The 21st Century Media (R)evolution

Emergent Communication Practices, Second Edition

by Jim Macnamara (Author)
©2014 Textbook XII, 486 Pages


The emergence of what are called ‘new media’ and ‘social media’ is one of the most discussed topics in contemporary societies. Because media and public communication are mostly analyzed within particular theoretical frameworks and within specific disciplinary fields, polarized views have been created with cyberoptimists and celebrants on one side and cyberpessimists and skeptics on the other. Thus we lack an understanding of the interdependencies and convergence between disciplines and practices.
The second edition of this book expertly synthesizes competing theories and disciplinary viewpoints and examines the latest data, including international research from fast-growing markets such as China, to provide a comprehensive, holistic view of the twenty-first century media (r)evolution. Dr. Macnamara argues that the key changes are located in practices rather than technologies and that public communication practices are emergent in highly significant ways.
Engaging and accessible, this book is essential reading for scholars and professionals in media and communication and an invaluable text for courses in media studies, journalism, advertising, public relations and organisational and political communication.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Chapter 1. Introduction: Why and How We Should Re-Study Media
  • Summary
  • For reflection and discussion
  • Notes
  • Chapter 2. The New Mediaspeak—Talking About and Understanding Media Today
  • Changing Media Terminology
  • Problems with the notion of ‘new media’
  • Social media and social networks
  • Interactivity, participation and emergence
  • What’s ‘media’ today?
  • ‘Mass media’—traditional, ‘old’ or ‘mainstream’?
  • What Is Web 2.0 and What Is All the Fuss About?
  • Enabling technologies
  • Web 2.0 philosophy, values, culture and practices
  • Blogs—publish yourself
  • Microblogging
  • Video sharing
  • Photo sharing
  • Wikis—from Wikipedia to WikiLeaks
  • Podcasting
  • Occupy—an example of the 21st century media (r)evolution
  • The Second Media Age
  • A Timeline of Key Web Developments:Web 1.0–Web 3.0
  • 1990–2000 (Web 1.0)
  • 2001–2010 (Web 2.0)
  • 2010–2020 (Web 3.0)
  • Summary
  • For Reflection and Discussion
  • Notes
  • Chapter 3. Analyzing Today’s Mediascape—Philosophies, Theories and Debates
  • Major Traditions of Media Critique
  • Political economy
  • Cultural studies
  • Medium theory
  • Media as practice
  • Other ways of studying media
  • Media Barons and GovernmentRegulation Versus Net Neutrality
  • The economics of political economy
  • The politics of political economy
  • The intersection of political economy, citizens and culture
  • The Digital Divide
  • Three types of digital divide
  • The age-based digital divide?
  • Audience-making—a new challenge
  • The golden mean and other traps
  • Community and Social Capital
  • Positive and negative impacts of the internet
  • Individualism and individualization
  • Mass self-communication
  • Digital enclaves, echo chambers, information cocoons and ‘cyberbalkanization’
  • Is the internet making us lonely?
  • Is the internet making us stupid?
  • The myth of a golden age and more on golden means
  • Technological Determinism
  • The Less Travelled Middle Ground and the Beauty of Grey
  • Summary
  • For Reflection and Discussion
  • Notes
  • Chapter 4. Myths and Cyberbole, Trends and Tipping Points 1
  • The End of Endism
  • The Myth of Cyberspace and Cyberculture
  • Facebook—traversing online and offline worlds
  • Virtual reality and reality—two case studies
  • The Disappearing Computer and Communications Network
  • Media Are Immaterial
  • The universal materiality of digital
  • The changing materialities of inscription
  • Emergent subjectivities and post-media thinking
  • Audience Fragmentation and Demassification
  • Reconceptualizing audiences
  • Deconstructing ‘mass media’ and ‘mass audiences’
  • What media history tells us about media use and users
  • Buzz, ‘bots’ and paid posts—the unreality of the internet
  • Summary
  • For Reflection and Discussion
  • Notes
  • Chapter 5. The Social Organization? How Organizations Are Using Social Media
  • Organizations Jump on the Social Media Bandwagon
  • Gaps and Cracks in the Social Organization
  • International Research on Organizational Social Media Use
  • Main types of social media used
  • Social media knowledge in organizations
  • Managing social media in organizations
  • Risks in social media
  • Blurring of the private and public
  • The control paradigm
  • Social media governance—policies, guidelines, training, monitoring
  • Emergent strategy
  • Transparency—Six Billion Mobile/Cell Phones Are Watching
  • Online Reputation
