Toward the end of Monday’s class we discussed the question of whether old theories and models still apply within the context of today’s technological climate. If so, how? If not, why not? And if the answer is no, what do we do now?
Sticking with this week’s theme of the paradigm shift …
As I see it there have been four paradigm shifts in the history of human communication. There have been four game-changers, events so dramatic that many of the old rules went out the window. They are:
- The creation of the word, which gave verbal, common meaning to worldly objects and ideas
- The invention of the printing press, which decentralized control over ideas
- The development of the telegraph, which accelerated the speed information travels
- The development of online technology, which we’re still figuring out, because let’s face it, as a communication tool it’s still in its infancy. To paraphrase John Walsh, the first “newspaper” as we know it today appeared about 1605; if you want to know what mature online communication might look like, build a time machine and travel to the year 2400
There might be a good reason why our class often grows silent when we’re asked how Theory X, Y or Z fits in with today’s climate. Because it doesn’t, at least not without a lot of force to drive the square peg into the round hole.
A modern model of communication must include the traditional printed word, television, visual art, music, person-to-person communication (verbal and non verbal), radio, and everything associated with online communication, including blogs (of which there are nearly 200 million and growing), social media (which includes billions of content creators), and everything that would otherwise be considered “traditional” except that it happens to be taking place online, like YouTube, online news sites, etc., and therefore takes on modern properties such as instant feedback, not to mention social media-like characteristics.
Given these factors, shouldn’t the rough draft of a modern communication model look something like this?
In academia, the only thing harder than not understanding something is not knowing how to understand it. In 2012, we can’t know the longterm effects of online communication any more than we can know what profession a 2-day-old infant is destined to join. We can project, but we can’t know. It’s too soon. And we need some new models and theories to help us along the way.
Note: This post was originally written for a class website. Some edits were made for clarity, and the title of the post was changed to what you see above.
Find Dave Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.