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Study Notes

Is New Media Revolutionary?

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas, WJEC

Last updated 25 Aug 2018

Sociologists are not all in agreement about the extent to which the move towards new media is really a very significant or revolutionary change.

Evaluating the view that the new media is revolutionary

While some would argue that such changes have been transformational, Cornford and Robins (1999) argued that new media developments are evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. They argue that interactivity was present in older media forms, such as letters pages in newspapers, or write-in television programmes like Points of View. Furthermore, they suggested that new technology built on existing technology rather than being completely revolutionary.

Similarly, Boyle and Haynes (2004) have argued that new media have added to what was available from old media rather than replacing it (you can still watch television in the old way, as well as streaming and catch-up services on top of this). Both studies note that the main change, in terms of new media, is the speed of communication

However, it is worth noting that new media has continued to develop very rapidly since both these studies. For example, Cornford and Robins pointed out that people accessed the internet via telephone cables (which is old technology) but increasingly this is not the case.

Another way in which some have suggested the significance of the new media may be overstated is in relation to the inequality of access to it, although again this is something that is changing very rapidly. New media is used much more frequently by young people than older people, for instance. Some suggest this can lead to a digital underclass because important tasks like banking, shopping, paying road tax, registering to vote or getting a passport are done online.

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