History Repeats Itself!

History Repeats Itself – Mediamorphosis: Understanding New Media

Fidler, R. (1997). Mediamorphosis: understanding new media. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press

Is history repeating itself? I couldn’t help but notice points of commonality between the barriers which accompanied the emergence of certain communication technologies in the 19th century and early 20th century, and challenges facing the rise of social media tools as means of communication in our time. Roger Fidler’s Mediamorphosis: Understanding New Media discusses the challenges which faced early developing communication
technologies such as telegraph, telephony and radio, and which I intend to contrast
with the ones facing more recent communication technologies such as Facebook.

There comes a point in time when traditional communication systems are no longer adequate to deal with the rapidly increasing demands for faster exchanges of information. Often times, these demands inspire innovations, some of which with notable impact to our social, political, and economic systems as well as our cultural identities and perspectives.  Take for example the arrival of the telegraph technology (in the early to mid-19th century), and telephony a little later in the same century.  Some of the early challenges and barriers to entry were the high cost and value perception by people who suspected anyone is willing to pay the high price to sending few words between cities. But look where we are now? Other concerns were also expressed at first by businesses such as newspaper companies and by government officials who feared Morse’ code for example would encroach on its monopoly of the postal service business, and again look where we are now?

Similarly, with the increased popularity of social media tools such as Facebook came growing concerns about privacy issues, identity theft, cyber bullying, overload in information sharing and most important, frustration about effective marketing among many other issues.  However, with more than 600 million active users on Facebook since its launch in 2004, this generation confirms that the benefit of being connected online through social media tools far outweighs its risks and shortcomings.  I for example
hesitated to join Facebook until 2007. Like everyone else at first, I was reluctant and weary of the concept of granting “friends” access to my profile information, family photos, and daily updates! But slowly, my guard was let down. It was obvious that more and more people were willing to lead an open and transparent life style on the web, and I finally decided it to jump in and join in on the fun.

What’s most interesting is the direct influence these innovations such as the electricity, had on interpersonal media domain. By collapsing physical and psychological barriers of time and distance that had always limited human interactions, the telegraph and later the telephone greatly increased their user’s power to maintain relationships and to control
activities at a distance. This trend is incredibly comparable to the social and cultural impacts we witnessed with the arrival of Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and other digital communication tools. All of which brought people from across the globe even closer than ever before by connecting and forming relationships across vast distances and in real-time. While I didn’t get the fun in posting videos on You Tube at first, I now have many videos of my kids on You Tube to share with my family back home.  And while I certainly didn’t see the logic in behind Twitter when we had Facebook, I recently started appreciating its value in getting updates instantly during important events such as Obama’s visit to campus Seattle last year, the 2010 Microsoft Company meeting with all of the behind the scene dynamics being shared instantaneously on Twitter, and most important the most recent and wide-spread breaking news of Osama Bin Laden’s death.

In a nut shell, look how far we’ve come in terms of communication and social interaction. I asked, is history repeating itself? And my answer is this: There will always be barriers to overcome and reluctance of adoption of any new technology at first, but when these technologies start fulfilling uses and gratifications on some level, history will always repeat itself.

IMAGE SOURCE: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nlscotland/4699682840/

Creative Commons License – Attribution, Non-Commercial


1 Comment

  1. Ruba, thank you for the incredibly nice comment you left me! I’ve been out of town, otherwise – would have thanked you sooner. I thought your presentation was great as well. Cheers to being out of the hot seat 😎 -Joanna

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