  • The ‘Long Tail’ and Other Benefits
  • Listening—The Forgotten Elementof Voice and Communication
  • Engagement
  • Summary
  • For Reflection and Discussion
  • Notes
  • Chapter 6. E-Elections, E-Government, E-Democracy—The Future of Politics
  • The Mediated Public Sphere
  • The Emergent Online Public Sphere
  • The Obama Phenomenon 2008
  • The Emergent Public Sphere Internationally
  • The 2010 Australian National Election
  • Methodology
  • Findings—quantitative
  • Findings—qualitative
  • Post-election 2010—What happened to the conversation?
  • The 2010 UK Election
  • Obama 2012
  • E-elections and E-democracy in Europe and Asia
  • Sweden’s 2010 national election
  • Taiwan’s 2012 national election
  • Online Activism and Democracy Movements—The ‘Arab Spring’
  • Engaging Youth and Disengaged Citizens
  • 2012 London mayoral election
  • E-lectoral engagement campaigns in Australia and New Zealand
  • What Constitutes PoliticalDiscussion and Participation?
  • E-Democracy and E-Government—The Role of Emergent Media
  • Online information and service delivery
  • Online consultation and participation
  • International developments in e-government and e-democracy
  • Analysis of Australian, US and European online public consultation trials
  • Summary
  • For Reflection and Discussion
  • Notes
  • Chapter 7. The Future of Journalism
  • The Loss of Audiences
  • The Loss of Media Advertising
  • The Loss of Journalists
  • The Loss of Time
  • The Loss of ‘Gatekeepers’—Disintermediation
  • The Rise of Citizen Journalism andCitizen Media—Threat or Benefit?
  • The Rise of Public Relations and Subsidized News
  • The Loss of ‘Truth,’ ‘Objectivity’and Source Credibility
  • The Fourth Estate
  • Postmodern views of journalism
  • The glass house of journalism
  • Emergent credibility
  • Trust through repetition and redundancy
  • Disaggregation
  • Opportunities for a ‘New New Journalism’
  • Multimedia journalism—new forms of storytelling
  • Analysis and sense-making
  • Digital journalism
  • Computational and data journalism
  • Postmodern journalism—engaging audiences and facilitating conversations
  • Hyperlocal journalism
  • A hybrid model of emergent journalism
  • From hyperreality back to reality
  • Summary
  • For Reflection and Discussion
  • Further Reading
  • Notes
  • Chapter 8. The Future of Advertising
  • Structural as Well as Economic Challenges
  • The Audiences That Got Away
  • Evolving Approaches in Advertising
  • Online advertising
  • Measuring media advertising
  • Word of mouth and ‘word of mouse’ (eWOM)
  • Viral advertising
  • Search advertising
  • Rich media advertising and rich internet applications
  • Social network marketing and social media marketing
  • Consumer/user-produced advertising
  • Embedded marketing/product placement
  • Future Approaches—Relevancy Advertising and Other Ways to ‘Ad Value’
  • Web 3.0—the Semantic Web
  • Recommendation engines
  • Targeted advertising and privacy
  • Summary
  • For Reflection and Discussion
  • Notes
  • Chapter 9. Future Media Business Models
  • Media Industry Strategy—Or Lack Thereof
  • Lack of research and development
  • How the ‘rivers of gold’ ran dry
  • The empire fights back
  • Emergent Business Models
  • Advertising 2.0
  • Subscription
  • Paywalls—charging for content
  • Freemiums
  • Public funding
  • Endowments and philanthropy
  • Partnerships
  • Sales commissions
  • Diversification into consumer products
  • Archive re-use and repurposing
  • The Attention Economy
  • ‘Big Data’—Big Opportunities or Big Problems?
  • Market Intelligence and Data v. Privacy
  • Dataveillance
  • Summary
  • For Reflection and Discussion
  • Notes
  • Chapter 10. The Future of Public Relations
  • ‘Spin’ from Press Agentry to the ‘Spinternet’
  • Professionalized PR—The Strategic Management Paradigm
  • Sociocultural PR?
  • How PR Practitioners Use Social Media
  • Growth but a GAP
  • US trends—practitioners don’t walk the talk
  • European Communication Monitor shows big lags in practice
  • Pan Asia-Europe study reveals tensions over strategy and control
  • How PR Practitioners Should Use Social Media
  • Overcoming the illusion of control
  • Social media governance
  • Emergent strategy
  • Openness, dialogue, engagement, collaboration
  • Emergent Media Monitoring and Analysis
  • Emergent Media Relations
  • A New Paradigm of Public Relations
  • Summary
  • For Reflection and Discussion
  • Notes
  • Chapter 11. The Future of Community and Culture
  • Reclaiming ‘Folk’ Culture
  • Identity Construction—New ‘Technologies of the Self’
  • Anomie or Social Glue?
  • Engaging Youth—Generations X, Y, Z and C
  • When Autonomy and IndividualismAre Important—Online ‘Greys’
  • Summary
  • For Reflection and Discussion
  • Notes
  • Chapter 12. Conclusions
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index

