In the present day, the term mass communication has become a norm in our society. It is not at all surprising with the immense variety of media that circulates around our daily life. It has immune our sense with the term and importance of mass communications. Mass media and communication has become one of the most favored courses offered in colleges and university worldwide, which wasn’t even a concern 70 years ago. In the last few decades, we have seen the accelerating evolutions and growth of media, however before we can discuss the impacts and trends of the media in our civilization, it is best to take a quick look at the history and true meaning of the term media and mass communication.
The definition of mass communication or mass media is simply a transfer of knowledge or information to a large group of audience using any form of communication. The origin of mass communications cannot be claimed by any culture ever since mankind learnt to speak. There was always a need to communicate to the mass. The best way to pinpoint its origin would be to find the very first spoken words by the very first human beings ever to walk on earth. Media and Communications towards the mass public are simultaneous with the evolution of mankind. Communication between mankind is considered one of the greatest leaps in the evolutionary stages that separate us from the other organisms.
In the early stages of the evolution of becoming human, the Homo Erectus species has develop a skill of creating simple basic sounds of survival skills with their lips to communicate and warn one another of the dangers of living in the harsh jungle. As homo erectus slowly evolve into homo sapiens, a uniformity of the sounds were organized and thus creating a primitive language which allowed our species to fulfill the desire to transcend their isolation and connect with one another and as the need to express abstract and intangible feelings of the early homo sapiens, language evolves into a wider range of words which enables a leader of the pack to fully utilize language into very first communication to the mass public of his tribe. Meanwhile, we have also develop our skills from scratches on rocks to recognizable imagery of horses and saber tooth tigers on the cave walls.
As mankind evolve into an early settlement of a booming civilization, we have added the imagery of painted symbols attached to a specific sounding words of the early languages and thus, creating basic laws of literacy and alphabets. The earliest written document known to our historians are the limestone tablets of Kish from the Sumerian civilization, which dates back to the 3500 BC. From here, the medium of the earliest media transform with the creation of papyrus in the Egyptian civilization and invention of papers in China. Thus enabling the earliest form of mass media – scrolls to evolve into books where it is easier to transfer information to the public.
In the line of imagery media, the medium of the painted artworks also evolves with its entwined destiny along side language. The artist and painters of early times had experimented with all the different available mediums and eventually settled on the medium of hemp made canvas in 13th century. The advancements of tools used in both language and paintings allow different variety and quality of artworks.
With the human civilization evolving and the rapid expansion of scientific knowledge, it continue to fuel the enhancement of tools which allow the media to fully take flight in 1455 with the invention of a printing press by Johannes Gutenberg which enable literacy to spread through Europe with ease. Here we could see the impact of mass communication in our history with the rebellion of the protestant movement against the Catholic Church by Martin Luther that made use of the printing press in order to spread his ideology to the public. In 1814, the first photograph was introduced as an alternative media in the line of imagery that speeds up the process of visual recording from the traditional paintings.
In 1835, Samuel Morse invented the Morse Code, which symbolizes a giant leap from the physical communicating medium and into virtual medium. For the first time, information can be transferred through airwaves, breaking distance barriers without the usage of solid media. With the invention of the Morse code, telegraph was provided to the public as a service in 1843. Not long after that, Alexander Graham Bell showcases to the world in 1876 - a device that enables speech and conversation without being in the same location, he named his invention the telephone.
In 1898, the line of imagery media was given a boost when the Lumiere Brothers presented the evolution of photography by publicly showcasing the first ever film or moving pictures of a train arriving at a station. This showcase scared the audience and thus the magic of the film was hooked on our civilization.
In 1920, the birth of modern mass media was initiated with the first radio broadcasting in the united state of America. The radio enables language and speeches to reach the ears of millions simultaneously in comparison of the telephone. Meanwhile the very same decade, the industry of filmmaking was at its golden age with the Hollywoodland turning actors into national and international celebrities.
In 1927, the film industry incorporated the innovation of the radio’s voice recordings and released the first full-length featured film with audible conversations. The movie was entitled Alan Crosland’s “The Jazz Singer”, with the silent stars of the past turn into memories. After audible films making big hits with the general public, the radio was then transformed into the Television which invaded the homes of millions in 1950s. From there onwards the radio and the television bloomed into the sixties with colorful subjects.
