Technology plays an important role in our lives. We receive entertainment and information in a convenient format from the technology in our lives. One of the most important areas that technological advances play a role in our lives is in communication. Although we often take communication technology for granted, it is nonetheless influential.
Mediated Communication vs. Mass Communication
Communication utilising technology is referred to as "mediated communication." Talking on a cell phone, sending an e-mail and watching television all require a technological element to deliver the message. Technology is constantly offering new methods for communication; therefore the amount of mediated communication in our lives is expanding. The term "mass communication" refers to any message that is shared with a large audience. The message may be limited to a specific time or accessible over a large time period. Frequently, mass communication requires the use of some form of technology, especially for enduring messages. However, mediated communication is not always mass communication. Talking on a cell phone or sending a personal e-mail does not involve providing a large number of people with a message. Receiving a mass e-mail, watching the news or visiting an Internet site are all examples of mediated communication that is also mass communication. This has resulted in the emergence of the term "mediated mass communication."
Media Convergence and the Progression of Mediated Mass Communication
Media convergence plays an important role in the evolution of mass communication. Media convergence occurs when established forms of communication technology merge to create new technologies offering new methods of communication. The advent of the Internet allowed newspapers and magazines to merge with computer technology to increase the frequency and ease of reporting information to readers. E-readers, such as Amazon's Kindle, combine the medium of books with both electronic display technology and cell phone-based Internet technology to offer convenient new methods of reading. As forms of media converge, previously unavailable methods for communication emerge, changing the way we send and receive messages.
Effects of Mass Communication
Every day we are exposed to numerous sources of mass communication. Television, billboards, Internet advertisements and various other sources of mediated mass communication pervade our lives daily. Due to this level of immersion, many communication scholars have studied the potential effects of media consumption on the lives of viewers. Two areas of affect emerged through these studies: cultures and individuals. George Gerbner's Cultivation theory states that extensive exposure to television programming leads to cultures believing in increased violence and crime. Going further into cultural studies, critical media theorists believe that mass communication messages reinforce repressive ideas of power over those exposed to them. Theories regarding individual exposure to media tend to address the role viewers play in the message exchange. Uses and Gratifications theory maintains that we, as media consumers, have a choice over the media we consume and, therefore, exert power over what mass communication exists. Agenda Setting theory places more power over the media provider, suggesting that those providing the media message can determine what is considered important in our lives.
Mindful Media Consumption
Frequent examples of mediated mass communication in our lives, as well as theories that suggest the powerful effect they have on our lives, require us to be more discerning consumers of mediated mass communication. Considering the message, the technology being used to communicate it, the sources of the message and ourselves as the audience are all critical to successfully receiving mediated mass communication messages while minimising the potential for harmful effects on our lives.
The Future of Technology and Mass Communication
Technology will continue to move forward, and with it so will the methods we have for communicating. The onset of social networking technologies ushered in another era of communication in our lives, not only increasing the ways that we can communicate with each other, but increasing the opportunities we have for receiving mass communication messages. As technology evolves, our society will continue to develop new ways to convey messages to each other. Taking time to consider the effects of technology on our ability to communicate, and the potential influences those methods will have on our lives, is crucial as we move forward.