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As with the first edition, I owe a great debt to the community of scholars around the world who have researched and continue to research media and related social, cultural, political and professional issues. These are too numerous to mention here, but I have endeavoured to comprehensively reference them in this text.

I particularly thank Mary Savigar at Peter Lang, formerly in New York and now in the UK, for her support in bringing both the first edition and this substantially updated edition to print.

And, as always, I continue to accrue a debt to my wife, partner and muse, Dr. Gail Kenning.

—Jim Macnamara, PhD, FPRIA, FAMI, CPM, FAMEC

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Why and How We Should Re-Study Media

Communication and media have been the subject of intensive study since the early 20th century and remain fields for continuing research because of major technological, social, cultural, economic and political changes taking place, as well as their importance in civil societies. Communication has been described as “the organizing element of human life” (Littlejohn & Foss, 2008, p. 4) and identified as a prerequisite for and the lifeblood of human society by philosophers and social scientists. Psychologist and communication theorist Paul Watzlawick famously observed that “one cannot not communicate” (Watzlawick, Beavin & Jackson, 1967, p. 48). Eminent sociologist John Dewey noted that “society exists not only… by communication, but it may fairly be said to exist in…communication” (1916, p. 5). In other words, society is communication, and without communication, human society—particularly a civil society—is not possible.

Media are recognized as integral to human communication. Notwithstanding the continuing importance of interpersonal face to face communication through speech and non-verbal signals, much, if not most, human communication is mediated. Beginning with the use of cave drawings, carved illustrations in wood and stone, smoke signals and drums to convey messages to others across time and space, through major inventions such as writing, ← 1 | 2 → paper, the printing press and the telegraph, to today’s ‘information age’ and global ‘network society’ (Castells, 2010), humans have found it necessary to use tools to communicate. Along with his famous aphorism ‘the medium is the message,’ Marshall McLuhan (1964) described media as “extensions of man”—or, in preferable non-gendered terms, extensions of humans. Modern humans (Homo sapiens) are characterized as makers and users of tools that extend the capabilities of their bodies—and communication media are among their most important tools.

In the early 21st century, we are in the midst of another major change in communication media. Digitization and the internet, incorporating the World Wide Web—particularly what is referred to as Web 2.0—are seen by many media analysts and social scientists as a watershed in human communication as significant as the introduction of television in the 1940s and 1950s.1 Some go even further and suggest that the internet is as significant as moveable type printing developed in China around 10402 and in Europe circa 1436–14403 which has been described as the first communications revolution (Carey, 2009, p. 146; Smith, 1980, p. 7).

Mark Balnaves, Stephanie Hemelryk Donald and Brian Shoesmith propose that there have been four revolutions in the history of media, citing creation of the Greek alphabet, which led to writing as the first (alphabets plural would be less Western ethnocentric), followed by invention of the printing press, the development of broadcast mass media (radio and television), and arrival of the computer and social media (2009, p. 12). Their grouping of invention of the computer, which dates back to the late 1930s, and the latest developments in online communication covers a range of technologies and practices, but these developments can be collectively identified as the emergence of digital media.

Digital media have “brought about profound changes in the nature and organization of contemporary communication,” as Virginia Nightingale and Tim Dwyer state in the opening sentence of New Media Worlds: Challenges for Convergence (2007, p. 1). The effects are far-reaching, impacting media institutions, journalism, governments and political communication, advertising, public relations, communities and individuals’ social and cultural capital, according to a number of scholars. In Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, Henry Jenkins says that “media industries are undergoing another paradigm shift” (2006, p. 5). Author of The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age, Philip Meyer says the internet is “as disruptive to today’s newspapers as Gutenberg’s invention of movable type was to the town criers, the journalists of the 15th century” (2008, para. 10). John ← 2 | 3 → Pavlik sees the rise of ‘citizen journalism’ in blogs as a “sea change” with “far reaching implications for the nature and function of journalism in modern society” (2008, p. 77). In relation to politics, Martin Hirst and John Harrison argue that “not since the time of ancient Greece, where the birth of democracy occurred, has political communication been so dramatically altered” (2007, p. 356). The 2008 Barack Obama presidential election campaign provided a landmark demonstration of the potential of new forms of media—and the 2012 US presidential election, as well as national elections and e-democracy movements in other countries, show that this seismic shift in the tectonic plates of society is continuing. Even in his 2013 critical review, Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy, Robert McChesney acknowledges the ‘digital revolution’ and its primary site, the internet, as “the most extraordinary and important development of the past half century” (2013, p. xi).

