Communication Media Essay — Hunter McMillian
Over the past few decades, new media has made its way into our day-to-day lives. This reality is evidenced by a few prominent mediums of communication, some of which were unexpected at their time of release. Computer engineers had not widely considered these machines as a basis for communicative means, and neither did video game developers. With time, however, humans’ innate desire for new ways to communicate have given greater purpose to these technological advancements. Unfortunately, advertisers and other high profile persuaders use this heightened interest to their advantage. Fortunately, as the public begins to latch onto these evolving mediums, the potential for quality advancement becomes more foreseeable.
People born in the past twenty years may be surprised to find out that the first computers were intended for computational use. Prior to computers, humans would exercise a number of counting techniques and use tools such as the abacus and similar apparatuses. Calculation with these simple tools became too tedious, time consuming, and inconvenient. Therefore, a new technology needed to be developed; one with quicker results and greater precision. The process model shows that when there is human desire for such technological evolution, we have the power to make it happen. The first true computer and programming concepts came from Charles Babbage who at the time was a student at Cambridge University. He thought of his ideas like weaving “complex patterns on a loom (Fang, 2012).” As years passed, computers left the minds of brilliant thinkers and became a reality. Introduced in 1952, the UNIVAC computer was monumental in familiarizing the public with the concept of a computer. Audiences across America witnessed its use during CBS’s weather forecasting and election results. Another important advancement in computers was the introduction of the microchip in 1968. For the time, the microchip maximized the computer’s potential with the ability to store information regardless of whether the machine was powered on or off. Computers produced for personal use were still unable at this point. In 1977, however, the Apple II was released– “first personal computer with color, high-resolution graphics, sound and a way to control games (Fang, 2012).” Once the public had realized what these revolutionary machines could do for them, many knew that they wanted one. This rising curiosity and excitement came even before the introduction of word processing programs, which eased the typing process with tools like cut and paste, copy, etc. Moreover, the development of word processors allows for desktop publishing where small freelance workers can produce written newspapers and books with greater simplicity than they had before. These specific mediums for word storage may have been a foundation for publishing work, but the creation of the internet expedited the process in addition to much more within the realms of communication.
Fang notes in Alphabet to Internet: Media in Our Lives that “this creation of computer networks has produced a change in human communication. Its World Wide Web and email touch almost all of us, even non-users (2012).” The internet is a place where people can readily communicate. Negatively, this phenomenon may have deterred face-to-face communication but positivity, it has allowed for a more rapid, global connectedness transcending race, ethnicity, religion etc. Online social networks are one of the most prominent ways to achieve this connectedness. Bright young intellects like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter have paved the way for instant, network-oriented communicative means by their creations. These online websites reach a global audience through their integration of several language options. Although social connectedness can be inherently entertaining, the initial perception of the internet was that it would primarily be a research tool. However, the process model continues to show that consumer interest can shape communication technology and the direction it takes. In recent years, consumers have used the internet for different purposes. People between the ages of 18 and 44 account for more than half of all internet users. Fang notes that in general, men are more likely to search for information regarding sports, politics, and weather, whereas woman are more likely to use the internet to e-mail, find religious information, and look up directions (2012). Another way people significantly use internet is for online shopping. Most major clothing companies now have online shopping options where clothes and other goods can be shipped right to buyers’ doorsteps. Amazon.com is a website successful in aggregating thousands of goods for consumers to purchase with just a few clicks. Sites like TheHuffingtonPost and Salon.com allow for users to have news catered to their particular political persuasion. On a related note, the internet also provides a platform to express such opinions through blogging, social media, and even in designated comment sections many news websites are now offering. In recent years, the internet has become a popular place to play games.
