Media Technology

Study Preview Technology is integral and foundational to mass communication. If not for the technology of printing presses, books as we know them wouldn’t exist. New technologies, such as the Internet and communication technologies reliant upon the web for dissemination of mass communication, are changing the way all communication occurs, including mass communication. Some of this change is positive, including extended reach across a broad audience and increased control among users. But new technologies have also ushered in an era of new challenges, such as message distortion and online incivility.

Learning Objectives By the end of this module you will be able to:

  1. 2.1.1 Differentiate interpersonal communication from mass communication
  2. 2.1.2 Summarize the evolution of media technology

2.1.1 Technology Dependence 1. Objective: Differentiate interpersonal communication from mass


One defining characteristic of mass communication is its reliance on technology. People can communicate face-to-face, which is called interpersonal communication, without technological assistance. For centuries, people communicated in large groups, as in town-hall meetings and concert halls, without microphones—just the human voice, albeit sometimes elevated to extraordinary volume. For mass communication, however, with audiences much more wide-ranging than those in the largest auditorium, machinery based on some type of technology is necessary. Technologies such as microphones, overhead projectors, printing presses, and ink have long been

used in mass communication, but increasingly mass communication is taking on a vastly different form, relying on vastly different types of technologies.

2.1.2 Evolving Media Landscape 1. Objective: Summarize the evolution of media technology

Media technology, the product of human invention, exists in several forms, each one distinctive. Specific industries have been built around each of these technologies, and are then eventually replaced when new technologies emerge.

Evolving Media Technology Printing Technology

The printing press, developed in the 1440s, spawned the book, newspaper, and magazine industries. After centuries, these industries still exist largely in specialized niches in the media landscape, despite evidence that they are quickly being overtaken by newer technologies.

Chemical Technology

Photography and movies have relied on chemical technology throughout most of their history. This also is technology that soon may be a thing of the past, with smartphones, Single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras, and online publication.

Electronic Technology

The first of the electronic media, sound recording, actually preceded the widespread use of electricity. But with the electrical wiring of the United States in the early 1900s, sound recording quickly became an electrically powered medium. Radio was electrical early on. Television was electronic from the very


Digital Technology

Traditional mass media adapted to digital technology to varying degrees beginning in the first decade of the 21st century, but the industries built on the original printing, chemical, and electronic forms remain largely distinctive. Book companies like HarperCollins still produce books. CBS is still primarily in the television business. The distinctive newest medium built on digital technology is the Internet, leading to a frenzy of more traditional companies built on older technologies to find ways of capitalizing on the new mediums. Consider how the Internet itself created entirely new categories of media companies. Think Facebook. Think Google. Think Wikipedia.

Meanwhile, printed and bound books are still with us. So too are local television networks, Paramount Pictures, and talk radio, despite a number of competing mediums.

Writing Prompt Applying Your Media Literacy – Media Technology

What do the four primary technologies of mass communication have in common?

The response entered here will appear in the performance dashboard and can be viewed by your instructor.

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