Understanding Media: Communication

At the turn of the millennium, Ziauddin Sardar and Borin Van Loon defined media by its vast audience and highly advanced technology, and claimed that there is “virtually no communication between source and receiver.”[1] In fact, even though we spend one third of our lives immersed in the media, this time is controlled by centralized production companies, advertising agencies, and publishers. According to Sardar and Van Loon, then, we have little control of the mediated world we experience.

Although Sardar and Van Loon describe the media with helpful analysis of cultural theory and the vocabulary of media studies, other works have shown that there are direct lines of communication between producers and consumers of media. The opportunities for media to forge stronger relationships between individuals and cultures indicates the changing ways in which we write, read, and think.

For example, producers of new media technologies are continually attempting to advance technology in order for the user to feel more immersed in the medium and in the content. According to Bolter and Grusin, transparent immediacy, hypermediacy, and remediation fundamentally change the ways we interact with technology. Through transparent immediacy, there is the sensation that technology and its complexity is invisible to users of technologies, who are more and more immersed in immediately available and usable content.[2] Through hypermediacy, consumers can access multiple media functions and content simultaneously, rearranging forms for individual needs.[3] Furthermore, through remediation, other forms such as painting and handwriting are realized through technology.[4] Bolter and Grusin’s discussion of these three concepts indicate that media is, in fact, communicating efficiently between producer and user. We are communicating through immersive, transparent experiences that are customizable and inclusive of familiar forms. This is quite unlike Sardar and Van Loon’s perspective of media, which is highly controlled and centralized to the exclusion of other human experiences.

Similarly, The Economist’s “Papyrus to Pixels” shows how digital publishing creates stronger relationships between media producers and consumers. Books, which are a technology themselves, have advantages in digital form: “the private joys of the book will remain, new public pleasures are there to be added.”[5] These public pleasures, undoubtedly, include the ability to share information to improve technological and publishing practice.

Indeed the communication between source and receiver in this case is changing the market and our culture. New and/or different content and technologies are changing the landscape of writing, publishing, and reading in ways that are lucrative and consumer-oriented. Through digital practice, data collection on buying and reading behaviors have made even the most dangerous of media moguls (i.e. Amazon) responsive to receivers of media. Ultimately, “books will evolve online and off, and the definition of what counts as one will expand, the sense of the book as a fundamental channel of culture, flowing from past to future, will endure.”[6] Digitized books are just one example of how media has changed, and how theory must adjust accordingly.

Clearly, technology can forge relationships between those who create and consume media. Technology is designed to communicate meaning to the user, and this is evident in the media generally, and electronically published books particularly. This is particularly helpful for digital historians, who aim to create access to primary sources, immerse researchers in the past, layer past and present ideas and technologies, or reach a wider audience through self- and electronic publishing.

[1] Ziauddin Sardar and Borin Van Loon, Introducing Media Studies (Cambridge: Icon Books Ltd., 2000), 6.

[2] Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2000), 21.

[3] Bolter and Grusin, Remediation, 31.

[4] Bolter and Grusin, Remediation, 45.

[5] “Papyrus to Pixels,” The Economist (London: The Economist, 2014), 3.

[6] “Papyrus to Pixels,” The Economist, 21.

-Lauren Ericson

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