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British Politics and the Media – About Medium Theory

Joshua Meyrowitz coined the term medium theory in No Sense of Place, 1985 to describe those approaches that argue that when new forms of media are created they alter the social world.[amazon_link asins=’019504231X’ template=’ProductAd’ store=’brituniversity-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’c2811b62-741f-4f22-a97e-7c8f031f3857′]

Habermas has shown that the spread of literacy down the social scale and the development of a coffee shop culture in the 18th century, where discussion could take place, produced a new form of rational and radical debate.

In the past politicians were seen on platforms giving set piece speeches and their ability to use rhetoric and inspire influenced voters, whereas now they are seen on television in close detail and a more intimate format and so aspects of their character and looks have more effect on voters.

Neil Postman has argued that the format of television requires all programmes to be entertainment and this changes public attitudes to politics and the news (Amusing Ourselves to Death, 1985).[amazon_link asins=’014303653X’ template=’ProductAd’ store=’brituniversity-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’6776c818-3bb4-44af-aefd-45ff9178e794′]

The most famous writer in this school is Marshall McLuhan writing in the 1960s (especially Understanding Media, 1964).

Whereas the media effects school and the cultural and structuralist schools (explained below) concentrate on the nature of the messages that the media produce, McLuhan argued in his famous phrase that ‘the medium is the message’.[amazon_link asins=’0415253977′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’brituniversity-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’9bff836d-faf8-433c-9a71-a566680b49db’]

The effect on the senses of electronic media compared with the printed word produces new social forms. They are more bureaucratic and organised around mass production to individual consumers. The form of the old medium turns into the content of the new media, for example, the narrative novel becomes the content of the motion picture.

Although medium theory has had minority support among media theorists and been accused of technological determinism, it has been revived with the changes introduced by the internet.

The internet’s characteristics which are that is interactive, easily crosses national boundaries, is cheap, is quick and is not easily controlled by commercial or governmental organisations have led to claims that it would enhance democracy, lead to the decline of media corporations and increase global understanding.