New Media – The advent of internet and its impact on our information space
In more recent years, technological innovation has again changed the face of mass media. Cable television, satellites, fiber-optic technologies, and especially computers have helped create an explosion in media products and formats. Ironically, much of this change has resulted in a move away from the mass broadcast audience toward smaller, more specialized niche populations – a process called “narrowcasting”. With computer technology, users combine the specialization of media products with interactivity to make choices, provide responses, and customize media products.
As with the introduction of television half a century ago, the emergence of new technologies holds out the possibility of significant social change. But it is important to iterate that changes in technology do not determine the evolution of media. Instead, technology is only one of a number of interacting factors that shape the development and uses of media.
The rise of the Internet is a case in point. Changes in computer technology were a necessary but not sufficient condition for the existence of the Internet. It took government financing and regulation to help organize and launch the Internet system, primarily out of universities. The Internet was originally conceived as a decentralized communications network capable of functioning after a nuclear attack on central locations such as Washington, D.C. Much of the funding to develop the Internet, therefore, came from public tax dollars through the Pentagon budget. This is a clear example of an external social institution directly influencing the development of technology. With more privatization, it may be that, rather than transporting information the Internet of the future will serve more as a “virtual mall”, with corporations trying new ways to sell us all sorts of products. The point is that, throughout the history of media, technology by itself has never led unambiguously in a specific direction; rather, broader social forces have changed the development and application of technological capabilities.