the recent Tony Awards the Times was busily updating it’s site and had the news online at it’s site almost immediately—but not as quickly as Twitter members who were busily messaging each other with the news and their views.
But, imagine the traffic the Times would have had if they had hosted a chat, or Ustream style event with one of their top theatre critics from their web site during the Tony’s show!
For Old Media to survive it must focus on immediately opening and encouraging streams of social interaction to its communications, become quickly responsive to customers far beyond support desk help through meaningful dialogue. The old paradigm that can be understood as: “Me to you and you and you and you…” – must be replaced by “Us.”
How Oprah, Larry King and Local ABC News NYC Became New Media
Two years ago I wandered into Oprah Winfreys’s web site . Back then it was already a hub of interaction and connectivity. Members have blogs, discussion groups were active, and could contain comments that criticized or disagreed with Ms. Winfrey or any of her guests. From her television show, Oprah frequently asks viewers to go to the web site to receive a special bonus, participate in discussions. Regular viewers appear as guests on the show via Skype. Oprah has done shows on social media, Tweets from Twitter and has a Facebook fan page. The audience is made to feel that their opinions are valued and that they could be active participants and participate with Oprah and her staff.
Larry King – @ kingsthings and also other CNN hosts such as Anderson Cooper encourage comments and questions via the CNN web site and Twitter where they are @kingsthings and @andersoncooper . Larry King reads and answers some of these audience communications on his show. King listeners often call into his show, which is common in radio, but not in a live national show.
Nightline also makes great use of Twitter via < a href=:’http://twitter.com/Nightline”>@Nightline. They regularly Tweet with links to their stories, reply to members and ReTweet others’ messages. Where Nightline stands out ion their Twitter Profile page . Here a “LEGAL NOTICE” warns that any message, can and may be used , including on their television show. What an invitation to participate! Plus, The Nightline web site encourages visitors to comment on shows and those comments are shown.
Where I live local ABC late Night News leads into Nightline anchor Bill Ritter ( @eyewitnessbill ) and others on his team are Twitter members. They respond to tips sent to them through Twitter and their web site. Unlike The Times, Ritter often replies to those who Tweet to him. This news team reads comments from Twitter followers on-air, asks for input and works to make their news somewhat interactive and responsive, from news stories to suggestions for their & On Your Side Consumer Investigations the audience is encouraged to participate.
New Media is a Choice
In essence all media are information distribution channels. For any media to be and remain viable it must be a source of meaningful information, which can include entertainment. This is a cornerstone for both New and Old Media.
Thanks to today’s technological breakthroughs New Media can follow an exciting new paradigm that allows for social interconnectedness between audience members and media source, real time or fast responsiveness for potentially vast amounts of world-wide participants. New media is so social and participatory that at web sites like Digg and Stumbleupon people nominate and vote on their favorite news stories.
New Media is a seminar with a leader or facilitator where the chairs are in a circle and many participants, including the leader come prepared with the latest information, but everyone is encouraged to contribute ideas and questions. Old Media is an unresponsive authority, a professor lecturing from his notes to people he ignores in his lecture hall. When the information communicated is identical, which would you choose?
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Judy Rey Wasserman is an artist and the founder of Post Conceptual Art theory and also the branch known as UnGraven Image Art. Download a free copy click: Manifesto of Post Conceptual Art– A Painting’s Meaning is Inherent in its Stroke.
Check out the limited and open edition prints in the estore.
Follow her on Twitter at @judyrey .]