Thursday, October 2, 2008

Mass Media Meets the Interpersonal

So in the Communication field, two key areas of study (which are often viewed as separate areas) are mass communication and interpersonal communication. These areas are generally considered to be separate in this way: mass media is one-way communication (such as TV, radio, and traditional journalism), whereas interpersonal communication typically covers conversations and other two-way communication forms.

The thing is, I believe that mass media always had an interpersonal dimension to it, and vice versa, but I've been realizing more and more lately that emerging technology forms are causing mass-mediated communication to take on more of the expectations of interpersonal communication, and vice versa, as new genres evolve that meld the two (blogs are one example). More and more, the creators of previously one-way communication (such as book authors) are not only expected to go on book tours to meet their fans, they're also expected to have blogs and respond to comments. And so on.

The thing is, I've been noticing that this trend has encouraged me to become more and more aware of the bizarre dynamics that are created as the expectations of these two kinds of communication collide more and more with blogs, social networking sites, and other emerging communication forms.

Looking forward to seeing how these dynamics evolve, particularly as it impacts me both as a communication researcher and as a communicator. I've certainly had to catch myself readjusting my expectations lately, to make them more reasonable both of myself and others, as these convergences (threaten to?) affect my communication patterns in both new and old forms.

I'm pretty sure my expectations are also influenced by my being a graduate student, in which role much interactive discussion is expected of me as part of my coursework and professionalization, so I'm curious whether anyone else notices this? Do you have any experiences with this you'd like to share? (Don't feel overwhelming need to post if you're busy, but hey, if you want to participate, I'd love to hear from you.)


Rodger Jacobs said...

Oh boy. I could go on for pages and pages on this topic. In the last two weeks, for instance, traffic at my blog has tanked, owing in no small part to the contentious election and the frightening noises coming out of the belly of the economy. My solution? Go contribute to those conversations at heavily-trafficked politcal blogs with the hopes of attracting a few new eyes to Carver's Dog. But in the long run it takes me away from real-world work requirements and true interpersonal dialogue with those near to me. I cannot tell you how many times in the last two weeks when I prefaced a dialogue with my girlfriend thus: "As I was saying at Witness L.A. this afternoon ..."
That's madness. I have no idea who appointed me the role of political pundit but there I am, running around the web like James Carville on crack, displaying my opinions to anyone who wants to listen, all in the quest for a little market share that every week or so sells a book or two for me. A lot of hard work for marginal returns.

One day I need to talk to you about my old website, 8763 Wonderland (now inactive but still parked on the web as a Wordpress blog), which was a very interesting example of fiction mixed with biography that created a large audience hungry for ever-increasing details about the hardscrabble life of a freelance writer in the concrete wilds of Los Angeles. In 2006, Wonderland was placed on the syllabus at a University of Maryland course called "Literature in a Wired World", and to this day I have no less than three cyberstalkers acquired through my days at the helm of 8763 Wonderland.

Deborah Leiter said...

Rodger: Good stuff, good stuff. That's so awesome that your blog made it to a syllabus. (You should look at submitting to The Fieldstone Review, as they're looking for creative works that actually use multimedia or the affordances of the electronic form as part of the way they're created.)

But yeah, that's the thing with the modern-day information economy--all this democratization and interpersonalization makes for some interesting new outlets for workaholism for people, if nothing else. :) Look at Wikipedia--the contributors that become big in the behind-the-scenes organization there are online and contributing something all the time. In some ways, some versions of this "new" economy simply extend the workaholism already present here. The expectations of omnipresence and instant reply are interesting, and make sense in many situations, but it can't be healthy for us in some situations--that's why I get away to monasteries and take actual vacations.

I've made some interesting connections to this on the teaching/professorial profession lately with that point--that's also a mass communication situation in which the mass communicator is supposed to develop an interpersonal relationship with each member of his or her audience, and develop strategies to handle increasing numbers of them.