Deciphering Impediments Unwittingly

people who tune in to mass messages may themselves interfere with the success of the mass communication process. Such interference is known as a filter.

If someone doesn’t understand the language or symbols that a communicator uses, the communication process becomes flawed. It is a matter of an individual lacking enough information to decipher a message. This deficiency is called an informational filter. This filter can be partly the responsibility of the communicator, whose vocabulary may not be in tune with the audience. More often, though, filters are a deficiency in the audience.

There are also physical filters. When a receiver’s mind is dimmed with fatigue, a physical filter may interfere with the communication process. A drunk whose focus fades in and out suffers from a physical filter. A multitasker who watches television while surfing the web may not have his or her full attention on either medium. Mass communicators have little control over physical filters.

Psychological filters also interfere with communication. Conservative evangelist James Dobson and Parkinson’s patient Michael J. Fox, for example, likely would decode a message on stem cell research far differently.

The Hiebert, Ungurait, and Bohn model has been incredibly useful in diagramming the process of mass communication—that is, until new technologies ushered in the Internet transformed a lot of mass communication.

2.6.4 21st-Century Models 1. Objective: Determine how gatekeeping functions on the Internet

Scholars again are at work on devising models to help explain the new mass communication. Clearly, the coding of Internet messages has become largely automated. There are no typesetters or press operators. Nor are there broadcast control room engineers. Gatekeeping is minimal. Bloggers blog unfettered, and smartphones and YouTube allow for almost unchecked personal control. Gatekeeping is more difficult now that the ability to transmit messages to mass audiences is so easy and so unrestricted. The closest that Facebook comes to editing user content are anonymous monitors whose controls are so light-fingered as to be almost nonexistent, except in the case of hate speech and serious threats. Governments have scratched the surface on transnational copyright issues, but largely the governments of Western countries have delayed in trying to apply old regulation models to the Internet.

One of the most significant reasons why gatekeeping is no longer as viable is because the Internet is so decentralized. There are no central sources that can be regulated—no newsroom, no production centers, no presses. In some ways, it’s a free-for-all. One useful way to envision the Internet is to think of old telegraph communication in the 1800s, in which messages went from Point A to Point B. In the 1900s, technology ushered in an explosion of mass communication. Radio, for example, picked up on the mass communication model of print media. Messages went from a single Point A to many, many recipients—magazine readers by the millions, radio listeners by the millions, and television viewers by the millions. That was the process that Hiebert, Ungurait, and Bohn’s concentric circle model captured so well.

In the 21st century, with the Internet, the process of communication is no longer linear; rather, all points theoretically can connect to all other points. In other words, mass communication on the Internet involves a web of interactive messages reaching an incalculable number of points, which in part is why the term World Wide Web came to be.

Watch Web Communication. Web communication shifts much of the control of the communication through the mass media to the recipient, turning the traditional process of mass communication on its head. Receivers are no longer hobbled to sequential presentation of messages, as on a network television newscast. Receivers can switch almost instantly to dozens, hundreds even, of alternatives through a weblike network that, at least theoretically, can interconnect every recipient and sender on the planet.

Writing Prompt Applying Your Media Literacy – Technology and Mass Communication

How has the technology underlying the Internet rendered early mass communication models obsolete?

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