Channels of communication have evolved significantly since the pre-industrial era when smoke, drums and messengers were used to pass important messages from one person to another. As human intelligence increased, better modes of communication such as radio, television and telephones were developed and the quality of life improved substantially. In the past two decades, however, the New Media has surpassed other modes of communication. The New Media refers to computer and internet-based channels of communication (Flew, 2002). The New Media has not only changed the way in which people communicate but also how lectures are conducted, how healthcare services are delivered, how businesses are conducted and how personal relationships are formed. In short, the New Media has transformed lives.
The New Media transcends geographical boundaries. The internet and other web-based communication channels enable people from different parts of the world to communicate instantly irrespective of their different time zones. A person who has access to a computer and internet can order and pay for a product or service from a different continent through ebay. In addition, this web-based tool enables users to quickly search for a desired product or service at the touch of a button or a click of the mouse. This is unlike traditional forms of communication such as face-to-face in which one has to travel to the place where the product is located to purchase and pay for it (Foreword, 2001). In addition, a user searching for a desired product would take hours or days before finding it. The New Media therefore increases efficiency in the delivery of services.
The ability of the New Media to solve the geographical constraints is the major reason behind virtual communities, such as virtual classrooms and virtual offices. In virtual classrooms, a person located in one continent can enroll for a course in a different continent. The student can then learn through distance learning with the use of web-based tools instant messaging. “These tools enable students to interact with their instructors and other students and to obtain learning materials despite their different geographical locations,” (Li and Pitts, 2009, p.182). The same thing happens in virtual offices whereby firms can employ people virtually. The work is done and sent through the internet. In most cases, the virtual employees and their employers hardly know each other but only communicate through the web-based tools. This is not possible in the traditional modes of communication which mandate that the students and instructors and the employees and employers be in the same physical location in order for them to conduct their businesses (Thompson, 1995).
The New Media transcends social boundaries. New Media devices such as Facebook and blogs make it possible for people from different social, economic and cultural boundaries to interact freely without any barriers. Through Facebook, for instance, it is possible for a teenager based in Africa to interact freely with the President of the United States or other dignitaries based in other continents. It is also possible to interact with celebrities from across the globe. This is not possible using the traditional modes of communication which are characterized by many barriers. For instance, if a person wishes to speak with a President in person, he or she will have to go through a long bureaucratic process in the name of security. Likewise, a letter sent to a President will have to be read by his assistants and security officials to ensure that it does not pose any danger to the President. Such constraints are eliminated by the New Media (Preston, 2001).
The New Media, unlike the traditional media, is also characterized by a high degree of interactivity. Whereas the traditional channels of communication are characterized by “a one-to-one interactivity or a one-to-many interactivity, the New Media is characterized by a many-to-many interactivity mode” (Rafaeli, 1988, p.110). The web-based tools, such as Facebook and blogging, make it possible for many people to interact at the same time. The New Media has also played a key role in relationships. It is possible to find long lost loved ones and former classmates within a few minutes. This is because the tools make use of their search engines to search for any requested information. The results are often displayed in a matter of seconds. This is highly impossible in traditional modes of communication which would take days and even years to find a long-lost loved one.
The New Media, despite its many benefits, has a major disadvantage. New Media tools hinder the development of personal relationships. People are easily addicted to the New Media devices such as iPod and computer games (Feldman, 1997). As a result, adults and children alike prefer to engage in these communication devices at the expense of having real social relations with those around them. On the other hand, since communication is done through machines and tools, it is not possible for the sender and receiver to see each other, hear each other or share emotions. This is different in traditional communication channels such as face-to-face and telephone in which people can share emotions while communicating. Despite this limitation, it remains an indisputable fact that the New Media has transformed lives and made the world significantly smaller.
- Feldman, T., 1997. An Introduction to digital media. London: Routledge.
- Flew, T., 2002. New Media: An Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Foreword, M.L., 2001. The language of New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press.
- Li, L., and Pitts, J.P., 2009. Does it really matter? Using virtual office hours to enhance student-faculty interaction. Journal of Information Systems Education, 20(2), 175-185.
- Preston, P., 2001. Reshaping communications: Technology, information and social change. London: Sage.
- Rafaeli, S., 1988. Interactivity: From new media to communication. Beverly Hills: McGraw-hill.
- Thompson, J.B., 1995. The media and modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.