In his historical review of media from parchment and printing to hypermedia, Ronald Deibert (1997) concludes: “that we are currently living through a revolutionary change in technologies of communication is beyond dispute”— although the effects of those technologies are subjects of considerable debate (p. 4). Douglas Rushkoff prefers to describe current ICT developments as a renaissance, but also concludes that we are witnessing a major shift in human perspective and understanding (2003, p. 32). Similar views have been expressed by Nicholas Negroponte, who describes the internet as “10.5 on the Richter scale of social changes” (1996, p. 204) and, more recently, by Manuel Castells (2001, 2010).

However, one needs to be cautious in making claims for the significance of media and communication developments, noting that James Beniger (1986) identified 75 books written between 1950 and 1984 claiming major societal transformations resulting from new communication technologies. Many created little more than a ripple on the tide of human development. As occurs in discussion of many new technologies, debate about the internet and online communication oscillates—sometimes in wild gyrations—between extravagant claims and extreme optimism, on one hand, and dire predictions and pessimism, on the other. In the case of what are variously referred to as new media, digital media, social media and a range of other terms, one school of thought sees these as transformative and even revolutionary, based on cyberoptimism and what Steve Woolgar (2002) calls cyberbole. At the opposite extreme are a range of perspectives characterized by cyberpessimism and even moral panic. In a review of the rise of the Occupy Wall Street activist movement, largely through use of what they and a number of others call social media, Kevin ← 3 | 4 → DeLuca, Sean Lawson and Ye Sun noted that “discussion of social media is too often simplified into a debate between techno-utopians and techno-cynics” (2012, p. 485). Robin Mansell (2012) and Robert McChesney (2013) describe the two camps as the “celebrants” and the “sceptics.”

But even if ‘revolution’ is too strong a word, the extent and implications of changes in media and public communication practices—positive and negative—warrant close and critical examination. The 21st century media (r)evolution involves a proliferation of new technologies and major changes in the practices of media content production, distribution and consumption, with a wide range of new terms entering the lexicon of media producers and consumers. The various terms and names used to describe new forms and practices of online communication is the first challenge that this book addresses in Chapter 2. Students, practitioners and users of media today face a tangled web of terminology in relation to media, with descriptions from the early days of printing such as ‘press’ used alongside terms such as ‘online’ and new-age techno-speak such as ‘Web 2.0’ and ‘peer-to-peer’ (abbreviated to P2P). Some terms have become redundant, while others reflect formerly siloed systems of communication that are converging (Jenkins, 2006). It is time to relegate a number of media terms and concepts to history and adopt more current and inclusive language.

A second challenge that this book confronts is the hype and hyperbole— or cyberbole as Woolgar (2002) refers to it—that surrounds much discussion of new information and communication technologies (ICTs). This text strenuously endeavours to present a balanced view by taking a critical approach grounded in research and the title reserves judgement on whether or not we are in the midst of a revolution. It is clear that we are living at a time of major change. But we also are living at a time of aggressive marketing and fashion-driven faddism, nowhere more so than in information and communication technologies (ICTs)—witness the billion-dollar market for mobile/cell phone ring tones and the ubiquitous white earphones of Apple iPods. Vincent Mosco in his book The Digital Sublime: Myth, Power and Cyberspace has written extensively about “seductive tales containing promises unfulfilled or even unfillable” (2004, p. 24) and the ‘spiral of hype’ (p. 25) that drives digital mythology. The industry itself recognizes this tendency to overly promote and exaggerate the capabilities and effects of new technologies. Gartner Research (2008a) has developed a five-stage ‘Hype Cycle’ which it says all new technology passes through, starting with a ‘Technology Trigger’ followed by a ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations,’ after which sentiment sinks into a ‘Trough of Disillusionment,’ before beginning to mature and grow on the ‘Slope of Enlightenment’ and ← 4 | 5 → finally reaching a ‘Plateau of Productivity.’ Many ICTs do not get past the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations,’ as the dot.com crash of the early 2000s showed. Martin Hirst and John Harrison bluntly warn that “the internet has its share of hucksters, boosters, and proselytizers” (2007, p. 216).

