IAT 811 – Week 10, Mass Media

In the chapter entitled Mass Media, written by John Durham Peters, from the book Critical Terms for Media Studies by W.J.T. Mitchell and Mark B.N.Hansen, the different facets of mass media are looked at and compared. For example, mass media is dissected and its components studied: mass communication, mass address, and mass production.

It’s interesting to make the distinction between mass address and mass communication, although once reading through that passage in the chapter it appears very much obvious and intuitive; reaching a broad audience (mass address) doesn’t necessarily guarantee a message has reached the largest target audience. Just like broadcasting NHL hockey game scores in China may not necessarily guarantee that a broad enough audience will sit and listen.

One interesting point that was made was the whole notion of context, or contextual communication. It is easy to think that in this age of context (read Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy, by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel for a much more in depth understanding) where sensors, big data, geolocation, the mobile platform, and social media all come together to form a superpower of technology and media, that we are paving new roads into socioeconomics with post-human undertones and thus plotting new ground.

However, as John Durham Peters points out, a contextual message format is as old as the hills. From Biblical references of Christian disciples who catered their message to the specific region that they were in, to the age of the dawn of the printing press, it is clear that context has always been in the mind of those disseminating a message.

With this in mind it becomes easy to look back on the era of broadcast radio and television as a step backwards with the Internet bringing us back from a dark age of loss of context where mass address was either partially or wholly disconnected from mass communication – how many commercials during the two minute break from your favorite sitcom were meant for you?

Using this reference to a television show as a segue, the exhibit entitled Breaking News: Turning the Lens on Mass Media is a piece that has artists painting a different picture of news media from the decades, much like an artist creates a stylized perspective of a photo or a subject that stays stationary for a painting. The piece is considered to be fairly shocking, political, and questioning of perspective. The piece is meant to invoke thought, remind people of events that have happened in our past and make a commentary on mass media. So, with this piece using snippets of television and photography, does the mass address form a one-to-one relationship with the mass communication?

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