16.2 New Media and Society
- Discuss the relationship between new media and democracy.
- Evaluate the ethics of intellectual rights and copyrights in new media.
- Evaluate the ethics of content filtering and surveillance in new media.
Media studies pioneer Marshall McLuhan emphasized, long before what we now call “new media” existed, that studying media and technology can help us understand our society. In short, he didn’t believe that we could study media without studying society, as the two are bound together.Eugenia Siapera, Understanding New Media (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2012), 2. The ongoing switch from analogue to digital, impersonal to personal/social, and one-way to dialogic media is affecting our society in interesting ways.
The days of analogue media are coming to an end and, indeed, are over in many places. As a speech teacher, one of the technology struggles I have faced over the years is recording student speeches. For the past several years, while teaching at different schools, I was continually flustered by the difficulty of finding an easy way to digitally record and have students access their speeches. When I first started teaching, we rolled a camcorder into the classroom on speech days and each student brought his or her own VCR tape to class and would pop it in, hit record, do the speech, and then pop it out. It was the easiest method of recording I have ever used. It didn’t require waiting to upload, having to deal with length or file size issues when trying to post to YouTube or e-mail, or dealing with compatibility issues. But the last time I asked my students to bring a VCR tape was about five years ago, and when I asked, the students looked at me like I had five heads. “Where can we find one of those?” “Where am I going to play it? I don’t have a VCR!” It was at that moment that I knew the analogue era had come to an end, which is evident elsewhere. Now digital television conversion is complete in the United States and the European Union, and many old media formats are being digitalized—for example, books and documents scanned into PDFs, old home movies being turned into DVDs, and record players with USB outputs digitizing people’s vinyl collections.
These technological changes haven’t solved some problems that are being carried over from old media. Some of the same problems with representation and access for which the mass media were criticized are still present in new media, despite its democratizing potential. As we discussed earlier, new media increase participation and interactivity, giving audience members and users more control over content and influence over media decisions. Media critics point out, though, that participants are not equally distributed.Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (New York: New York University Press, 2006), 241. Research shows that new media users, especially heavy users who are more actively engaged, tend to be male, middle class, and white.