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

By Joshua Meyrowitz | Go to book overview

6

The Blurring of Public and
Private Behaviors

The impact of electronic media on social situations is not limited to a simple reshuffling of already "public" information. Electronic media do much more than take the information that was once available only in print and deliver it to new audiences. Print media and electronic media also differ in the type of information they convey.

Electronic media further integrate information-systems by merging formerly private situations into formerly public ones. In terms of the dramaturgical concepts discussed in earlier chapters, the shift from print media to electronic media is a shift from formal onstage, or front region, information to informal backstage, or back region, information, a shift from abstract impersonal messages to concrete personal ones. And this shift is not related directly to what "subjects" are discussed or to which particular people are placed in front of microphones or cameras, but to basic differences in the form of the information presented.


Information Forms

The differences between the types of information conveyed by electronic media and print media can be explained in terms of three dichotomies: communication vs. expression, discursive vs. presentational, and digital vs. analogic.

In one of his analyses of social interaction, Erving Goffman makes a distinction between "expression" and "communication." 1 Although Goffman uses this distinction to suggest what is special about face-to-face encounters, this dichotomy is helpful here because it points to the differences in the type of information conveyed by different media.

"Expression," as defined by Goffman, refers to gestures, signs, vocalizations, marks, and movements produced by the mere presence of a per

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