As the media world enjoyed its new varieties of technological mediums in the sixties, a new revolutionary medium of mass communication was going through its very first basic steps with the installation of the remote connection that enables developers to work directly on the computer in 1957. From there the idea of time-sharing was utilized in order to share the processing power of one computer with multiple users. With the launching of Sputnik 1 by the Soviet Union, the American’s founded the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) on February 1958 in order to reduce the cold war tensions. The DARPA planned a large-scale computer network in order to accelerate knowledge transference - the Arpanet. With the combination of the Arpanet with three other networking systems such as the military network by RAND Corporation in America, the commercial network of the (NPL) National Physical Laboratory in England and the scientific network of CYCLADES in France, the basic foundation of our modern Internet was created. In 1976, Apple sells the first home computers. After a few technical changes was made in order to intertwine these networks specific systems into a singular connection, the Internet was up and running to be used publicly worldwide by 1990s.
With the public usage of the Internet, the mass communication took a huge turn from just delivering information and entertainment to an interactive and competitive virtual reality. In the 2000s, the mass communication world was divided into two groups of media - traditional media of television, radio and newspaper and the new media of computer and Internet. The Internet as a medium for media is not entirely different from television and radio, for the audience are only given a few channels to indulge in but unlike the traditional medium of modern media, the new media has enabled anyone and everyone to provide their own channel and thus creating a diverse virtual space of competitive communication. In addition, it is also a big change in the mass communication industry to have the immediate response from the audience; this creates the need to have quick response time without losing the credibility of its content in the most interactive manner possible.
Furthermore in the new media, the production of imagery is computerized into pixilated graphic artworks instead of the traditional media of brush paintings. The line of photography and filmmaking has also taken a digital step into the new media that allowed virtual special effects to be added into the frames. Within a few years of the internet and computers being available to the public, we could already see a new medium of artwork emerging which has not been seen before, realistic animations along side life action actors that is almost impossible to distinguish from the fictional.
It is safe to say that in this era of modern civilization, we are currently more dependent on the facts and information transferred by the new media than the traditional media. However, what exactly is the reason behind this dependent? For this we have to take a closer look onto the key differences and characteristic of the new media. Lev Manovich stated in his book “The Language of new Media”, the main characteristics of new media are Numerical Representations, Modularity, Automation, Variability and Transcoding.
The Numerical Representation of a new media is when the object of communication is subjected to algorithmic manipulation. In short, the media becomes programmable. Modularity of a new media is also known as the “fractal structure of new media”. All the modular structures of a media element are assembled to create into a large-scale object of a media while still maintaining their separate independence. The numerical coding of media (Numerical Representations) and the modular structure of a media object (Modularity) allows for the automation of many operations involved in media creation, manipulation and access.
The three characteristics of the new media as mention above are truly just the evolutionary step from creating media on physical medium to virtual mediums. The Numerical Representation is best put as the virtual canvas or film of an artwork and the Modularity of the artwork is the overall shape of geometrical from the tiniest details. While the automation of the new media can be seen as the tools to create that artwork, whether to change the visual or the motions or functions of the media. In the new media, the old traditional media is given a manipulation and computerized to give the exact details or visualization imagined by the designer and artist.
One of the most important characteristics of new media - which separates from the traditional media, is the Variability of the media. Variability of the media can easily be defined as the personal version of the images, sound and etc. The variability is the distribution of the media and in the new media this distribution is personal and wider in range. Unlike the traditional media where the distribution is only given to those who subscribe to the producers of the media, the new media is limitless and world wide. Even though there are laws for many medias including the new media copyrights and distribution laws, in the new media where the Internet is accessible publicly there are still plentiful of under radar distributions of medias.
The transcoding of the new media is the direct digital-to-digital data conversion of one encoding media to another. The transcoding of new media of movie or audio data files enables reformatting of the new media, which in turn enable the media to be converted to a format that is compatible to the devices used by the audience. This transcoding allows the variability of the new media to a wider range. Unlike the traditional media, where the data is only able to receive with only the right devices such as a radio or television, the new media allows the data to be received in any form of device whether it’s the computer, mobile phone or even just an mp3 player.
From understanding the characteristic of the new media, it is easy to understand why we are more in favor towards the new media in comparison of the traditional media. In the traditional media, all form of artworks is limited on the physical realm. A cinema is only able to sustain a limited amount of audience to showcase the films. A photograph variability is only limited on the presence of a copy of the slide. A book is only available to those who buy it. In another word, the traditional media is constricted to wealth of the audience with an exception of the radio. Those who can’t buy the ticket or the book aren’t exposed to the media.
Meanwhile, in the new media these obstacles are trespass with the availability of numerous copies of the artwork for any sorts of devices, whether with legal or illegal transfers. In addition to this freedom, the new media is far more entertaining with its interactive preference in comparison with the singular media subject of the traditional media. Plus, the new digital revolution enables creative ways to visualize fantasies, which would be difficult in the traditional medias.
