Leaving a Digital Environment and the Impact of Television as a Medium

The part of the reading that resonated most with me came from Floridi’s Information and the idea that we are creating a digital landscape that can alter social status, economic status and one’s place in the world, but also that we will create a landscape that will be left behind for generations behind us. Floridi talked about the merging of a sort of virtual reality with humanity and how they are overlapping as people create digital presences. But the idea that the digital world we’re creating could be something left as a legacy was something I had never really considered before. You hear about the morbid stories of a digital presence after someone dies. But this is on a much bigger scale, where the potential for online currency exists and where the digital divide could essentially decide the “haves” versus the “have nots” more than any state or national economy could. The idea of the digital divide is interesting because it also factors in different generations and rate of digital adoption. He specifically says “the digital divide will become a chasm, generating new forms of discrimination”…”It will redesign the map of worldwide society, generating or widening generational, geographic, socio-economic, and cultural divides” …”We are preparing the ground for tomorrow’s digital slums”. I honestly don’t know what else to say about this except that it made me think and is something to keep in mind. This requires almost taking a foreign policy type of mindset and applying it to the internet. How do you interact with online entities? How do you level the playing field? How do you help those in need?

Foulger talked a lot about the idea of the medium, and how medium becomes part of communication. It is not just the message, or the media, or the language. As we learned throughout all of the readings, all of these are interconnected and play their role in shaping how communication is understood between creators and consumers. But the idea that the medium can be an integral part of the message; that the medium we choose deliberately is every bit as important as the thought behind the message, is interesting in today’s media landscape. Obviously, different types of stories work best within different mediums; some can be adapted to fit other mediums, but it usually requires some manipulation. For example, taking a book and making it into a movie requires writing a screenplay that will make it usable for a visual medium. Longer stories work best on television where there is time to develop characters and storylines over a period of time. Television, in particular, seemed a good example of this new form of communication in today’s digital culture that Foulger talked about. He mentioned how with television, how people react is not necessarily instantly impactful to the show, but once viewers begin to talk about it together, they can affect the outcome. Also, since television reaches so many people at once, if something memorable enough happens on a show, then it can have “immediate and sweeping effects within social systems”.

I can think of a couple of examples of television making a big social impact, especially in the case of live news broadcasts. One big example is when tragic events occur on tape, and people can see it live, such as when the Challenger exploded or during 9/11. On 9/11, I was in a journalism class and got pulled into the library to watch the story unfold. While we were sitting there watching a reporter cover the first tower, a plane hit the second tower behind her – live. We watched her turn around and react to seeing it in person, and saw it unfold in real time. In the past, big events like this wouldn’t be actually viewed by the public. There could be arguments made to the benefit or detriment of the public seeing something like this unfold, but there’s no turning back on the availability of those images. People didn’t see Pearl Harbor happen. They read about it, or heard about it on the radio, but they didn’t actually see the explosions. In this case, the medium became a part of the message. The visual component made a strong impression, and the emotions that came from that could be used in tons of other kinds of media whether it was used for propaganda abroad, for persuasion domestically, or for entertainment purposes in movies about the war on terror.

For a lighter example, consider the finales of big shows like The Sopranos or Lost. The creators had put together a story and messages they wanted the consumers/audience to receive. However, both of those endings were left open for viewers to decide for themselves. Immediately, there were reactions across the country about the endings. They were highly anticipated; there were online cultures devoted solely to predicting what could or would happen. Once aired, the reactions came in and there was an immediate social impact. People either loved or hated the episodes and devoted a lot of time to explaining why or talking to others about it. In some cases, conversations about it opened minds or created new opinions. But also, with another new medium created in the time between the Sopranos and Lost, came another dimension to the experience. Now, people could instantly react on social media. They could tell their friends what they thought immediately – and in some cases, spoil others in different time zones on what was to come. They could speak directly to the creators and writers of the show, telling them exactly what they thought. With the mix of social media and television, the audience now can have a say. They can tell the powers that be when they don’t like something, and in some cases, they listen. On the Good Wife, creators of the show removed a character after so much public backlash on social media. It’s becoming like the communications models where messages are sent, received, processed, and sent back; the communication of entertainment can now be collaborative and a full communication loops as opposed to just sending out a message to be decoded.

Works Cited
Floridi “Information” Chapters 1-2

Davis Foulger “An Ecological Model of the Communication Process”. April 16, 2004. Brooklyn College/CUNY.