The Irrevocable Alteration of Communication: A Glimpse into the Societal Impact of Digital Media

The Irrevocable Alteration of Communication: A Glimpse into the Societal Impact of Digital Media

Elizabeth (Betsy) A. Baker (University of Missouri, USA), Arwa Alfayez (University of Missouri, USA), Christy Dalton (University of Missouri, USA), Renee Smith McInnish (University of Missouri, USA), Rebecca Schwerdtfeger (University of Missouri, USA) and Mojtaba Khajeloo (University of Missouri, USA)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 33
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8310-5.ch005
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Abstract

In our digital society, the ability to communicate has irrevocably changed. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a glimpse into the impact of digital media on society, specifically digital communication. This glimpse is framed in terms of four characteristics of digital communication: product/ion, semiotic, public, and transitory. Issues are examined that relate to the democratization and monopolization of communication, who has access, the persistent Spiral of Silence, privacy, cyber bullying, identity theft, the ethereal being captured, as well as education and new literacies. Methodological gaps are noted in the research corpus and suggestions are proposed regarding the need for timeliness, support for a comprehensive span of research paradigms, and representation of a full range of populations. Finally, implications and recommendations are explored for civic engagement, commerce, education, and policy.
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Introduction

Communication is core to human existence. Throughout time and civilizations, humans consistently created varied forms of communication. Ancient civilizations created cave drawings, petroglyphs, pictograms, cuneiform, hieroglyphs, and alphabets. More recently, civilizations created newspapers, magazines, telephones, and radio. The ability to share ideas, emotions, desires, and plans, to mention a few reasons we communicate, is the essence of the human experience. The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the societal impact of digital media on communication. We view society, digital media, and communication as dynamic entities that are inextricably intertwined and continually impact one another. Therefore, we examine both the impact of society and digital media on communication as well as the impact of digital communication on society. To manage this broad and varied topic our discussion is framed in terms of four characteristics of digital communication: product/ion, semiotic, public, and transitory (Baker, 2001). We define and illuminate each characteristic by exploring research related to exemplars. Issues emerge regarding the democratization and monopolization of communication, access to digital communication, persistent Spiral of Silence, online ethics and safety, ethereal captured while privacy is compromised, and education. Methodological gaps are evident in the extant research corpus. Implications are discussed and recommendations are made for local and global civic engagement, commerce, education and policy. We acknowledge that other frameworks, constructs, and exemplars can be used to understand digital communication. Our goal is not to provide a comprehensive or conclusive discussion of digital communication but to provide fodder for grappling with this timely and emerging topic.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collective Intelligence: Collective intelligence is the phenomenon that emerges when large pools of individuals share, collaborate, and compete thus formulating intelligence that was unattainable by individuals. Examples include collective political action, collective funding, collective medicine, and collective reviews.

New Genres: New genres refer to categories of digital communication that provide unique affordances. Examples include text messages, email, and social networks. Text messages have communication affordances dissimilar to email or social networks.

New Literacies: New literacies refer to the abilities needed to communicate with digital media in ways that were non-existent in a pre-digital era. Examples include the abilities to find online information, use hyperlinks, and compose multimedia texts.

New Pedagogies: New pedagogies refer to the abilities needed to teach with digital media in ways that were impractical or non-existent in a pre-digital era. Focus is placed on the affordances of technology to support learning that were impractical or non-existent in pre-digital era. Examples include using social media to foster the development of a community of learners, asynchronous conversations with a worldwide group of learners and experts to forge collective intelligence, and situating learners in authentic settings via virtual reality.

Spiral of Silence: Spiral of Silence is the phenomenon in which people do not talk about topics that are perceived as unpopular or anticipated to be ill received.

Ethereal Captured: Ethereal captured is the phenomenon whereby conversations, actions, and settings that lack substance are electronically captured. When the ethereal is captured, what lacked substance (e.g. conversations, actions, settings) is instantiated and becomes available for replay and dissemination.

Transitory: Transitory is the characteristic of being fleeting, temporary; something that lasts a short time.

Web 3.0: Term coined in 2006 by John Markoff of the New York Times to characterize a paradigm shift in the evolution of the Web from dispensary (Web 1.0) to interactive (Web 2.0) to reciprocal (Web 3.0) whereby instead of users reading the Web, as done with Web 1.0 and 2.0, the Web also reads the users. Examples include cookies, algorithms, and artificial intelligence that personalizes what users receive as they explore the Internet.

Verbocentric: Verbocentric refers to phenomena that are dominated by words. Examples include oral language and alphabetic print media.

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