chapter  2
24 Pages

New media and power

Mass communications are generally discussed as if they were exclusively modern phenomena.1 Indeed, this assumption is embodied in most social scientific definitions of the mass media. According to McQuail (1969:2), for instance, ‘mass communications comprise the institutions and techniques by which specialized groups employ technological devices (press, radio, films, etc.) to disseminate symbolic content to large, heterogeneous, and widely dispersed audiences’. Only modern technology, it is widely assumed, has made possible the transmission of communications to mass audiences; for, as Maisel (1973:160) among others would have us believe, ‘in the pre-industrial period, the communication system was restricted to direct face-to-face communication between individuals’.