Theories of New Media, Justice and Democracy

The Novelty and Utility in New Media

Abstract What differentiates contemporary media from their predecessors is not that they are social, as would seem to be the case owing to their common descriptor as “social media,” but that they create an opportunity for a new type of mediated sociability. They differ from the traditional media that dominated the twentieth century in four aspects: they provide an abundance of available information, channels over which this information can travel, and storage space in which information can be retained; they are mobile; they are interactive; and they allow multimedi- ated messages to be conveyed by users. These characteristics allow those that have the opportunity to use them the capability to communicate on richer levels that allow more presence. These features are at the heart of their democratic potential.

Keywords New media • Social media • Abundance • Mobility • Interactivity • Multimediality • Richness • Presence • Internet • Democracy

Communication is an act in which human beings interact and information is mediated. Whether communication is perceived within the so-called rhetorical (McCroskey & Richmond, 1996) or transmission traditions (Shannon & Weaver, 1954) or whether it is seen within the relational (McCroskey & Richmond, 1996) or ritual (Carey, 1989) schools, no

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016

Amit M. Schejter, N. Tirosh, A Justice-Based Approach for New Media

Policy, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-41510-9_2

communication takes place unless information is involved in the process as well. Indeed, one need not trivialize the distinction between these different theoretical approaches to the term communication, yet one cannot overlook the fact that the two are not contradictory but rather complementary. In a sense, just like Williams (1958/2014) acknowledges the existence of two distinct definitions of the word culture—a whole way of life as well as the arts and learning—yet “insist[s] on both and on the significance of their conjunction,” (Williams, 1958/2014, p. 3) we choose to look at both perspectives of the term communication—whether focusing on the process or on the relations between the communicators—and assert the importance of combining them, in particular because both require the recognition of the centrality of information to the mere existence of communications.

Yet, “[m]ost human interactions today take place with the mediation of information and communications technology” (Borge-Holthoefer, Banos, Gonzalez-Bailon, & Moreno, 2013, p. 3). Indeed, current-day communications and information-transfer processes are highly dependent on the structure and capabilities of contemporary technological mediators. Hence, to discuss the contours of the communication process and to explain why contemporary media technologies have such an impact on its forms in present-day societies, we first need to highlight what it is that makes today’s media distinct and unique. We can then identify the opportunity they offer to democratic life and rethink the normative assumptions, which underlie the development of policy focusing on the need to make them accessible to all.

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