What Is New About New Media? Understanding The Alternative Media

Posted on September 28, 2011 in Media

By Adeena Jamal Ahmad:

“Today we are beginning to notice that the new media are not just mechanical gimmicks for creating worlds of illusion, but new languages with new and unique powers of expression.” Marshall McLuhan, Canadian Communications Theorist.

Media, in its truest definition, is the transmission of knowledge, or a channel of communication from one person to several others. It is the outflow of knowledge related to the welfare of the community, at large. It can be of various forms. It may be a news bulletin informing about a certain incident on your television screen or a political laden news clip on YouTube. It could also be an entertainment loaded channel or an online magazine with the new fashion trends (popularly referred to as e-zine) .

Loosely referred to as Mass Media, traditional media has been the only source of empowerment of knowledge for several centuries.
The term media has been used since the mid-1920, however, the invention of the printing press was amongst the first form of mass communication. However, with the invention of computers and accessibility to the general public at large, another stream of media has mushroomed over the years that has been termed as “New Media” or “Alternative Media”

Traditionally, media was in the form of print media and broadcast media. The telegraph, radio, television and most importantly the newspaper have been instrumental in forming the distinctive group of traditional media. Even though news during the 17th and 18th century was filtered, it remained a prime source of information for the civilians.

New Media, is the new fabricated terminology that is described by The Statesman as, “All digital and mobile technologies, that may be wide reaching, fuzzily defined beast, but it is not one to be afraid of”.

Some critics rest the blame of the extinction of traditional media due to the birth of alternative media. But several have branded it as a fundamental transformation that is taking place in the arena of journalism.

Now what exactly is New Media? New Media is a click away to exemplify its accessibility. “Anywhere, Anytime and Anything,” could be the three terms that specify its functionality. It is on-demand presentation of knowledge you want to gain. The most popular forms of new media are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the hundreds of online portals that provide you with knowledge and a platform to speak. New media can be demarcated from traditional media, when the knowledge imparted has a technological bent. And the trend is proliferating.

New Media has also been christened as Alternative Media.

So what is new about new media? What is it that new media provides and not the traditional forms of media, like the newspaper?
Firstly, the accessibility with handy digital instruments has increased and the general public at large wants to be abreast with knowledge without compromising on their mobility. One can read and be updated about the news by simply accessing Twitter on their smart phones. The old world school has been constantly criticizing about the low quality news that is being provided, however, the more important thing is that the general public is being updated rather than the quality of news that is being delivered. One doesn’t need to wait for the morning daily to read about the world news, a click and you have it on your tablet.

The biggest advantage of the new found media is its reach and quick accessibility. Within minutes, information can be transmitted from one corner of the world to another. Constant updating on social media portals like Twitter and Facebook help people to keep a tab of events across the world. A certain example that highlights the importance would be the Mumbai Blast on 13th July 2011 at three locations across the economics capital of India. Within minutes, the video clippings were uploaded on several websites, constant updating took place on Twitter, a helpline number was put on several social portals to know the whereabouts of the victims, the suspects of the blasts and all the details that probably one would have read in the morning newspaper the day after, were transmitted within minutes to millions of people across the globe. With nearly everyone using the computer technology, transmission of news became extremely easy.

Furthermore, the second point would highlight how the voice of millions can be heard. The new age media has provided with a platform for several people who never had a chance to speak up. Thousands of blogs are present, which have given so many people an opportunity to not only voice themselves but also be heard. Until a decade ago, the only people who had the power to speak were the journalists employed in several magazines and dailies. But with complete access to the web world, one can put forth their opinions which was completely an impossible thought a couple of years ago.

Christopher Lasch said “The job of the press is to encourage debate, not to supply the public with information.”

Due to anonymity and no fear of the state in several countries in the world, people have opened up from their cocoons and thus have put forth their opinions and thus a healthy debate between identities from across the globe. No community now remains within any kind of confines and thus is within the purview of the world through the medium of “New Media”. Extending the definition, one can also call it as increasing the interactivity between people. People from various parts of the world can interact regarding mutual topics. The global platform that has been provided has broadened the and also fragmented the contexts of communication. The classic example to illustrate about how well the effects of new media have travelled in the case of the Slut Walk that took place in Canada earlier this year. Within months , the entire issue was highlighted and spread across continents, so much so, “slut walks” are about to take place in India , later in July, 2011. With the strongest power of communication at the disposal of millions of people across the globe, nobody needs a bigger platform to interchange knowledge or to start a vendetta against someone.

Thirdly, the world has become a smaller place with communication taken to another notch all together. Who would have imagined taking the help of a box like device to stay in touch with your friends and relatives, a decade ago? You don’t search about restaurants online? You don’t look for property in the neighboring district online? Well, in this era you do. The age where “New Media” has reduced distances, and practically made the world accessible on a phone or a 15 inch screen. Remote districts of the world have accessibility of the internet now, and thus they take help of media in their respective countries to assist them with communication, education and employment.

Among the few examples, one that absolutely stands out is how education is imparted with the help of new age media. With the help of satellite transmission and an all together new digital phenomenon, a student can learn absolutely new theories regarding any subject. You can learn how to cook gnocchi on YouTube and also maybe do your hair in a certain style. Surely your favorite television show did not provide all this at the time you wanted it at.

Media has been taken to an all new level with the inclusion of a technological element. And there is no stopping. Twitter practically keeps one updated with every piece of news, regional or global. Facebook is the new stage of debate, where people can voice their opinions. Cult or Minor communities are no more under the shadow of other communities. People have found an image they were looking for. YouTube can show you clippings you want to see at any given time, all a click away. Social changes have taken place with the help of the “new media”. So with new media here to stay, everything you want to know is a click away.