Communications theory dates to the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, but became a recognized academic field in the 1940s during World War II (Newby, Stepich, Lehman, & Russell, 1996). Media theorists have analyzed the development of new media and how they are connected to broader social evolution. These theories are useful to examine in regard to understanding computer learning environments as a new medium because they place it in a larger historical context. A tradition of scholarship focusing on communications effects led to research on media industries and military uses. Many scholars concentrate simply on the short-term effects of media (Klapper, 1960). However, others look at media more broadly, particularly in terms of the transmission of ideology. An important influence on media theory was the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s, where a theory showing the importance of communication in social life using ethnographic research methods to explore complex social interactions emerged.
This work was previously published in Encyclopedia of Distance Learning, Vol. 1, edited by C. Howard, J. Boettcher, L. Justice, K. Schenk, P. Rogers, and G. Berg, pp. 299-301, copyright 2005 by Information Science Reference (an imprint of IGI Global).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Critical Pedagogy: Focuses on political and economic issues of schooling such as the representation of texts and construction of subjective states of mind in the student; when applied to media education, it begins with an assessment of contemporary culture and the function of media within it.