Learning Objectives

Identify four roles the media performs in our society.Recognize occasions that impacted the fostering of fixed media.Explain exactly how different technological transitions have shaped media industries.

You are watching: Why do we begin our studies of media with the invention of the printing press?

In 2010, Americans could turn on your television and also find 24-hour news channels as well as music videos, nature documentaries, and also reality shows around everything indigenous hoarders come fashion models. That’s not to mention movies accessible on need from cable companies or tv and video clip available online for streaming or downloading. Half of U.S. Families receive a daily newspaper, and the average human being holds 1.9 magazine subscriptions (State that the Media, 2004) (Bilton, 2007). A college of California, san Diego study declared that U.S. Families consumed a full of about 3.6 zettabytes of info in 2008—the digital identical of a 7-foot high stack of publications covering the whole United States—a 350 percent increase since 1980 (Ramsey, 2009). Americans room exposed come media in taxicabs and also buses, in classrooms and doctors’ offices, on highways, and in airplanes. We can start to orient ourself in the details cloud v parsing what functions the media filling in society, analyzing its history in society, and looking in ~ the method technological innovations have helped lug us to where we space today.

What walk Media carry out for Us?

Media fulfills several basic roles in our society. One obvious duty is entertainment. Media can act as a springboard because that our imaginations, a source of fantasy, and also an outlet for escapism. In the 19th century, Victorian reader disillusioned by the grimness that the Industrial transformation found themselves drawn into terrific worlds of fairies and other fictitious beings. In the very first decade the the 21st century, American tv viewers can peek in top top a conflicted Texas high school football team in Friday Night Lights; the violence-plagued drug profession in Baltimore in The Wire; a 1960s-Manhattan ad agency in Mad Men; or the last enduring band of people in a distant, miserable future in Battlestar Galactica. Through bringing united state stories of all kinds, media has the power to take united state away native ourselves.

Media have the right to also provide information and education. Information have the right to come in plenty of forms, and also it might sometimes be complicated to different from entertainment. Today, newspapers and news-oriented television and radio program make obtainable stories from across the globe, enabling readers or viewers in London to access voices and also videos from Baghdad, Tokyo, or Buenos Aires. Books and also magazines administer a much more in-depth look in ~ a wide selection of subjects. The complimentary online encyclopedia Wikipedia has articles on topics native presidential nicknames to boy prodigies to tongue twisters in various languages. The Massachusetts academy of an innovation (MIT) has actually posted cost-free lecture notes, exams, and also audio and video clip recordings of classes on its OpenCourseWare website, permitting anyone through an web connection accessibility to world-class professors.

Another useful element of media is its capability to act as a windy forum for the discussion of vital issues. In papers or other periodicals, letters to the editor allow readers to respond to journalists or to voice their opinions ~ above the worries of the day. These letters were an important part that U.S. Newspapers also when the country was a british colony, and also they have served as a means of public discourse ever before since. The net is a fundamentally autonomous medium that allows everyone who can get online the ability to express your opinions through, because that example, blogging or podcasting—though whether anyone will hear is one more question.

Similarly, media can be offered to screen government, business, and also other institutions. Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel The Jungle exposed the miserable conditions in the turn-of-the-century meatpacking industry; and in the beforehand 1970s, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncovered proof of the Watergate break-in and also subsequent cover-up, which eventually led to the resignation of chairman Richard Nixon. However purveyors of fixed media may be beholden to particular agendas since of political slant, advertising funds, or ideology system bias, therefore constraining their ability to act together a watchdog. The complying with are several of these agendas:

Entertaining and providing an outlet because that the imaginationEducating and also informingServing together a windy forum because that the conversation of crucial issuesActing together a watchdog because that government, business, and also other institutions

It’s crucial to remember, though, that no all media are created equal. While some develops of mass communication are better suited come entertainment, rather make more sense as a meet for spreading information. In state of print media, publications are durable and also able to contain several information, but are fairly slow and also expensive to produce; in contrast, newspapers are comparatively cheaper and quicker to create, making lock a much better medium because that the rapid turnover of everyday news. Television offers vastly an ext visual information than radio and also is much more dynamic than a static published page; that can likewise be provided to transfer live occasions to a nationwide audience, as in the annual State of the Union attend to given through the U.S. President. However, that is also a one-way medium—that is, it allows for very little direct person-to-person communication. In contrast, the Internet urges public conversation of issues and permits nearly everyone who desires a voice to have one. However, the net is also largely unmoderated. Users may have to wade through thousands of inane comment or misinformed amateur opinions to uncover quality information.

See more: What Gas Stations Hire At 16 Year Old Teens, Part Time Gas Station Jobs, Employment

The 1960s media theorist Marshall McLuhan took these ideas one action further, famously coining the phrase “the tool is the post (McLuhan, 1964).” by this, McLuhan intended that every tool delivers info in a different method and that contents is basically shaped by the tool of transmission. Because that example, although television news has actually the benefit of offering video and live coverage, make a story come alive an ext vividly, that is likewise a faster-paced medium. That way more stories gain covered in much less depth. A story called on tv will probably be flashier, much less in-depth, and also with less context than the same story spanned in a monthly magazine; therefore, people who gain the bulk of your news from tv may have a specific view the the human being shaped not by the content the what lock watch but its medium. Or, as computer system scientist Alan Kay placed it, “Each medium has a special method of representing principles that emphasize specific ways of thinking and de-emphasize rather (Kay, 1994).” Kay was writing in 1994, when the web was simply transitioning indigenous an scholastic research network to an open up public system. A decade and also a fifty percent later, through the net firmly ensconced in our day-to-day lives, McLuhan’s intellectual descendants space the media experts who claim that the web is making us much better at associative thinking, or an ext democratic, or shallower. But McLuhan’s claims don’t leaving much space for separation, personal, instance autonomy or resistance. In one essay about television’s effects on contemporary fiction, writer David Foster Wallace scoffed in ~ the “reactionaries that regard TV as part malignancy went to on an innocent populace, sapping IQs and compromising sat scores while we all sit there on ever before fatter bottoms with little mesmerized spirals revolving in our eyes…. Treating television as angry is simply as reductive and silly as dealing with it prefer a toaster with pictures (Wallace, 1997).” Nonetheless, media messages and also technologies influence us in many ways, some of which probably won’t it is in sorted the end until long in the future.