Internet-related services and e-mail already are providing new possibilities for on-line public opinion polls
One of the corporate giants in the media world is Time Warner. Years ago, Warner Brothers produced films and Time produced a news magazine. Together, they are now also involved with other aspects of the media environment, including newspapers, magazines, television, cable television, radio, video games, telephones, and computers in the United States and around the world. Understanding why such a corporate giant was created is key to understanding the impacts of new media technologies: ‘Convergence’ of technical infrastructures is leading to consolidation of media products and services.
The Internet, or the Information Superhighway, with the World Wide Web (www), is the most recent development, which has the potential to offer any or all of the aforementioned media products and services through on-line information networks. Current Internet services are transmitted via computer-telephone connections, but explorations of other methods of transmissions are under way as well. Obviously, the corporate giants wish to be positioned to take their share of any new media offerings and to provide new delivery systems.
What technology will deliver news and entertainment, as well as other information and services, in the future remains an open question. Regardless of how the infrastructure question is decided, will the definition of ‘news’ remain the same? Because of the vast storage capacity of computers, the role of editors and gatekeepers may change. With the ability of computers to allow more personalized reception of news offerings, will the ‘newspaper’ still be considered a mass medium?
Internet-related services and e-mail already are providing new possibilities for on-line public opinion polls. But so far, such surveys are similar to volunteer call-in or write-in polls and are limited to Internet users. While the number of new Internet users grows daily; increasingly, on-line users are ‘decidedly mainstream,’ and for now, television is losing in their allocations of time. At the atomistic level, researchers have conducted ethnographic and clinical observation on how people relate to computers and how they may be reconstructing their basic sense of identity.
How will the traditional mass communication conceptualizations of diffusion of innovations, agenda- setting and agenda-building, cultivation, and mainstreaming help us to understand the new media environment? Is our new world more global or more local? Are we moving into Marshall McLuhan’s long-promised ‘global village’? Or is it a global megalopolis? Are we moving from UNESCO’s ‘many voices, one world’ to many worlds, one voice? These are some of the many questions that will occupy media researchers in the near future.