Games like Second Life and Farmville were popular online games, but ultimately apart of a rise in electronic gaming all together. Computer games were a major selling point for personal computers as many had previously thought their regular calculators were enough to take care of their computational needs. Computer games introduced the fun element of computers which had been previously used for math equations, science, business, and writing. It encouraged ordinary consumers to go out and purchase one for their homes. In Alphabet to Internet: Media in Our Lives, Fang understands why a section on video games in a book regarding communication might raise eyebrows, but he stresses that the impact of video games have entered a social, communicative realm. Many games, as Fang notes, are online with some of them like Second Life baring a heavy, social networking context (2012). Farmville, for instance, is a social game-playing platform embedded within Facebook, the largest social network. As of September 2012, Facebook Inc. reported having over 1.01 billion users (The Associated Press). Friends can easily message each other on the site to communicate about the gaming experience, compare scores, etc. Teachers have increasingly used games as well, but for a different purpose: to communication information and to educate. There are various programs that help with math, science, and writing skills to name a few. The U.S. military has even used games as a means for communicating combat methods, recreating the experience in a virtual context, and increasing desensitization to the dark realities of warfare. One of the arguments against the use of such military games is that its entertainment value outweighs its intended purpose (Crecente, 2012). The first games came from highly intelligent students and professors at distinguished universities and research labs. Some of the games created in this type of environment were tic-tac-toe, “Tennis for Two,” and Empire (Fang, 2012). As years passed, the overall quality of games increased and made their way to arcades across the country. Teenagers would go with their friend, which was quite social and communicative in nature, just to play these games. Like with the internet, addiction to video games has become a problem as well. It can limit obsessed players to having only one social avenue to communicate with others. Games can become part of daily routines and decrease productivity while at school or work. There are specialized rehab centers for South Korean teenagers who need help in curing their addiction. Games are not all bad though. Some gaming elements like reaching high scores and surpassing goals can lead to increased confidence. Group and online multiplayer games like The World of Warcraft at the very least some form of social interaction whereas otherwise the game player may choose none at all. Gaming consoles like Nintendo’s Wii allows users to get physical exercise and experience the joy of the game simultaneously. Mark J. P. Wolf notes in the Encyclopedia of Video Games: The Culture, Technology, and Art of Gaming that, “with rising numbers of people interested in playing video games and video games increasingly being used for purposes other than entertainment, such as education, rehabilitation, or health, game accessibility has become an emerging field of research, especially as players with disabilities could most benefit from the opportunities video games offer (2012).” More specifically, Fang points out that, “surgeons and pilots have even reported improved hand-eye coordination” by engaging in games relevant to their career specialties (Fang).
With any medium of communication, a platform becomes available for advertisers and other highly influential figures to persuade the public. The concept of advertising has been around since ancient Greece where images and symbols were used to persuade illiterates. As emerging medicines made their way to consumers, advertising steadily increased. Companies made claims that their product was going to fix any number of America’s problems when they were sick or hurt. Advertising agencies worked towards filling newspapers and magazines with advertisements scattered throughout. Companies would create iconic figures like Aunt Jemima and Betty Crocker to increase recognizability and establish brand loyalty. Jingles and slogans were used to communicate a sense of familiarity and warmth to consumers. Advertisements elicited a wide range of emotions from consumers whether or not they were intended. The way that particular advertisements were perceived could persuade consumers to have negative or positive opinions about a product or brand. In Ethical Debates: Advertising by Jen Green, Green notes people living in a city can see more than 3,000 advertisements each day (2012). Other acts of high profile persuasion were seen in newspapers and heard on radios. After the First World War there were a significant number of nationalistic, prideful messages that stressed loyalty to the country. Even at the cost of possible xenophobic and supremacist language, the government did not practice any sort of censorship as it welcomed America’s support in any form. FDR’s fireside chats helped to persuade Americans that he was a down-to-earth, personable citizen capable of reliability with them. This type of intimate communication gave the former president greater credibility and increased likability (Fang, 2012).
With the emergence and evolution of new media in recent years, the reality is that our lives have changed. The computer, smart phones, an internet connection — all change the way we research information, write papers, pay bills, communicate with others — the possibilities with new media are endless. Fang notes how fast media is evolving and how quickly the public is to latch onto these new communicative advancements: “Information is pouring out at exponential rates and the ways it reaches us are changing just as fast. To collect a market audience of 50 million, it took radio 38 years, television 13 years, the internet four years and Facebook two years (2012).” Another interesting point is that to predict how new communication technologies will develop is difficult because predictors have been inaccurate in the past — the mass social implementation of these technologies will begin to reveal what trends are to follow.
Whether it be seen in computers, the internet, video games or various efforts of persuasion, the act of communication is one humans crave inherently. When a piece of technology has one intended purpose, human desire is to socialize it — adjust the technology to conform to our communicative needs in new and innovative ways. Over the past century our world has rapidly evolved in respects both new and other media and there are no signs indicating that this trend will stop. How can communication technologies evolve? How can people become increasingly connected with greater options to transmit messages? As history shows, these are questions that many people want to know.
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