The intricate nature of media consumption and communication is a characteristic not necessarily caused by on today’s hyper-mediated world. Rather, it is a product of media and communication phenomena indigenous to the very act of communication. As communication and media studies entered the academic landscape, it evolved into several iterations, both quantitative and qualitative in nature. Lacking in equilibrium, the qualitative purveyors of media and communication in academia latched onto the contextual aspects of communication acts and, as radio and television permeated the post-World War II landscape, the richness of these mediums – and the subsequent rise of the modern conception of media, e.g., visual and aural entertainment and news – lent a certain legitimacy to contextually heavy evaluations of communications.
The quantitative guardians of media and communication applied acts of communication to linear and measurable frameworks, many of these consisted of concrete actors, concrete and consistent executions, bringing about a perceived notion of predictability in the communication sphere.
One of the most poignant lessons learned from the storied past of media and communications studies, is the ousting of the hypodermic needle model’s reign. As media platforms and the consumption of media evolved after World War II, media and communication academics discovered the dormant intricacies of communication that came to life amid the advent of richer mediums of communication. They also witnessed the increased exposure, access and facility of these new mediums. Additionally, communication and media theory witnessed the slow introduction of intermediaries, such as Stuart Hall’s encoding-decoding model and Paul Lazarsfeld and Elihu Katz’s opinion leader.
Pure linearity cannot accurately depict the multifaceted nature of media consumption (both in its antiquated and contemporary manifestations); yet, as communication and media scholars began to move communication outside of a purely linear framework, the move toward quantitative analysis posed problems as well. Communications and media programs began “philosophizing mass communications” (Park; Pooley p.149), applying principle and frameworks that may have worked to undermine the social pragmatics of communication and media consumption. (Park; Pooley, Ch. 5)
Today’s media environment upholds these antiquated relics of mass communication and media theory, i.e., the qualitative and quantitative panoramas of communication, by melding them (or attempting to meld them) into a contemporary cybernetics model. Additionally, the rapid changes in the way we communicate lead to volatility in the way we study communication.
Today’s media environment has encouraged layman and academics alike to look at and analyze communication and the media through a lens that can account for the social implications of communication (which first garnered particular attention during the era of wartime propaganda, yet has found a resurgent legitimacy within the sphere of new media, etc.), the idiosyncratic methods by which media is consumed, the pragmatics and logic that constitute the building blocks for communication, among the numerable other intricacies that serve as a facet to communications and media.
Park, D. W., & Pooley, J. (2008). The history of media and communication research: contested memories. Berne: Peter Lang.