When you hear the words “New Media” you probably think of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, ect. However, New Media is more than just the social media platforms we all use every day.
New Media, defined as “Mass communication utilizing digital technologies” by Oxford English dictionary, is not just limited to social media, but also includes the lightening fast way in which information is shared around the world. New technologies as well as the culture around global communication all are part of the idea of New Media. There are many more ways than just social media platforms that make up all the ways New Media has shaped the way that we communicate in the twenty-first century, and communication is changing every single day. The way that global news is reported and verified utilizing these types of sources is also New Media.
Just a decade ago, even with the internet age at a high point, the bulk of people seeking news were limited to what major news networks reported on, both in traditional print, television media, and in their online websites. While we had access to talk to others from around the world, there was far less platform availability for news to be disseminated by individuals in various parts of the world to a broader audience than one-on-one communication. In other words, digital communication between unofficial sources was still, largely, not an actual method of mass communication so much as a modern-day ‘phone-tree’ .
Though technology has been advancing rapidly for decades now, we have now reached a point in which there are very few barriers to communication with others. Though her take is a little more negative in her post, Mandy Edwards say something very crucial to this phenomenon when she says, “As communication and information travel faster and faster, the world seems to get smaller and smaller.” What this means to most of us is that what would have once been virtually impossible to the average person, communicating with someone anywhere in the world at any time instantly, is now just a few key-strokes or screen-taps away. In essence, New Media has lowered the boundaries of privilege regarding communication.
When I was a child in the 90s, though people on TV often had cellphones, I didn’t know a single person in real life that had a cellphone, because they were an expensive device that had a certain level of privilege attached to its ownership. My aunt and uncle owned a bag phone for their car, and even that was the kind of luxury they boasted about and showed off like one would show off a diamond necklace. Also in the 90s, my other aunt was the only person I knew who had an internet connection, because she owned her own business. Twenty years ago, having an internet connection and a mobile phone were markers of privilege, but today those items are in some ways free (think free Wifi at a cafe and free computer use at libraries) and a cellphone of some sort is relatively inexpensive for even the lowest income individuals all over the globe.
Another way in which there was a certain barrier to access in the 90s regarding the idea of global communication was the cost of long-distance phone calls. Even today, an actual phone call internationally will cost a fortune to some. The cost of even one-one-one communication across borders has formerly been limited to news reported by major news networks, individual communication via mail, or expensive phone calls. The invention of email still required an internet connection and a device to access it from, which we have already established, were expensive commodities for all but the privileged members of society just in the few decades previous.
However, within the last decade alone, the barriers to one-on-one communication have fallen significantly and, more important and more pertinent to the actual discussion of what New Media really means, the barriers to mass communication have fallen away with the rise of social media. Social media as a method of mass communication may have its downfalls, such as lower barriers to entry meaning lower barriers to accountability in what information is spread, but it allows more information to be shared to a large audience and shared around to more large audiences without the curation of major news networks.
While there is often something negative associated with news networks curating what information to broadcast, the major issue is not some censorship-esque control of information, but rather the fact that major news networking sources choose what to report on based on what will get the most attention from their audience. There are a lot of things that an America-centric news report would leave out that social media allows reports on to be spread throughout global audiences, for example. The point of this is that New Media changes the speed and the methods of distribution of information through the channels of social media. What would have likely never become broadly reported news finds it’s audience through social media. New Media has made it possible for people all over the world to share information that is significant to certain groups of people that would otherwise not be considered significant enough to warrant an article on CNN or a spot on the nightly news on NBC in a way that makes it possible for the intended audience to find and access the information with a quick search and a few clicks.
When it comes down to it, New Media is more about the way we think about communication than it is about the methods through which we communicate. Though technology is the basis of the concept of New Media, it isn’t just about the platforms we share information through with social media, it is also about the way we think about communication. New Media has managed to affect global changes in the very idea of communication because it has lowered the barrier to entry to what is and isn’t possible when it comes to communication regardless of location, wealth, or status of privilege.