In the social field, the quality of exchanging information has really improved thanks to the birth of mass media.
What is mass media?
Mass media generally refers to artificial means and technologies, which improve human communication, destroying some limits of the face-to-face communication. Moreover, mass media are not just a social phenomenon but also a historical and cultural one.
Thanks to the invention of printing press by Gutenberg, printed word was the only true mass media for a long time, improving the communication level with the publication of books and newspapers.
News, produced much more easily began to be transmitted faster. But then, during the 19th century new inventions took place. They have allowed, on the one hand, to transport to remote content faster, on the other, to reach the public more widely.
Nevertheless, forms of persuasion reach both young people and adults. For instance, during the Second World War, another form of mass communication emerged, the propaganda, a type of persuasive advertisements.
According to H. D. Lasswell, pioneer of the Magic Bullet Theory, propaganda has the aim to persuade people. Like a bullet, propaganda can easily overcome people’s defence mechanisms, transforming their ideas and actions, through drawings, pictures and other devices.
However, the term “mass media” culminated in the post-Second World War, with the introduction of television and radio. Television allows the transmission of programs for entertainment, news, advertising or education. According to the sociologist R. Collins (1982), educational television is a learning tool for children. He argues that television can help young people understand social aspects of communication. However, social impacts can be negative because of violence: TV usually shows negative behaviours in a positive light. Consequently, children behave aggressively, using violence as a way to resolve problems.
Thanks to the birth of mass media, the 20th century was decisive for communication. During this century, a new important idea took place: the dissemination of information by the media should be in “real time“, that is to say that there should be a limited time interval, at the limit of perceptibility, between the message output and the receipt. This idea gave rise to several studies, having the aim to improve the level of mass media.
Despite the birth of new technologies, the impacts of mass-media on human beings still remain the same:
- the man is always learning from the written text: for instance, from papyrus to medieval manuscripts, the printed text and to modern hypertext;
- the man always learns through images (for instance from graffiti to photography and films);
- the electrical system of sounds and its mediating function is still the same.
What are these “new technologies”?
These new types of communication do not have a specific name: information and communications technologies (ICT) is the general term, which refers to the world of computers, telecommunications, televisions and telephones. ICT has an important role in communication: in modern society, it is ever-present all around people, in houses and schools because of the daily access to Internet through PC, tablets and smartphones.