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The Rise and Fall of Mass Communication


William L. Benoit and Andrew C. Billings

Mass communication theories were largely built when we had mass media audiences. The number of television, print, film or other forms of media audiences were largely finite, concentrating people on many of the same core content offerings, whether that be the nightly news or a popular television show. What happens when those audiences splinter? The Rise and Fall of Mass Communication surveys the aftermath of exactly that, noting that very few modern media products have audiences above 1–2% of the population at any one time. Advancing a new media balkanization theory, Benoit and Billings neither lament nor embrace the new media landscape, opting instead to pinpoint how we must consider mass communication theories and applications in an era of ubiquitous choice.
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Chapter Six “Don’t Tell Me; I’m Not Caught Up!”: Death of the Watercooler



“Don’t Tell Me; I’m NotCaught Up!”: Death of theWatercooler

It has been said that talking about music is like dancing about architecture. The formats of style fail to match. Doing so is difficult—and yet people have attempted to talk about music since the beginning of the mass produced written word. Why? Because when a musical piece of art enters one’s atmosphere, it seemingly demands to be acknowledged. The experience urges the listener to share. The remedy to this communicative mismatch becomes readily apparent, as the song is short enough (typically three to four minutes), that it becomes easier to spread word of a song by asking someone to listen to it—or be re-listening to it along with a friend.

Other media formats demand ramifications as well, yet are more easily discussed than music, hence the book club or the Twitter dissection of a noteworthy political convention speech. However, there are still media events that rise above more casual fare. We repeatedly ascribe to the notion that the revolution will be televised, and there is nothing quite like a movie or TV show depicting a moment where everyone is witnessing the same event with fixed eyes on the same moment—the shot of global persons each transfixed by a bar or restaurant screen has become symbolic for the epic mediated moment in which all must care. Personal moments that are key in an individuals’ life are important, to be sure, yet the key moments are...

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