The “Social Aspects of New Media Technologies” by Williams, Strover and Grant brings up interesting parallels between that era’s “new media,” such as cable television and VCRs, and modern internet-based communication tools. This article is similar to Paul Haridakis and Gary Hanson’s 2009 “Social Interaction and Co-Viewing With YouTube: Blending Mass Communication Reception and Social Connection,” which I covered as a discussion leader. It would appear that the two articles use several similar sources, most notably Katz, Bumler et al.’s “Utilization of mass communication by the individual,” which defines the Uses and Gratifications principle that both articles mention.

The Haridakis and Hanson article brings up the interesting point that YouTube has an extra social dimension because people can share both the video and their thoughts on it by either linking to the video in an email or blog post or leaving a comment on the page. This makes me wonder what other unique uses for internet-based media might exist.

Many aspects of old media, the new media of 1994, and the internet are the same: researchers are still concerned with who uses what and why. We always need to know the demographics of our users to provide insight into what they want, as well as what we might change to court new users.

The idea that audiences are “fluid consistencies” is relevant across all media. Audiences play different social roles depending on the setting, the time of day, and their emotional state. Someone might read the front page of the New York Times with his morning coffee, then take the crossword puzzle with him on the bus. Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook started as fun ways to connect with friends, but have proven to be powerful marketing tools; how someone uses Twitter at work may be dramatically different from how he or she uses it at home. The internet, however, opens up many more possibilities, as users can search for whatever their heart desires rather than rely on the limited scheduled availability of print, TV or radio.

Some forms of internet-based media allow us to simultaneously fulfill our desire for the four major gratifications: entertainment, surveillance, personal relationships, and personal identity. Take Twitter; in the span of a few short seconds, I can get timely updates from my local neighborhood blog on the car crash down the street (surveillance), learn that my friend just became mayor of Sushiville (personal relationships), read an article linked by my favorite cause-driven blogger about why our cause is so great (personal identity), and laugh at the hilarious sh*t Justin’s dad says (entertainment). It can be a little schizophrenic, but we generally pick out what we feel is most relevant from that stream depending on our current situation and mood. As Clay Shirky says, publish and then filter.

Another difference between new media and older media is “ritualized” use, where the medium becomes background noise rather than the center of attention. Streaming radio can have this effect, but one rarely turns on Hulu for background noise; appointment television means control, and one does not tune out what one has hand-picked to watch.

Because most current innovation is happening through an already established medium– the Internet– we are not faced with a scenario like the VCR; no one needs to convince consumers to buy anything, as the innovation is already readily available through something they already own and are familiar with. The knowledge, persuasion, decision, confirmation cycle becomes easier to enter, since the only investment is time. However, with some many innovations to chose from, time can sometimes be more valuable than money.

image by ChrisL_AK