With all the advantages of the new media it is understandable why our modern society takes a greater time on the Internet and the computers. A few decades ago, the term YouTube, Facebook or even Google wouldn’t register to anything of importance but mentioning it now to anyone and they will understand exactly what you are mentioning about. It has become a trend among the society to communicate generally in public. A social media website such as Facebook has become as important as our own personal space where we could decorate it with anything of interest and communicate with anyone. Meanwhile YouTube has become like a personal theater where we could watch any sort of video or music that we wish to play. Other than that, there are plentiful of websites that enable the society to enjoy games like a personal playground and other sorts of entertainments.
Mass Communication has become human being most important tool of evolution to continue to carry an idea or culture into the next generation. Those culture or ideas that appeals the most to the new generation will prevail while those that fail to make a slightest impact would be diminish with time. The system of trending ideas is similar with the prevalence of genes in biological evolution of mutation. The term ‘meme’ is the trending idea, behavior that spreads with a culture and in the new century with the new media it is not at all surprising when websites such as 4chan.com and 9gag.com introduces funny clip arts which ironically uses the term ‘meme’. These clip arts are the new trending ideas in the new media which is a trending idea of mass communication and the term ‘meme’ is best to describe this situation.
Many young adults in the modern era have put more importance in having the connection to the Internet rather than getting a proper television channel or radio station. It is not a trend but rather a need of the new society. Even our cell phone are getting smarter in order to incorporate the cyber world which enables the new society to enjoy the new media anywhere at anytime of our own preference.
With releases of new technological devices and new innovations of fiber optic connections to speed up the connectivity of the internet, it is predictable that the new generations are relying on the new medias and just like the introduction of the traditional medias of photography, radio and filmmaking, the impacts and influences of all these medias are foreseeable in the aspect of society, culture and politics.
The influences of new media on society are the most prominent and easiest to identify, we could see the differences of our society in the year 2012 in comparison with the society just twenty years ago. Back in 1992, the Internet wasn’t at all of any importance and was usually occupied with wealthy student slackers that have nothing better to do but to be online. Meanwhile now, the Internet is filled with all types of services from entertainment till banking. The society with the new media has dependence on the Internet for all of their necessary needs in the form of bill payment, banking, information library, news updates and many more. Many businesses and industries are incorporating the new media ever more than before with reliance on the email to sent their important documents and paperwork. Even our daily routines are getting a virtual boost with a direct selling of necessary goods online from websites that cater these services such as eBay and mudah.my. The influence of new media or more importantly the Internet on our society is huge, we have transcend our daily transactions to the virtual world and creating a fast paced society that expect information to be deliver with the lightning speed of the internet.
On the cultural aspect, the new media has enabled a variety of new ideas and traditions from around the world to your living room within seconds. The influences of the new media on culture are not as how they portrayed on many mainstream medias. This is because unlike the traditional media of television or radio, the users are able to choose their own culture preference and not singularize into just one culture. The influence of new media in the aspect of culture is a personal choice. Still there are impacts of the new media on our culture that is beyond our individual preferences such as the as importance of acquiring new technological devices to better connect on the internet, the shameful raise to fame of ordinary citizens for committing a totally foolish acts, and the reoccurring mentioning of the websites in our society. Overall the culture difference between the generation with the new media and without it is the variety of new ideas and styles from worldwide with the usage of new media. Plus like any new technology devices, the new medias are paraded with glory and triumph of great importance in their culture by the society.
Politics often wish to remain uninfluenced by any sorts of progress in order to remain their integrity, still one cannot deny the multiple influences media has impacted politics but unlike the society, the relationship between politic and medias have been very unique. The media can easily make or break a politician while in turn the politicians in power are able to control the media. It’s a steady struggle to overpower one another. In the traditional media, it was easier for the politics to control the output of the media by buying out the companies that produces those media and uses it to their advantages. But those times are changing with the new media of the internet where there is no single company controlling the output and new ideas that often goes against the agenda’s of the politicians are being circling among the public. In many ways, politics aren’t influenced by the new media but rather forced to change by it.
With many of the uprising young politicians using the new media to their advantage, those politicians in power are force to deal with such threats. Furthermore, with all the free unchecked media sharing services that is provided online has impacted the business of the traditional media and since those companies are losing their money and their unique relationship to the politicians has also forced the authorities to take action against these innocent acts.
The main influence of the new media in the aspect of the politics is the ever-growing concern of the politicians on the freedom of the Internet. Propaganda by the politicians had been released to control these freedoms, portraying media-sharing activities as a criminal act of privacy and recently enforcing laws against the wrong doers. Plus with a reason that the content on the Internet are obscene and inappropriate with the youth, the politics are trying to control the content of the medias with censorship. These actions taken by the politicians are to ensure that the new medias are regulated with their consent and that the companies are able to harvest incomes from it.
