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War of the Worlds to Social Media

Mediated Communication in Times of Crisis


Edited By Joy Elizabeth Hayes, Kathleen Battles and Wendy Hilton-Morrow

Seventy-five years after the infamous broadcast, does War of the Worlds still matter? This book answers with a resounding yes! Contributors revisit the broadcast event in order to reconsider its place as a milestone in media history, and to explore its role as a formative event for understanding citizens’ media use in times of crisis. Uniquely focused on the continuities between radio’s «new» media moment and our contemporary era of social media, the collection takes War of the Worlds as a starting point for investigating key issues in twenty-first-century communication, including: the problem of misrepresentation in mediated communication; the importance of social context for interpreting communication; and the dynamic role of listeners, viewers and users in talking back to media producers and institutions. By examining the «crisis» moment of the original broadcast in its international, academic, technological, industrial, and historical context, as well as the role of contemporary new media in ongoing «crisis» events, this volume demonstrates the broad, historical link between new media and crisis over the course of a century.


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Forword: The Return of Radio


F O R E W O R D The Return of Radio MICHELE HILMES adio is back! The genesis of this volume, marking the 75th anniversary of the broadcast of the War of the Worlds and linking it to current modes and moments of media communication, illustrates a phenomenon that has recently become apparent worldwide: After nearly fifty years of scholarly and critical neglect, radio has returned to center stage, as a mode of cultural expression, as a model for new media forms, and as a subject of scholarly inquiry. Certainly radio itself never went away; all through the decades of its surrender of the central spot in the living room to television, and its transformation into a marketing wing of the popular music industry, we have loved and depended on radio. Radio sets proliferated, no longer in the living room but virtually everywhere else in the house and outside as well, especially in our cars, workplaces, social spots, and commercial spaces. And during moments of crisis, as this volume demonstrates, its flexibility and portability as a medium took it into places and situations that no other technology could. It became our main emergency medium, our daily standby, a role it continues to this day. Programs like War of the Worlds exemplify a particular kind of long-form radio “soundwork”: a sonic text that employs the basic aural elements of speech, music, and noise to create dramatic fictional or factual experiences, often a combination of both. Typically speech is the dominant...

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