Optimists and those with vested interests in certain technologies present highly positive and even utopian views on the future of media and their implications in society, claiming that emergent media will function like a modern day Greek agora4 transforming social and civic engagement and providing new productive spaces for democracy, community building and identity construction. An important imperative for scholars, media, governments, industry and society is interpreting what developments mean and identifying the substantive effects, if any, they will have after their novelty and fashion appeal have passed.

At the other extreme are “oracles of doom” (Moore, 1995, p. xiv) who see mostly dysfunctional outcomes of these changes and focus on problems in digital technology and the internet. Pessimistic dystopian views of the internet include predictions of rampant capitalism snuffing out independent emergent media, authoritarian regimes gaining control of the internet, a loss of ‘social capital’5 in an impersonal world of computer-mediated communication and cyber-culture, and a widening ‘digital divide’6. The writings of Robert McChesney, Dan Schiller, Vincent Mosco, Evgeny Morozov and a number of other internet critics are discussed as they raise important issues informed by and framed within a political economy perspective. However, just as industry hype and hyperbole need to be taken with a grain of salt, criticisms also need to be considered carefully. The field is fraught with claims and counterclaims that need to be examined and weighed.

Like a number of other critical theorists, Hirst and Harrison (2007, p. 17) claim to use Hegel’s dialectic as their method of analysis, an approach to resolving argument dating back to Plato’s Socratic dialogues and Aristotle, and widely used in both Western and Eastern philosophy. The dialectic has been interpreted in varying ways by Karl Marx, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and others. One interpretation, often referred to as the Socratic Method, poses a hypothesis contradicted by an opposing antithesis to which logical reasoning is applied to negate one or the other as a candidate for ‘truth’ (i.e., a dyadic method of argument). Another interpretation employs a triad approach involving a thesis, opposed by an antithesis, and then arguing against some aspects of both and/or reconciling them, thereby moving to a third thesis referred to as a synthesis. Although Hegel did not use the term synthesis or directly propose this approach—it is based on the work of Johann Gottlieb Fichte ← 5 | 6 → (1762–1814) and influenced by Immanuel Kant (Kaufmann, 1988)—it has become known as Hegel’s dialectic. John and Ellis McTaggart (2000) go as far as saying that “this idea of the synthesis of opposites is perhaps the most characteristic in the whole of Hegel’s system” (p. 8). Notwithstanding conflicting claims in relation to the dialectical method, in his own writing Hegel did support an approach of seeing each stage of argument as partially true and partially untrue and proposed the preservation of supportable portions of hypotheses and antitheses while overcoming the limitations of each to view a “totality” or “whole” (Spencer & Krauze, 1996).

Despite providing some informative insights, Hirst and Harrison conclude by the fourth chapter of their 14-chapter book that there is a “decidedly dystopian tint to rose-coloured video screens” of those who advance utopian or optimistic views, and dismiss most outright (2007, p. 74). Evidence confirms that there are indeed dystopian aspects of the internet and emergent media, but this statement, and other similar dismissals of particular views, reveal what social researchers Norman Denzin and Yvonna Lincoln describe as “the rush to theorize” (2008, p. 209). This is often undertaken within particular theoretical and ideological frameworks without considering other disciplinary approaches and without fully analyzing all available data in a careful and reflexive way.

Many it seems seek to cloak their arguments with the intellectual mantle of the dialectical method, but fail to engage in the difficult third stage of forging a synthesis of knowledge or, in Hegel’s terms, moving to a “totality” or “whole” view that “preserves” and incorporates meritorious elements of ideas and arguments that are “overcome” in a new qualitatively transformed discourse (Spencer & Krauze, 1996). Alternatively, after promoting their thesis vigorously, some mount feeble ‘straw man’ arguments for any antithesis. Polarized views are advanced often as binary either-or arguments with more attention devoted to promoting and defending one or other than attempting to synthesize or dynamically integrate evidence and viewpoints. Binary thinking serves to maintain theoretical antagonisms or lead to monistic reductionism, neither of which is helpful.

W. James Potter in his 2009 text Arguing for a General Framework for Mass Media Scholarship points out that there have been more than 10,000 studies of mass media, but his analysis shows that most address specific and often narrow areas of theory or practice—what he calls “neighbourhoods.” Potter says scholars have become fixed in a perspective that foregrounds his or her special area of interest and blocks out a view of the larger phenomenon. He laments that “there are few published efforts at synthesizing part of this very large literature” ← 6 | 7 → (p. 12), and he calls for “reviews of the literature that synthesize the summaries from across neighbourhoods” (p. xv).

This book draws together a wide range of research findings from various disciplines and fields, and, importantly, it attempts to move beyond polarized views on media and communication towards an integrated synthesized perspective. It navigates this challenging terrain in two stages. First, it notes varying philosophical and ideological worldviews that stand behind and frame different perspectives in order to contextualize arguments. Analysis then endeavours to synthesize these in the Hegelian sense of identifying the “whole” or “total” picture, combining elements of both thesis and antitheses that stand up to scrutiny and the test of time. Potter defines synthesis as a process in which “literature on a topic is critically analyzed to reject faulty findings and bring forth credible findings into a second stage where those credible findings are organized into groups and the groups of findings calibrated by importance” (2009, p. 12). Synthesis is not easy, as various schools of thought vigorously argue and defend their theories and the issues are complex. Critics of dialectic approaches also note that selection of hypotheses and antitheses to analyze involves subjectivity and must proceed recognizing other possible arguments and outcomes. As Potter says: “The challenge of synthesis lies in calibrating the importance of existing ideas, such that some of these ideas are brought into the foreground while others are moved to the background context” (2009, p. 39). Also, as Ronald Deibert says in his historical media analysis Parchment, Printing, and Hypermedia:

The poverty of many existing, mostly speculative analyzes of the ‘information revolution’ reveals the inherent difficulties of assessing sweeping changes as they unfold. Without the confidence of hindsight and with no God’s-eye vantage point, theory becomes an essential, though necessarily context-bound, tool by which to bring order to the apparent chaos that floods from abrupt ruptures in social and political institutions (1997, p. 17).

Nevertheless, it is important to move on from findings of thousands of ‘neighbourhood’ research studies of media, many of which are conflicting or ambivalent, to what Potter calls a “mapping phenomenon perspective” that he says has five characteristics: making a critical assessment of existing theories; getting past categorical compartmentalized thinking to a confluence of ideas; seeking depth rather than breadth; favouring convergence over divergence; and focussing on the big picture (Potter, 2009, pp. 20–24).

One example of an attempt to move beyond the fragmented research approach critiqued by Potter and take a more holistic view of media is provided ← 7 | 8 → by Natalie Fenton (2007), who has proposed productively combining political economy and cultural studies approaches. This analysis attempts to go further and draws on four major theoretical approaches to media and public communication—political economy, cultural studies, medium theory and media as practice—and, while not being able to explore each fully, utilizes analytical frameworks and insights of each approach. As Denis McQuail notes, “there is no reason to waste much time on boundary disputes” (2007, p. xxi). Indeed, such approaches are largely unproductive and only serve to confuse and polarize. Transtheoretical analysis and what business analysts call the ’30,000 feet view’ can help facilitate identification of patterns and inform a comprehensive integrated understanding of media trends, issues and implications.

There have been many books and papers written about media developments occurring in the early 21st century caused by digitization and convergence7 (e.g., Jenkins, 2006; Lievrouw & Livingstone, 2002, 2005; Lister et al. (2009); Siapera, 2012), and many of these are cited in this text. However, a key argument of this book is that, in parallel with and because of digitization and convergence, there is an even more significant development occurring—emergence. Forms of media, genre, content and communication practices are not only converging, which denotes a blurring of boundaries and a merging in terms of delivery systems and format, but they are becoming emergent. As occurs in emergent systems in DNA, biology and artificial life, some media and systems of communication are mutating, becoming self-organizing, and evolving into wholly new forms—not simply yielding to externally imposed changes to become recombinant forms of existing systems. Convergence, digitization, hybridization, disintermediation and disaggregation, which are discussed in this book, are important, but they are predominantly processes of reforming and rearranging existing content and practices. They are largely repackaging. Even more significantly and beyond these developments, new forms of media and communication practice with characteristics, properties and potentialities unlike their predecessors are emerging out of the stew of convergent media ecosystems and colliding commercial, social and cultural practices. It is these emergent properties that need to be understood, as they lead to identification of where and how life as we know it is changing. Some changes when examined in isolation seem small and insignificant. But as John Holland notes, a key feature of emergence is “the whole is more than the sum of the parts in these generated systems” (1998, p. 225).

Emergent media owe as much to chaos theory as to evolutionary systems theory. Outcomes are often unpredictable. Also, because emergent forms of life often exist initially at the edges of civilization and at the edge of our consciousness, ← 8 | 9 → they frequently remain unseen or unappreciated for some time. For instance, mobile/cell phone companies never envisaged that SMS (Short Message Service) text messages would be more popular than voice communication in many markets because of a ground-up bifurcation led by teenagers. It was never envisaged that the internet, which originated as a closed military and scientific experiment,8 would become a near ubiquitous global interactive public network. Even Bill Gates who predicted the development of global communications networks and “a computer on every desk and in every home” (Microsoft, 2013) did not recognize as recently as 1995 that the internet would become the backbone of global communications for media, business and personal use. In The Road Ahead, co-written with Microsoft computer scientist Nathan Myhrvold and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Peter Rinearson, Gates (1995) predicted that proprietary global networks, including MSN (The Microsoft Network) would lead the way. Within a year, Gates retracted this view, ordering Microsoft to become “an internet company” and issuing an extensively revised edition of The Road Ahead (Gates, 1996). Even Bill Gates did not see the potential of the internet initially. Nor did Rupert Murdoch, as he admitted in a keynote address in New York in 2005 (Murdoch, 2005).

Emergent properties have the potential to trigger radical change and seismic shifts within ecosystems. In media and public communication, they necessitate a paradigm shift in thinking and practice, not simply an adjustment or realignment. Simply moving 30-second commercials designed for television to the internet is not going to be effective. Nor will posting corporate news releases and product brochure information into blogs. E-democracy will not occur simply by setting up a Web site, wiki or consultation blog and hoping citizens will come and participate. Passionate blogging does not make journalism, and blog content cannot simply be dropped into other media. Jumping on the bandwagon of emergent media and communication technologies without understanding them can lead to wasted resources and even reputation damage, as some governments, companies and organizations have found. On the other hand, missing the bandwagon can be just as damaging because of opportunities lost. For instance, journalism cannot bury its collective head in the sand and ignore the voices of millions of ‘citizen journalists’ and the depleting readership, viewership and listenership of printed and broadcast mass media. Nor can marketers ignore the mouse-clicking fingers of fragmenting and diminishing mass markets. Similarly, policy makers and politicians cannot ignore new forms of organization and forums of discussion that are now more popular than the largest political parties. ← 9 | 10 →

In summary, this text sets out with four ambitious but important goals. First, it seeks to bring some clarity to media and communication terminology to level the otherwise lumpy and confusing terrain and thus allow a more informed and inclusive debate to ensue. Second, it endeavours to cut through and dismantle the hype and ‘cyberbole’ that create unrealistic expectations and explode some of the myths about communications technology and so-called cyberspace. Third, it identifies the various philosophical and ideological positions that frame debate on media and public communication to reveal the aperture which they set and, taking a holistic view, attempts to assemble an integrated picture of the dynamic mediascape of the early 21st century. Then, it devotes focused chapters to analyzing the specific changes that are occurring and their implications for businesses and organizations, for politics and government, for journalism, for advertising, for other media and public communication practices such as public relations, and for communities and culture generally.

It could be argued that this is too broad a scope for one book and it is acknowledged that understanding emergent media in each of these fields and practices is an ongoing endeavour that requires further specialist examination. However, practices in these fields are fundamentally interconnected and interdependent. The future of journalism is as much determined by the future of advertising, by media business models that may or may not emerge, by public relations, and by community practices such as ‘citizen media’ as it is by developments within journalism. Similarly, the public sphere and civil society are fundamentally shaped by changes in journalism, by advertising and public relations—and vice versa. In industrialized capitalist societies, the influence and behaviour of organizations such as corporations, institutions, government agencies and non-government organizations (NGOs), and the interactions between them and citizens, shape the ideoscape, ethnoscape and mediascape, as well as the technoscape and finanscape (Appadurai, 1990). Narrow specialized studies of media as a discipline or field, and studies of particular fields of public communication practice such as journalism, while providing specific insights, fail to show the interconnectedness and interdependencies that exist. A holistic approach recognizes and demonstrates how media and various media practices such as journalism, advertising, public relations, and business and organizational communication are significantly inter-connected and collocated within economies, politics and sociology.

This analysis is informed by a wide range of research in the US, UK, Europe, Asia and Australia, particularly recent studies because of the fast-changing dynamic nature of emergent media. While giving due emphasis to research in the world’s largest markets such as the US, UK and major European ← 10 | 11 → countries, the most rapid growth in use of online media and some of the most significant developments are occurring in Asia, the Middle East and Australia, which is among the most online countries in the world. In 2012, Australia’s internet usage rate was approaching 90 per cent of the adult population, compared with 78 per cent in the US and 84 per cent in the UK (Internet World Statistics, 2012). Australia’s online connectedness is exceeded only by a handful of much smaller, highly developed European countries (see Figure 1.1). Even more importantly in terms of this analysis, Nielsen research in 2011 reported that Australia had the highest use of social media in the world, with the average Australian spending seven hours and 17 minutes a month using these media (Nielsen/NM Incite, 2011).9 Australia’s vast distances and the remoteness of many communities make electronic communication popular and even essential. Hence, several Australian research studies are reported and analyzed, along with US, UK, European, New Zealand and also Asian research. While China had an internet penetration rate of only 40 per cent of its population in 2012, this amounted to 538 million users (CINIC, 2012)—more than double the 245 million internet users in the US. Despite warnings about the ‘Great Firewall of China,’ the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has some of the fastest-growing and most popular internet sites in the world. New forms of media and online networks are also being used in significant ways in a number of South-East Asian and Middle East countries, and research and experiences in these regions will also be examined to provide an international perspective.

Figure 1.1. Internet penetration rates as a percentage of the population (Source: Internet World Statistics, 2012). ← 11 | 12 →

While newspaper readership, TV viewing and, in some cases, radio listening are declining in many markets, use of new forms of online media is growing exponentially. There were more than 2.4 billion internet users worldwide as at 30 June 2012 (Internet World Statistics, 2012). While growth is slowing in the US with market maturation, worldwide usage of the internet is continuing to escalate, particularly in Asia, the Middle East and Africa (see Figure1. 1). A large number of those online are users of what are termed social media and social networks. The world’s leading social network, Facebook, passed the historic milestone of one billion active users in October 2012. Significantly, more than 80 per cent of these are outside the US and Canada (Facebook Newsroom, 2013). The largest social network in China, QZone, owned by the publicly-listed Tencent group, had 600 million users in 2012, according to statistics published by The Realtime Report (2012). While less popular, Renren is regarded as China’s Facebook and had 172 million active users in late 2012 (Renren, 2012). The world’s largest video sharing site, YouTube, had more than 1 trillion video views in 2011—70 per cent from outside the US—and in 2012 more than four billion hours of video a month were being viewed on YouTube (YouTube, 2013). Another 100 million Chinese internet users access local video sharing sites such as Youku Tudou (CINIC, 2012). The world’s leading microblogging site, Twitter, had more than 500 million registered users in mid-2012, although only 140 million of these were active users, according to Paris-based social media analysis firm Semiocast (2012). The highest Twitter usage rate in the world in 2012 was in Jakarta, Indonesia, followed by Tokyo. In fact, of the 20 cities in the world with the highest number of tweets in 2012, only six were in the US, one was in Canada (Toronto) and only one was in the UK (London). Other prominent sites of ‘tweeting’ were Sao Paulo in Brazil, Bandung in Indonesia, Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Istanbul in Turkey, Madrid in Spain, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and Seoul in South Korea (Semiocast, 2012). China’s leading microblogging site, Sina Weibo, passed 400 million users in mid-2012 (Sina, 2012), with strong growth predictions. Given criticism by some analysts that Twitter’s registered user statistic does not reflect active usage, Sina Weibo may, in fact, be the leading microblogging site in the world.

These and other statistics show that it is essential to recognize the 21st century media (r)evolution as a global phenomenon and to examine the development and use of new forms of media internationally. Qualitatively also, international analysis is vital, as some of the most significant applications of social networks, blogging and microblogging, video and photo sharing and other online media are occurring in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Oceania ← 12 | 13 → where these tools are used to facilitate democracy movements, emergency communication during earthquakes, tsunamis and bushfires, and connect isolated individuals and communities.

Figure 1.2. Internet users worldwide (Internet World Statistics, 2012).

← 13 | 14 →


XII, 486
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2020 (May)
Media social media new media mass communication journalism the public sphere skeptics convergence China advertising public relations
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 486 pp.

Biographical notes

Jim Macnamara (Author)

Jim Macnamara, PhD, FPRIA, FAMI, CPM, FAMEC is Professor of Public Communication at the University of Technology, Sydney. Prior to becoming an academic, he had a distinguished 30-year career in professional communication practice spanning journalism, public relations, and media research. He is the author of 12 scholarly and professional books on media and communication including Media and Male Identity: The Making and Remaking of Men and Public Relations Theories, Practices, Critiques. After completing undergraduate and Masters degrees in journalism and media studies, he gained his Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Western Sydney.


Title: The 21st Century Media (R)evolution
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500 pages