Field of media undergoes changes

Digital media rise in popularity while physical media fall to the wayside


Anna Malesiewski, Features Editor

Media. It is ingrained in society — in our schools, businesses and institutions. It is used for work and play, and without some sort of media presence, it is difficult to feel connected to others and the systems that exist within today’s culture.

However, what constitutes “the media” is changing. And it seems as though it is either keep up or be left out.

Digital mediums are becoming more popular and more widely used. Alex Chelton, a junior biology major, said that he prefers digital mediums because they are easily accessible because he always has his phone on him.

“Our media consumption is much easier and more readily available,” Chelton said. “We don’t have to be in front of a TV or have to sit down with a newspaper.”

Chelton also said his phone also gives him access to the realm of podcasts.

“The changes in media impact us because we have been able to start a podcast,” Chelton said. “Recent changes have also made me enjoy the short form content that everyone is creating on platforms like TikTok.”

However, John Uhl, a junior business major and Chelton’s podcast partner, said the rising popularity of short form content has caused him to have a shorter attention span when consuming content.

“If I’m not interested in the first couple of seconds of a video, I’ll scroll past it,” Uhl said.

Jon Sapienza, a sophomore criminal justice major, said that while media is more accessible now, he still tries to restrict his usage.

“Media change has caused me to limit my media intake a lot, due to false information commonly being claimed in modern society,” Sapienza said. “My media consumption is probably very similar to the older generation’s because I don’t partake in Instagram or Facebook — only a few news sources and one social media platform.”

According to the Rev. Shawn Clerkin, co-director of the School of Communication and the Arts at Gannon University, these changes affect everyone.

“If media is about mediated communication, then nobody is unaffected by the changes we have in communication,” Clerkin said. “I think sometimes we think that we are immune to the changes, or that we are managing it, but we are being managed by it.”

Mary Carol Gensheimer, co-director of the School of Communication and the Arts at Gannon, also said that everyone is affected by these changes.

“I think it is like fish swimming in water — when the current changes all of us change,” Gensheimer said. “I think we can’t help but be affected by it; we are swimming in it.”

Media has been changing as long as communication has been around. But now, technology is changing more rapidly, which causes more exponential change rather than gradual change.

“It’s a crazy slope that we are on now,” Clerkin said. “But I think we have gradually been dealing with this since the moment we found out we could talk to each other. Human beings love to tell stories, and we love to tell the truth, but we also love to expand.”

Gensheimer said that she does not predict that these changes will slow down. With the new development of Facebook’s “Metaverse,” a shared virtual reality environment, it seems that the changes are only speeding up. This may lead to negative effects in current and future generations.

“I think this can lead to great isolation, and sometimes this can lead to a lack of self-worth,” Gensheimer said. “We need to keep media literacy at the forefront so we can separate the two realities and realize that while it is a sensation that may be pleasurable, it will be a tough addiction to break.”

Media literacy is important to help people navigate the intricacies and possible dangers of the digital realm.

“It should be integrated in and humanly so, so we can talk about the dangers and the opportunities of it more,” Gensheimer said.

Clerkin said that one way these changes have made an impact is by causing a generational divide between users. Baby Boomers and Gen X are more likely to stick to older forms of media, even though the most common forms of media are changing around them. This is partially because years ago, television and other forms of media brought a sense of commonality that could then be used as a common reference point for conversation.

“Back in the day, everyone watched the same television shows, or retold the same jokes the next day,” Clerkin said. “That sense of conversation — even if we didn’t all like the same characters, even if we didn’t all appreciate the same storylines or the same morals that were being represented, we were talking about the same reference.”

Gensheimer said that the changes in media began when media consumption ceased to be a communal activity.

“We would all sit around the television and watch together,” Gensheimer said. “It was the electronic hearth.”

“When media shifted to be personal, it seemed to me that the ability or need to hang with people diminished, and that’s when it got dangerous. It alienates the human quality of the really important things that happen in our lives.”

The difference is represented by people who had to learn how to adapt to changes in technology and people who grew up in the world of changing technology, Gensheimer said. The changes will only continue.

