I have been developing a perspective on the processes by which human communication systems (e.g. communications media) are invented and subsequently evolved. This perspective is consistent with one suggested by Cappella (1991) in a review of an edition of Littlejohn in Communication Theory (RemakingTheField).
It has its roots in my 1990 Ph.D. Dissertation, but has evolved considerably since. I am currently writing a book, Evolutionary Media, that explores this topic. Expect that portions of its content will be exposed here.
The theory proposes that HumanCommunicationMedia are invented and evolved in five interrelated spheres of invention, including:
These spheres of invention interact as follows:
Mediators (MediatorsAndMedia) are the fundamental building blocks of media, and include such things (using the telephone as an example) as telephones, telephone wires, telephone switches, operators, and billing systems. All media entail mediators. Even face=to-face communication depends on human modalities and the natural resources (air and light) that allow them to function. Mediators can be put together in a variety of ways such that, in combination, they enable a set of CharacteristicsOfMedia.
Characteristics are the essential capabilities and generic attributes of a medium. A given medium will allow a message to be constructed in a particular number of modalities, travel across certain units of space and time, and to reach an audience of a given size. It is possible to characterize a medium in terms of hundreds of generic characteristics, and to compare media based on those characteristics. Various combinations of characteristics enable a set of ?UsesOfMedia. Uses are the things people use media to accomplish. There are a variety of such uses that have been identified within specific research traditions, including UsesAndGratifications perspectives. It is not possible to use a medium, however, without some effects (?EffectsOfMedia).
Effects are the tings that happen as a result of using a medium. Effects can be very positive such that they encourage increased use of the medium. They can also be very negative such that they provoke a backlash against a medium. Most successful media experience some measure of both. It should be noted, here, that effects aren't simply something that happens. They are, in a very real sense, inventions of the people who decide that a particular effect or set of effects is real and worthy of attention. Indeed, there are specific rhetorics of media effect that, when observed, allow one to conclude that a particular effect of media is real. Several of these rhetorics are enacted, or at least exposed, through media practices (?PracticesInMedia).
Practices are things people do to help maximize or minimize the effects of media. They will seek to maximize what they perceive to be the good effects of media by behaving in ways that maximize a medium's potential for a particular effect. They will also seek to minimize what is perceived to be the negative effects of media by constraining particular behaviors within media. Indeed, in some cases, the actions taken to constrain or enhance behavior will be so substnantial as to require a fundamental change to the medium through the introduction of new Mediators (MediatorsAndMedia).
| -- Last edited September 18, 2015 |
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