No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior

By Joshua Meyrowitz | Go to book overview

PART II

From Print Situations to
Electronic Situations

Regardless of the ways in which new media change a society, the resulting new social order must grow out of the old one. New media have an effect by being different from older media and by changing those aspects of society that depended on earlier means of communicating. The printing press, for example, was able to spur both the Reformation and scientific inquiry because it bypassed the relative monopoly of information created by the slow, tedious writing of the scribes. 1 The potency of a new medium emanates not only from its own uses and inherent characteristics, but also from the ways in which it offsets or bypasses the uses and characteristics of earlier media. The same media, therefore, may have different effects in different societies. The impact of electronic media in many third world countries, which have not yet become widely literate, is no doubt quite different from the impact of electronic media in our own country. 2

Yet while new media merely become part of the existing spectrum of older media, it is still meaningful to ask how the "media matrix" in a particular society is altered when a new medium (or new type of medium) is added to it. * To explore the impact of electronic media in the United States, this part of the book examines the differences between electronic media and print media as they have been used within our particular cultural and economic context.

Within the category of print, I include media such as books, newspapers, magazines, and pamphlets. Within the category of electronic media, I include technologies such as television, radio, telegraph, telephone, tape recorder, and computer. Unfortunately, it would be impossible to com-

____________________
*
The idea of a "media matrix" and the related issue of the limited sense in which an "electronic society" is purely electronic are discussed further in the Appendix.

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