October 30, 2010

Lana Rakow, "The Public at the Table"

Old and new media 
Old and new questions

Traditional questions
  • How do individuals respond to media?
  • What do media do to people [tech. determinism]
  • What do people do with media?
Weakness-omissions of these questions
  • Basic model (on which comm.techs. are built) is left unchallenged
  • Basic model remains as:
               "institutions speak - citizens listen" [people lack a voice]

New model of communications
   Citizens should be participants/speakers in a communication process, and not just receivers of messages, i.e. active, not passive.

New questions
  • What could people do with media?

Institutions set terms of debate

Model of communication
  1. Invention/appearance
  2. A few creative uses
  3. Debate re. its potential
  4. New tech. settles down and becomes a consumer product
  5. Govt. and private business use the tech. for their own benefit (financial, political) but 'sell' the tech. to the public, citing 'benefits' of socialisation, democratic participation, access
  6. Model of comm. used is one of "one-to-many" (institution to many individuals).  Otherwise, model is "one-to-one" for individuals.
Traditional questions - What do media do to people?
What is overlooked - questions re. ownership, control, purpose of media

For techs. that are now consumer products (i.e. no longer a novelty in its introductory phase), the questions from dominant groups (incl. academics) revolve around:
     media reception, its effects on people

Use a different model of comm., a more democratic one: a model with public participation.

Citizens need the means to communicate with each other and institutions.  Access alone is not enough (where 'access' means buying products and receiving info via these products).

Convergence of techs (e.g. computer and telephone) is a good time to change the terms of the debate.

Lana Rakow.  "The Public at the Table: From Public Access to Public Participation."  New Media Society 1999; 1, 74-82.

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