Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Print is dead! Long live the Internet

A group of us were having this discussion in the Cue Newsroom the other day: Is print dying and will the Internet or New Media (NM) replace it?

The way I see it, once upon a time, Print was an innovatinve new media through which information could be disseminated on a potentially large scale to many people easier than before. The coming of paper, the use of ink and the invention of the printing press came together to create a new medium.

But there was a catch- people needed to be able to read in order to digest the information and thus make use of this new medium. This lead to literacy rate to grow which had consequences later with regard to the distribution of ideology and nationalism etc. Therefore, with the increased literacy the print medium's power increased albeit that the fact that literacy was a factor which made using the print medium exclusive to elitist circles. This soon changed and being able to read is considered a prerequisite to living in modern Western society today.

But a piece of paper with words on it cannot be heard unless it is read and so radio became the meduim of the spoken word and the first form of broadcasting using the invention of electricity. The catch was, of course, one needed a radio to be able to take advantage of this new way of getting information and even then it was not gurenteed that you would be in range of a radio station. All of this has changed and now you can be assured of getting at least one radio station wherever you are in the world.

The photograph, an important element in newspapers, emerged as an important text but could only capture one moment of time- some see this as the photograph's most powerful quality. The photograph brought in the visual element into a newspaper but early cameras were bulky and unrelaiable. This was all ironed out eventually and thus cemented the alliance between photographs and print.

The Television, by the power of electricity and the Catho-ray tube brought us yet another medium- the marrying of moving pictures and sound in full colour and crystal clear clarity. But one needed to own a television set- still quite an expensive item to this day maling it an exclusive medium to the upper LSM groups of society.

But was this the ultimate?

At this point we had made a place for each of the information media in society, even though one made the other obsolete- print was, it can be argued, made obsolete with the coming of radio and radio, it can further be argued, was made obsolete with the coming of Television. Was this the best we could do?

But I believe its human nature to strive to improve technology and this has a spin-off to every aspect of modern life. Computers have undoubtably been one of the single most important invention ever. Combining the power of electricity, plastics, mathematics and a myriad of other previous invented concepts, materials and machines, computers opened a doorway into a new and exciting era- we built a machine that could think and carry out tasks when we asked it to.
But how to harness this new power? What did it all mean for information media? If computers opened the door to a new era of doing things, the internet dragged the information media through it kicking and screaming.

The internet began as a means for the United State's Military to keep a communication network up and running even if large amounts of it was destroyed. The mainstreaming of the internet heralded a new dawn for information dissemination. For the first time since Television words, sound and the moving as well as the still image could all be combined into one unit. The internet is therefore, in my opinion, the medium of mediums. However, it does not render any of its predecessors obsolete- we still need words, thos we got from print, we still need moving images and sound those we got from television and radio, we still need photographs. Thus it is a meeting of minds, a meeting of creativity. An interet site can be, in theory, viewed by anyone in the world who is on the internet.

There is of course a myriad of catches- just like there was with the previous media. Firstly one needs a computer which has access to the internet, both are still expensive things to have. One needs to be able to use this computer in a fruitful way- computer literacy is needed much like one needs to learn how to read in order to enjoy the print meduim.

But what about the other mediums? Are we going to see them die?

The way I see it, print as we know it will be around for a long time to come. Space will be made in society for NM as has been the case in the past. For print to die out completly the internet, radio or television must become the primary means for people to get their information and I just dont see this happening for several reasons:

1.) The cost: its still cheaper to buy a newspaper than get setup for the internet and learn how to use a computer or buy a TV or computer.

2.) one needs to learn how to use a computer

3.) one needs to be able to be connected to the internet and afford to use it on a daily basis- as much as one would have access to a newspaper.

thus I think print is not dead yet, and wont be for a long time.

just my 2c

No comments: