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Digital Media

Transformations in Human Communication

Edited By Paul Messaris and Lee Humphreys

The age of digital media has given rise to a new social world. It is a world in which the transmission of information from the few to the many is steadily being supplanted by the multi-directional flow of facts, lies, and ideas. It is a world in which hundreds of millions of people are voluntarily depositing large amounts of personal details in publicly accessible databases. It is a world in which interpersonal relationships are increasingly being conducted in the virtual sphere. Above all, this is a world that seems to be veering off in unpredictable ways from the trends of the immediate past. This book is a probing examination of that world, and of the changes that it has ushered into our lives.

In more than thirty essays by a wide range of scholars, this must-have second edition examines the impact of digital media in six areas – information, persuasion, community, gender and sexuality, surveillance and privacy, and cross-cultural communication – and offers an invaluable guide for students and scholars alike. With one exception, all essays are completely new or revised for this volume.

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Preface (Paul Levinson)


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Paul Levinson

The revolution in digital media continues apace—and, actually, has far exceeded where it was in 2006, when the first edition of this anthology was published.

At the beginning of 2006, Twitter and YouTube had not yet come online, and Facebook was limited to educational institutions. My own essay about the cellphone said nothing about the iPhone, because it would not be released until 2007. Unlike the earlier Internet, in which much of the content was created the traditional way—such as recordings put up by record companies on iTunes and books by traditional publishers on Amazon—the new Internet, or what I have called “new new media,” placed production in the hands of everyone with an Internet connection. The consumer suddenly became, in the act of consumption, a producer as well.

The explosion in apps, produced in homes rather than labs, helped propel this process. And apps have in turn further revolutionized the Internet and our lives. To consider just one example, look at what Uber has done: people with that free app can summon a taxi, without a penny in their pockets, and be apprised of how soon to the minute the cab will arrive. The criticism of the digital world that it is divorcing us from the real world has never been more vividly disproven. The fact is that digital media, exemplified by Uber, are enabling us to better navigate our...

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