Mass Communication And New Communication Technologies

Mass Communication And New Communication Technologies

The shift from the era of Mass Communication to the era of Networked Communication.

Understanding Mass Communication Technologies (MCT)
Technology is:
- Hardware / Object: Physical Tools, Machinery
- Software / Knowledge: Information, Access, Programs
- You / People: Ability, Education, Skills, Technical Know-How + Desire, Motivation

Technology doesn't cause change on its own, but it enables change.
The nature of the change depends on how people choose to use or engage with it; that is very hard to predict in advance.

Mass Communication is made possible by the development and use of technologies of mass production.
Copying Manuscripts >> Printing Press >> Mass of Words - Books, Phamplets, Magazines, Newspapers
Painting >> Camera >> Photographs - Mass of Images
Theatre >> Projector, Reels >> Cinema - Mass of Movies
Live Music >> Gramaphone, Casette Tape >> Records - Mass of Sounds

Mass production makes it easier to make lots of copies of one thing (one book), but also makes it easier to make copies of many different things (many books).
Mass production increases:
- Availability of Information (Many people reading the same book) - Thus, a Mass Audience is possible
- Diversity of Information Sources (Many people reading many different books)

Mass Communication stimulates widespread literacy, education and spreads knowledge to the people, changing the balance of power between the elites and the people.

Communication - To make common
If I communicate with you, we share something in common.
If a group of people share enough in common – ways of speaking, of thinking, of understanding the world, they share a discourse.
If enough people share a discourse - they constitute a kind of community.
So communication is intertwined with the political, social and cultural.

But different structures of communication cause different social interactions, meaning they have different power relations.
At a Lecture - I talks, everyone listens (I have power, you are a passive audience)
At a Dinner with Friends - Everyone talks, everyone listens (Everyone shares power)

Although Mass Communication shares information with the masses, control of the source of information is in the hands of a few.
Why? It costs a lot of money to set up a TV station, Newspaper publishing house, Radio station, or Film Studio.
So Mass Communication is a One-To-Many Model of communication - Broadcast Model

The few control the messages that the many share.
- The few control the discourse that define that community.
- The many can't talk back - Can't yell at the TV.
- The many can't talk amongst themselves laterally - Limited by physical scale and time.
- Thus, the idea of the few holding power and influence over the masses / The masses are vulnerable to ideological manipulation by the few.

The Mass Culture Critique
Mass Communication creates a Mass Audience >> Popular culture / Mass culture, is a product of mass communication, of mass produced media (No pop stars before recorded music).
But Popular culture is commercial >> Aims to be bought by as many people as possible >> Therefore aims at the lowest common denominator, the biggest possible audience.
So Mass Media is dominated by Sensationalism, Sex, Scandal, Violence >> Low Culture
Thus, Popular culture / Mass culture is depraved, corrupt, barbaric, bad for society - This argument has been made for comics, video games, tv shows, movies, etc.

Problem: Who are the brainwashed, corrputed, immoral, depraved masses who delight in popular culture?
Is it you?
Is it me?
No, the masses are never you or me, it is always them!

Whenever you hear the phrase 'the masses', an elitist discourse is taking place.
I, or We, talk about (but never to) Them, as if the masses are just passive vessels absorbing messages through mass media.
Problem: Do you feel you are a passive vessel?

The Mass Communication Paradigm
Messages are mass produced by the few, distributed in one direction, for the many, who receive them passively.
This understanding of Mass Communication is too simple, basic and limited.
People are not just passive receivers, they have an active relationship with media.

But people are limited in making and distributing our own messages on any kind of scale, due to constraints of cost, time, space, or ability.
This is what New Communication Technologies (NCT) allow us to do.
In doing so, they challenge the core assumptions of the Mass Communication Paradigm.

How are New Communication Technologies (NCT) different from Mass Communication Technologies (MCT)?
- 'Old' Mass Communication Technologies are Analogue
- 'New' Mass Communication Technologies are Digital

- Actual physical object (piece of paper, roll of film)
- Tangible
- Has a direct physical relation to what it represents
- Fixed (Not easy to edit / change)
- Different media are in different physical forms (Can't put a video clip in a piece of paper)

- Abstract, Virtual, No physical existence
- Just information - Made of bits and bytes
- Intangible
- Unfinished (Can always be changed)
- All media in the same virtual format (Simple to put a video next to text on a website )

- With NCT, all media forms exist in the same format (Digital)
- Everything can converge, overlap, link, or combined in multiple, unexpected ways
- Can be copied / reproduced and distributed globally, instantaneously, at low cost, on the same platform - The Internet
- The Internet affects everything to do with NCT - Anyone can make stuff, rework stuff, or distribute stuff as long as they have a computer and internet connection
- Audiences are no longer passive receivers of media, they can be a producer and distributor as well (The technological, knowledge and skill barriers to doing this are dropping constantly)

So NCT is a Two-Way, Many-To-Many Model of communication - Networked Model
NCT's primary impact is to make it much simpler and easier for people to have an active relationship with media, in which they participate not just by consuming media, but by producing and sharing it.

How do NCTs challenge MCTs?
- Anyone can talk / share with anyone - any-to-any rather than one-to-many communication
- Active / Interactive users who make media, as well as consume it - The Prosumer / Produser (Producer and Consumer / User)
- Messages can be individually produced and distributed globally to those who are interested
- Exponential increase in the number of 'channels', or sources of media
- Fragmentation of the Mass Audience - The many can talk to / share with each other, rather than the few deciding what you see / hear

Differences between NCT and MCT?
- Decentralisation VS Hierarchies (Network Model VS Broadcast Model)
- Authenticity VS Authority
- Multiplicity VS Identity / Singularity
- Participation VS Consumption (Active VS Passive)
- Ephemeral VS Permanent
- Convergence VS Separation
- Partial / Incomplete / Unfinished VS Whole / Complete / Stand-Alone