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Only three modes of media exist, and each approximately dates an era in human civilization.
Interpersonal – This is the aboriginal media, arising .from basic animal communications, predating humans and technology. Interpersonal conversation is its basic form. It also is the most heavily-used communication mode. Technology, through such vehicles as postal letters, telephone calls, electronic mail, text messaging (SMS), etc., has merely extended its speed and reach. The hallmark characteristics of the Interpersonal mode of media are that each participant has equal and reciprocal control of the content conveyed and that the content can be individualized to each participant’s unique needs, interests, and tastes. That equal control, however, as well as individualization of the content, degrades into cacophony as the number of participants increases beyond two. Although some current marketers mistakenly refer to any online media as ‘one-to-one’ media, the only truly one-to-one media are those using the Interpersonal mode. (Marketer who use online technologies to market identical products to consumers, those products not designed from the onset with that individual consumer’s own unique needs in mind, is neither being interactive nor using the Interpersonal mode of media).
Mass – Many people mistake the Mass mode (in other words, the Mass Media) as a byproduct of technology and don’t realize how old it actually is. Like the Interpersonal mode, the Mass mode predates technology. Its earliest forms were the utterances and speeches of tribal leaders, kings, and priests. Like the Interpersonal, the Mass Medium isn’t necessarily dependent upon technology. For example, an actor or speaker can perform before the masses without any technology. Technology has merely extended its speed and its reach to global dimensions. Forms of the Mass mode include oratory, sermons, edicts, scriptures, theater, books, newspapers, billboards, magazines, cinema, radio, television, bulletin boards, and streaming media. The Mass mode generally conveys content from a single person’s viewpoint (an orator, actor, author, broadcaster, etc.) to many people simultaneously. Thus, the hallmark characteristics of the Mass mode are that exactly the same content goes to all recipients simultaneously and that the one who sends it has total control over the nature and substance of that content. The disadvantages of content sent in the Mass mode are that it cannot be individualized to each recipient’s unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes, and that the recipients have no control over that content.
Note that the Interpersonal and the Mass modes have reciprocal advantages and disadvantages. For millennia, people were limited to only those two modes of media. A person could deliver individualized content but generally just to one person at any time. Or a person could a message to many people simultaneously, but not individualize the contents for each individual recipient. However, there had been no way for millennia to deliver truly individualized content to many people simultaneously. That dilemma–a choice of either the customization of interpersonal or the reach of mass persisted until truly interactive computerized communication technologies recently arose:
Individuated – This is the true definition of the New Media (rather the inaccurate usage that too many media executives and media academicians apply, such as terming any new device or any new technology capable of conveying Interpersonal or Mass Media contents to be part of the New Media). Unlike the Interpersonal mode or the Mass mode, the Individuated mode arose quite recently, plus is entirely dependent upon technology. The hallmark characteristics of the Individuated mode are that individualized content can simultaneously be delivered to a potentially infinite number of people and that each person involved (whether publisher, broadcasters, or consumer) shares equal and reciprocal control over that content. In other words, the Individuated combines the advantage of Interpersonal and Mass but without their reciprocal disadvantages.
Although the Mass mode, in various forms such as oratory, sermon, edict, scripture, and theater, predates the Industrial Revolution, all three modes of media can be said to fit into three epochs in human history:
- The Interpersonal Media is associated with the the Agricultural Era.
- The Mass Media arose from, and is associated with, the Industrial Era.
- The Individuated Media arose from, and will be associated with, the Informational Era
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