What’s new about new media? This apparently simple question is a vague concept that is diverse in nature as it is complex. Is it just a technological transformation? As Silverstone argued, to ask the question “what is new about new media” is, of course, to ask a question about the relationship between continuity and change; a question that requires an investigation into complexities of innovation as both a technological and a social process.
Media and communications have long been considered the most important keys to understanding society and the history of mankind and as such the subsequent impact of new technologies upon contemporary culture plays a central role in our personal and collective identities towards ideological and ecological environmental systems. This essay argues that new media is situated within the contradictions of a diverse world culture and that the power relations within such an open structure present the need for a citizenry, prepared to negotiate the implications of this structure. The essay’s method is to argue, first, that new media changes the very existence of intercultural communication in its traditional sense; second, that the critical role of intercultural competences and effective technologies have deep connections in the way that change occurs when transforming itself into a new form. This essay’s first argument is that the current ecological challenge today centers upon how our collective communication technologies are altering our lives in revolutionary ways. The innovations in digital media have changed and continue to change the way we think, act, and live from the origins of human communication beginning with the oral or spoken tradition to script, print, wired electronics, wireless electronics and finally digital communication. As Chen and Zhang indicate, the profound impact of new media on human society is demonstrated in the aspects of cognition, social effect, and a new form of aesthetics. This new integration of the traditional and the media demands a nonlinear nature and the creation of expectations for content, which directly influences the way people use media as well as the most manifested impact this new media has on the effect of demassification, which denotes that the traditional design for a large, homogeneous audience that is being replaced by a specific and individual appeal, allowing the audience to access and create the message they wish to produce. This is demonstrated by the features of new media pushing the trend of globalization to its highest level in human history. As Steger argued, globalization is “the expansion and intensification of social relations and consciousness across world-time and world-space”. It is this shifting and changing of relations among and between individuals, groups, institutions and structures to this new situation of people from different cultural groups in this chaotic stage of cultural change that has become of the extreme importance of the need for an understanding of interaction in daily life within the scholarly community. It is these very circumstances that we see more and more scholars are becoming involved in the investigation of the relationship between new -media and intercultural communication
In addition, it is important to note that new media being considered “new” is not only because of its successful integration in the form of the traditional interpersonal and mass media, but also due to the fact that because of its new functions it enables individuals to equally control messages in interpersonal media, which allows them to control messages in mass media.
New media functionally allows people to interact with multiple persons simultaneously with the ability to individualize messages in the process of interaction within five distinctive characteristics: digitality, convergence, interactivity, hypertextuality, and virtuality. Therefore, globalization as Walters argues, is “the social process in which the constraints of geography on social and cultural arrangements recede and people become increasingly aware that they are receding”. The intercultural effects of new media and that of globalization have within society involved the expansion, stretching, intensification, and acceleration of social activities in the objective and material as well as the subjective and human consciousness of all levels and that of human society. The powerful impact of globalization, enhanced by the advent of new media, is revealed in its dynamic, pervasive, interconnected, hybridized, and individually powerful attributes. In summary, it is clear that the dialectically dynamic, universally pervasive, holistically interconnected, culturally hybridized, and individually powerful characteristics of globalization enhanced and deepened by the stimulus and push of the emergence of new media has led to revolutionary changes in people’s thinking and behaviors, redefined the sense of community, and restructured human society.
A second argument is that digital technologies have now become a necessity and no longer an option for the successful integration of individuals to control messages. Today, new media has made it possible to transfer information in an instant. As a result, it is fairly safe to say that the advent of new media has been the most essential and most important avatar of the total media hybrid practice system. Baron and Segerstad’s research supports this thesis in their findings that it is dramatically reducing a once vast and isolated world into a “global village” of which people use new media to become more integrated into culture during their adaptation to maintain connections. As Mcleod (2007) argued, supported by Marlow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1987), “people desire to fulfill a sense of belonging through support from relationships with others”. The convergence of new technologies has reconfigured communications resulting in not only heterogeneous societies of today becoming even more multilingual and multicultural, but media’s unprecedented ubiquity has made communication inseparable to human interactions across cultures and indelibly permanently inscribed. From Twitter, Facebook and mobile to the online revolution, new media has produced intercultural relationship, identities, and adaptations within society forming a new semi-culture. As Weick argued, the international electronic exchange culture “plays a significant role in affecting the process and outcome of the interaction”.
This is evident in new media’s ability to change the culture of how media is consumed around the world through the diffusion between both a social as well as a market process that has developed around this new medium resulting in a complex interaction between representations and individual practices which subsequently become established around the medium, between the emerging shape of a market and the content developed for that market. This is a significant and important dimension of intercultural new media for the further commodification of public space to ensure a unique potential as a vehicle of truly active cultural exchange being upheld. Much research has shown this computer-mediated communication has created the rise of the electronic culture (Ma 1996). Importantly, intercultural communication has always been interdisciplinary and ready to absorb multiple theoretical approaches to make space between the intersection of new media and intercultural communication theory that very much so redefines and expands upon the twentieth-century theories of intercultural grounded face-to-face paradigm and so forth.
Furthermore, studies developed by the prominent researchers of media ecology such as George Landow (2009), author of the idea of hypertext and hypermedia as narrative structures; George Siemens (2014), father of connectivism; Henry Jenkins (2009), with the evaluation of transmedia narrative and finally, Manuel Castells (2013), who suggested social networks as a tool for a better world all consider communication as having been transformed into a new form not only due to the -obvious flexibility of information presented but by the shared nature of new media that directly affects, either positively or negatively, the development of intercultural relationships in the virtual community through the creation of a network of personal connection
As Croucher’s research of immigrates demonstrates such intertwined dependencies of connections within a theoretical model of the integration between cultivation theory and ethnic group relationships between social networking and cultural adaptation is that “During cultural adaptation, the use of social networking sites affects immigrants’ interaction with the dominant culture” and second that, “During cultural adaptation, the use of social networking sites will affect immigrants’ in-group communication”. Such proposition provides great evidence that the impact of social media on the process of culture and societies adaptation and frequency of interaction in dominant culture is familiarity within language, cultural norms, identification and involvement in the dominant political system, and motivation to acculturate.
Importantly, Croucher’s (2011) view leads us to observe that software dependency by the contemporary society, especially in situations of the mediatic ecosystem. With the Internet of things, that this dependency will be even more expressive. As studies about technology, such as Landow (2009) and Jenkins (2009), bring us a need to think about new metaphors. Justified by the fact that the mediatic ecosystem is dynamic, as well as its solutions and adaptations it has and displays on communication relationships.
In conclusion, this essay has argued that new media changes the very existence of intercultural communication in its traditional sense and that the critical roles of intercultural competences and effective technologies have already begun the transformation of a new form. Each of these arguments allows for a key conclusion: that new media not only provides a space in which people can freely express their opinions and establish relationships, but may also challenge the existence of human communication in intracultural and intercultural contexts let alone the fact that we do not have a consolidated ecosystem, and never should. In reality, the mediatic ecosystem in the digital culture is a theme under continual construction that is at least still unknown if the new cultural identity formed by new media will continue to be a multi-faceted concept that contrasts traditional cultural identity or establishes different kinds of new communities without the limit of cultural identity and more dynamic, austere challenges to the autonomy and stability of the media on culture.
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