Still there is hope for the new medias with many new politic related parties and organizations that is trying to bring awareness on this matters and other related materials of the corruption of the politics in power. The new medias are becoming a battlefield of political differences and a tool to spread their ideology. As long as the freedom of the Internet is safe there would be those who resist any sort of control.
I cannot speak for the general public on their opinion on the matters of traditional and new media for each have their own individual understanding of the matter. I can only speak for myself and my opinion on the media is specifically based on my knowledge of it. Personally, I prefer the traditional medias of film-making, photography and music for the process of making these medias have a higher artistic value in comparison with the digitalized artworks that reduces its value. Though the distribution of these traditional medias has made me been aware of the political and economical influences of these medias, which in many ways destroys all credibility of the artistic values.
In 1983, 90% of the medias in America was owned by 50 different companies; those companies highly prioritize the artistic aspect to be different and high in content value. Unfortunately, as the business grew and generated more incomes than any other industry with lower investment on the product, many money-minded businessmen got involved in the media industry and change the whole priority of the output. In 2011, the same 90% of the medias in America is controlled by only 6 companies, those companies are GE (Universal Pictures, Focus Features), News-Corp (Fox, Wall Street Journal), Disney (ABC, ESPN, Pixar), Viacom (MTV, Paramount Pictures), Time Warner (CNN, HBO, Warner Bros) and of course CBS.
These six big companies control 70% of the medias shown on television in America and is shown worldwide. It is the same situation with other types of media such as radio, newspaper and movies. A huge percentage of the traditional medias are own by big shot companies who earn millions with the help of politician involvements and as long as they provide medias which approved by the politicians, they will never be intimidated by any revolutionaries of the traditional media. It is the reason why most of the arts of the traditional medias are dying softly with the cries of independent artists.
I have failed to mention the commercials of medias in mass communications not because I forgot but mainly because I refuse to make the connection of commercialization and medias. In my opinion, traditional and new medias are pure art and should remain as such without the intrusion of money-minded commercials. It is because of commercialization of the traditional medias that has enable the situation of the big six to occur. If it makes money then the politics must control it. No freedom can be found in the censorship of the medias.
My view of the media is a stage for truth of the reality to be communicated to the public to help them understand a little bit better about the world and not a tool to tell you what to buy and spreading fears with grim news to ensure your compliance to the government. Based on my perspective, the new media promises and does exactly that. Even though in my opinion the new media is lacking in artistic value, it does have freedom that is currently threatened by the same money-minded executives and politics. It is the freedom of the new media that has captivated the new generation and its favorability as the current communication trend. Social media or any other sorts of Internet-based medias are free from censorships and of all sorts of languages, visuals and opinions of ideas are discussed freely on the new media which wasn’t available on the traditional media.
The new media is also the best way to revive the artistic values of the traditional medias. The traditional media could be digitalized into the new media and expose the users to educate and bring back the arts. For example, the Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca has been digitalized and currently spreading in the cyber world for free downloads to ensure its survival in this new era of globalization.
Unfortunately, the big companies and politicians are attacking this freedom of the Internet. If they succeed in controlling the new media as how they managed to control the traditional media, then all the freedom of choices would be nothing more than illusions. The social medias would be looked upon with scrutinizing parties and if a status update that goes against the government’s censorship rules, then it would be removed. Moreover, if you wish to spread your ideology that competes with their ideas then you would be removed. The freedom of the Internet is our last hope of communicating among one another without restriction and we should ensure its status.
In a nutshell, mass communication is the means to speak to one another or to tell the truth to the public even if by telling a fictional story. Mass Communication isn’t a business to be harvested and it is definitely not commercialism. We must understand and educate others that mass communication is everyone who ever said a word to more than 2 person at the same time, that media is a story telling platform of truth and not to allow its artistic value goes to waste. We have evolved from shouting, to fire signals to horns and drums, from sketches on the cave walls to carvings on the woods and tablets, from musical instruments and poetry readings of sonnets to written words on parchments of scrolls, from tragedy plays on stages to signal codes on air waves, from paintings on canvases to chemical reproductions on photograph slides, from single dotted codes on radio waves to a full-length speeches of recorded voices on the air, from silent films and song filled radio stations to full-length movies with dialogues and colors, from televised shows to pixelated computer screens, and lastly getting all these medias up and running on virtual reality.
The Internet or the new media is nothing more than a highly evolved form of fire signals and we must protect it from being exploited by bad intention authorities. It is our generations form of artwork; it is our communicating medium. Let us not be silent, as we must ensure the continuity of the various hubs of communication to broaden to social horizon among the denizens of the world.
They are afraid of words and thoughts, words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home – all the more powerful because forbidden – terrify them. They make frantic efforts to bar out thoughts and words, they are afraid of the workings of the human mind. – Winston Churchill (The Defence of Freedom and Peace)
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