‘Emergent’ media and public communication: Understanding the changing mediascape

Jim Macnamara

Abstract

Scholars and practitioners are widely agreed that media and public communication are undergoing significant change deserving of close attention and, along with widespread popular media discussion, a body of scholarly research on the changing 21st century mediascape is emerging. The term ‘new media’ is widely used in the literature to describe interactive online communication forms including blogs, social networks, photo and video sharing sites, microblogging, and virtual worlds enabled by what is referred to as Web 2.0. A number of studies cite so-called ‘new media’ as the ‘fourth media revolution’ and make effusive predictions concerning their effects ranging from the “end of journalism” to the transformation of the public sphere through the birth of e-democracy. This paper critically reviews changes taking place and provides an overview of implications for public communication. It challenges the term ‘new media’, arguing that it is inaccurate and unhistorical, and attempts to look beyond hype and ‘cyberbole’ that often distort discussion to identify substantive changes taking place. It argues these are located in social and cultural practices rather than technology and explores four foundational shifts which have significant implications for media and all areas of public communication practice including journalism, political communication, advertising, public relations and organisational communication.

Keywords

Public Communication

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