“The next generation is going to be in this ‘virtual reality-verse’ and we are going to have to help them figure out how to navigate it,” Gensheimer said. “I don’t know that it’s ever going to be the same for everyone, and the people that are growing up in it are going to be so immersed in it that they won’t know the difference.”

Now, it is different, Clerkin said. Television users have the option to stream what appeals to them and leave out the channels or programs that don’t.

“Everyone has been able to seek out and find their own,” Clerkin said. “The references that we are talking about, thinking about and responding to are so different that we don’t always have the same jumping off point for taste, experience or engagement.”

This can contribute to the silo effect, or the lack of communication and commonality between groups, Clerkin said.

“If you don’t have those shared experiences, you don’t have anything to talk about,” Clerkin said. “The question then is, how do I break out of the preordained notion of what I already like and read?”

However, great works will still be lauded through word of mouth, Clerkin said.

“There is so much content out there to engage, I don’t know where to turn sometimes,” Clerkin said. “I think we will still continue to tell each other what we like.”

Clerkin also said that technology has contributed to changes within the field of media — especially the developments of wifi and personal devices.

“All of these abilities to connect ourselves to multiple platforms through a single device allow us to have such accessibility, and the technology is catching up,” Clerkin said.

However, push recommendations and algorithms are challenging to that connectivity.

“I can’t browse the same way,” Clerkin said. “The algorithm is just going to push content at me, and I don’t have the opportunity to shut it down or deviate from it.”

The fact that so much media is manipulated and engineered can be challenging to reality. Now, social and digital media are often seen as alternate forms of reality.

However, this can also further physical connectivity, Clerkin said.

“The only way I can trust what’s real is when there is nothing mediating us but the air that we share,” Clerkin said. “The only moments we can trust are when a group of people sit down together.”

But from an accessibility and inclusivity standpoint, reliance on technology can further divide people, Clerkin said. When Gannon first went completely remote in 2020, technological differences and disadvantages were manifested and highlighted. As a result, Gannon is engaging in conversation to make sure that all students have the tools they need to participate in hybrid or remote learning.

“Until we do that, there is always going to be an intellectual divide, there is always going to be a sympathy and empathy divide,” Clerkin said. “If I don’t know your story, I can’t empathize with you. We are trying to make sure that everyone has access.”

Gensheimer also said that these changes can cause real cultural divides, especially if some are unable to keep up.

“When you think about the fact that some people on this planet don’t even have electricity or clean water, our understanding of this situation is mitigated by the fact that we are immersed in it,” Gensheimer.

“It creates a mediated class system. Buying the latest phone or the latest apps doesn’t mean much to people who are still looking for clean clothes or clean water.”

The pandemic has also forced people into deeper silos because of media reliance, Clerkin said.

“It has disconnected us in strange ways,” Clerkin said. “It forced us into divisions and separation.”

Now, physical forms of media are often seen as novelties, Clerkin said, and although they are not relied upon as much anymore, there may be a greater appreciation for them.

“We love the technology and we love the efficiency of it, but we also recognize its limitations, and also that it might solve the time problem, but it doesn’t solve the how problem,” Clerkin said. “I think we embrace new technology because it is hip, cool and fast, but I think we also recognize that our brains are only capable of understanding so much.”

People are beginning to realize that while it is important to utilize current technology, it is not good to rely on it totally. Clerkin said that when Gannon took a survey about remote learning, the vast majority of students said that they preferred in-person learning.

“I think we learned a really important lesson, that education is about being in the presence of somebody who is sharing information or guiding you in your search for information yourself,” Clerkin said “That happens in the immediate place.”

This was a very secluding experience, Gensheimer said.

“The isolation that was imposed on us was traumatic,” Gensheimer said. “It enhanced our dependence on media.”

However, the experimentation with remote learning that happened and is continuing to happen during the pandemic encouraged innovation.

“If the reason you are doing something is because that is how you have always done it, that is the best reason to stop doing it,” Clerkin said. “Do it because it’s most effective, do it because it meets the needs of whoever you are working with, but don’t do it because you have always done it this way.”

But most of all, the pandemic has put people in touch with their own humanity.

“The pandemic has brought our mortality to light,” Gensheimer said. “Without the human element, the best-laid plans of every media device don’t work.”


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