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Reflection on task 8

The attempt to draw a line between mass media and personal media is a contradictory issue, which triggers various opinions and raises some questions, doubts and challenges. The following is a summary of questions and thoughts based on your musings.

First, and I guess the most obvious question that one starts to question: is mass media dying? Reading your thoughts about it I came across with very different opinions. None of them is definitely wrong or right. I have my doubts that mass media is vanishing entirely and personal media is going to replace it. At least not now. I would interpret the article written by Lüders in a way that in parallel to mass media we as individuals can also take control over and responsibility for what we consume and acquire, but also what we produce with the help of digital media technologies. And this phenomenon doesn’t apply only to media, but also to other parts of human life. For instance, we can design our own pattern for a piece of cloth and let a company to print it for us instead of consuming cloths which are produced for mass use. We can design our own chair and let a furniture company to make it for us. I perceive similarities in media. Instead of consuming everything (thanks to emerging digital technology and different tools and services) we can search, filter, manage, re-produce our own content and decide, whether we restrict its access or not. We can take control over digital media technologies and together with control comes responsibility, thus, it becomes personal.

We can move on asking the next questions: When personal is personal and when it becomes not personal anymore? What if a private blog – clearly a form of personal media – becomes popular and gains thousands of anonymous visitors? Does it remain personal? Is for instant an internet meme created by an individual a unit of mass media production or just a multi-copied personal message? Big screen movie production is one thing, but can a personal, but for some strange reason massively popular Youtube video be considered a mass media unit? while personal blogs are an example of personal media, they could be read by a large audience – does that make it mass media?

One starts to ponder here whether we can even talk about personal mass media?
If we look at this from the size of audience point of view, it doesn’t make much sense anymore (in my opinion) to talk about personal and mass media.

Probably it makes sense to think of the term “personal”. According to different dictionaries it means “of or pertaining to a person, belonging to a person some way”. Talking about personal media it refers to every individual’s opportunities to step in and put out his/her own information bits, content, either explicitly repurposed or re-mixed with others or his/her own thoughts, information, messages. One can control the extent of the audience and make it public, or not. I tend to think that the question here is more about who controls what…

On the other hand we can even question whether we can even draw a distinction between mass and personal media and if we can where should we draw it? Is it really possible to distinguish these two notions or is it just a game of words again? Or are blurring borders between mass communication and interpersonal communication becoming a problem or is it just happening – or has already happened?

From a diagnostic and analytical point of view drawing a line between mass media and personal media could be possible, however, Kerstin pointed out another interesting aspect: “there are not only personal media and mass media, but also collective media as such”. For example, if we want to categorise some tools and services, where Wikipedia or YouTube or any other collective sharing environment would fit? Can we even divide tools and services into categories according to the notions of mass media and personal media?

These various networked tools and services enable connectivity as an important characteristic claimed by Katri and Maarja – different technologies can connect with each other and can be used to create new content. We can talk about a different characteristic of media. Kristo nicely summarises that “we are really heading towards is concept of ‘social media’. And is that how life’s going to be from now on? Having an opportunity to personalise and talk about personal media quite likely change our activities, activity systems and interactions fundamentally.

Finally, I would like to point out some questions posed by Kersti: Internet as a media technology and internet as a mediator? Norbert claims that one should not think of Internet as a media but rather as a technology. We can continue asking what are media technologies, communication technologies or technical media of communication? How people use these new ways they have and if and how it has changed a person or groups? How much individuals knowingly use the mediums and tools they now have? What kind of new, more personalized mass media technologies will be used?

These are the questions I would want to address later in this course. As you can see there are more questions than answers, something to think about. Nevertheless, having in mind that the ongoing societal and cultural transformation engendered by digital media provides everybody with an opportunity to create qualitatively new patterns of activity and new ways of mediating our activities, we are going to make an attempt to analyse and describe our activities in technologically mediated settings.

It would be very appropriate to end the topic here with a comic strip.

Categories: musings
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