New media and the transformation of the media industry can be directly linked to the introduction and development of the Internet. Furthermore, the Internet can be seen to directly promote change within other media, social and business environments. This post will evaluate and analyse online communication and will also discuss corresponding matters such as policy, audience interaction and convergence.
The impact of Internet is at the core of our growing ‘information society’. This has resulted in the rapid expansion and ubiquitous nature of new communication technologies. Flew (2005, 1) believes new media technologies exemplify convergence, digital networking, reach, interactivity and many-to-many communication. Consumers have also learnt how to use these technologies to interact with others. Rather than passive, online audiences are now active and socially connected and have shown declining loyalties to other media forms (Jenkins 2004, 38).
We all know the Internet encompasses a variety of communication platforms; email, discussion forums, blogs and social networks. For many individuals and businesses however, these are now essential forums of communication. Such mediums are being incorporated into many commercial media sites and online news pages. Furthermore, many recognised journalists, political leaders and social commentators regularly blog through such websites and generate discussion.
The desire for Internet users to correspond with each other has been evident for years, however, new social software such as MySpace, YouTube and Facebook have transformed the way in which we choose to interact. These virtual cultures are based around ongoing interactions among those participating in “computer mediated communication” (Flew 2005, 61). According to Rheingold (1994, 14) these virtual communities build social capital and enable those involved to share knowledge and information with ease.
The introduction and development of broadband and wireless Internet services are also key factors in this rapid expansion. These connections have promoted ‘digital culture’ even further, with fast upload and download speeds for easy access to peer-to-peer applications. The broadband evolution is sure to continue with the guaranteed support of both state and federal governments.
Possibly the most influential force behind the popularity and growth of online communication is convergence. Cunningham and Turner (2006, 3) believe convergence dissolves the distinctions between media systems and media content. Another concept linked with convergence is the idea of digitisation. According to Cunningham and Turner (2006, 2) “We no longer have to turn on the radio to listen to programs produced by our favourite station; we can listen on our home PC”. As such, convergence is more than just a technological shift as it alters the relationship between existing technologies, industries, markets, genres and audiences.
The Internet has also had direct implications on mass-media legislation. The Online Institute for Law and Policy has raised concerns regarding; intellectual property, freedom of speech, privacy, and security (Flew 2005, 201). Despite this, a major factor that complicates legislation is the decentralised nature of the Internet and its global infrastructure (Flew 2005, 201). Within the Australian context, authority over technological legislation has been entrusted into the hands of broadcasting authorities such as the Regulation of Online Communication. The problem is however, that policy lags behind technological developments, and as van Dijk (cited in Flew 2005, 202) suggests, “legal responses have been fragmentary and are based on outdated assumptions”.
In conclusion, the developments that surround the Internet and the digitisation of content have resulted in the reproposing and reinvention of societal media interaction. Online communication has raised issues and generated debates that are not in themselves new. We have always had successive waves of new media, from the broadcast era of print, radio and television and now the digital era of the Internet. Each has presented issues of policy control for our legislators, issues of adaptation and restructuring for the media industry, and new and exciting challenges for audiences. As new media technologies continue to converge and become increasingly user-friendly, the communication industry, and the broadcast mediums within it have been and will be constantly reformed and restructured by its vast application.
Cunningham, S. and Turner, G. 2006. The Media and Communications in Australia. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition.
Flew, T. 2005. New Media An Introduction. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2nd edition.
Jenkins, H. 2004. The cultural logic of media convergence. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 7 (1), 33-43.
Rheingold, H. 1994. The Virtual Community: Finding Connection in a Computerized World. London: Secker & Warburg.