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)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3822-6.ch065
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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.

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