1.5 New Media
1.5.2 Characteristics of new media
After discussing the term ‘new media’, their classification, and various models, it is important to focus on some of their features. New media differ from old ones due to their practicality and innovation. They introduce new elements which improve their functioning. McQuail (2007: 156) enumerates some important features of new media:
1. speed 2. interactivity 3. completeness 4. sociability 5. diversity 6. autonomy 7. entertainment 8. privacy
33 One of the most important feature provided by McQuail (2007: 156) is speed. When talking about speed, we have in mind the amount of time between sending a message and receiving it. The shorter this period is, the more profitable these media become. The notion of speed is on a par with interactivity which also plays a very important role in the functioning of new media. Interactivity is understood as the possibility for communicating and giving feedback for the message at the same time. However, it is important to notice that among all those new media, there are some of them which are highly-interactive and others which may cause some delays in giving back the answer.
This division stems from two types of communication: synchronic and asynchronous. A synchronic communication is characterized by maximum speed, an immediate feedback, and a high level of interactivity. This type of communication is very similar to face-to-face communications. Talking on Facebook or in other chat groups are examples of a synchronic communication. Electronic mails, blogs, and forums can be defined as an asynchronous communication due to the fact that we are not able to receive an immediate feedback when using them (Baym et al. 2009: 67).
When we send an e-mail, some time is needed to receive an answer. When posting a comment or a message on some forums, we also have to observe whether someone has already answered and how much time he needed to do this. In the case of an asynchronous communication, the notion of emotionality in conveying these types of messages is quite ambiguous. Using acronyms, emoticons or capital letters function as indicators of our real feelings and emotions which we posses at the particular moment (Szpunar 2008: 36).
The idea of interactivity was suggested by Kiousis (2001: 157). He explains that new media can be interactive in the situation when they activate our senses. The more we have to focus on such a device, the more interactive it is. In his opinion, the radio is the least interactive device due to the fact that we do not have to focus completely on it.
At the same time we can listen to some radio programs and do some other activities such as cooking or washing. Television is considered to be more interactive on the grounds that we need to pay attention to what we are watching if we want to understand the plot or the context. However, in his estimation, PowerPoint presentations require the biggest attention and affect our senses the most. Recently, such presentations have became so popular that almost everyone uses them during lessons, lectures or important conference meetings. They are profitable owing to the fact that one can include almost everything on slides, from texts, pictures to some charts, graphs, and even videos. That
34 is why, during the performance where PowerPoint presentation is present not only can we see some information on slides and listen to the person who is speaking about it, but we also can take an active part in the conversation and ask some questions, which seem to be interesting for us. Such an active engagement leads to the growth of interactivity which is crucial when talking about the effectiveness of new media.
As stated by Lister et al (2009: 34) interactivity means making good choices. We live in the decade where people constantly broaden their horizons and gain new experience. It is strictly connected with the fact that we follow all changes and try to adjust to them easily. Thanks to this, we are more aware what is beneficial for us and what is not. For this reason, we are not passive consumers anymore and we are able to take into consideration all pros and cons before making the final choice. We decide whether the advertisement which we encounter appeals to our senses or not. We also make a decision about giving either a positive or negative feedback for some comments or posts which we happen to read. However, apart from considering good and bad choices, one can also give feedback to what he or she encounters. This kind of interactivity is called ‘registration interactivity’. It gives us the opportunity to express our opinion or make a comment connected with the text offered by new media.
Guiller and Durndell (2007: 2250) state that hypertextuality is another feature which distinguishes new media from old ones. The prefix ‘hyper’ comes from Greek and it means ‘over’, ‘above’. Thus, the notion of hypertextuality refers to the text which is full of links to other websites containing some additional information connected with the main text. It is stated that we can look at the idea of hypertextuality from two historical perspectives. The first one refers to the theory of literature and culture from different periods of time. It is wise to notice that any paintings or masterpieces had to base on some other drawings which were a kind of inspiration and encouragement. Only by being inspired by some other pieces of work, were they perceived as famous and popular in all social websites. That is why, according to this belief, everything what one can find in audio and visual aids can be interpreted as hypertext (Loewe 2006: 97).
35 The diversity of media and completeness are another two factors of a great importance. It is stated that new media should appeal to all our senses: vision, auditory, and vestibular. Such media should allow us to take part in both verbal and non-verbal communication. Only by possessing such features can new media be diversified. There are few electronic devices which combine all the features mentioned above. Among them one can enumerate Skype, Gadu-Gadu or any others communicators which have access to the microphone and the web camera. These gadgets give us the possibility to see and hear our interlocutor at the same time. This convenience makes that our conversation is very similar to face-to-face communications. Apart from the features of verbal communication (words), we can also use some elements of non-verbal communication (mimics, gestures, face expressions, an eye contact) which are extremely helpful in maintaining a good conversation (Markham 2004: 20).
New media, in comparison to old ones, allow us to be more sociable and at the same time stay private in few aspects of our life (Taras 2014: 75). In the past, people did not have too many opportunities for making new friends. Technology was not as developed as it is nowadays, access to the Internet was very limited and not everyone could use it for free. There were not so many devices which allowed people to develop their social life. Times have changed and we have entered a new era of technology. This breakthrough led to the situation that nowadays we do not have to leave our house to be in touch with people and at the same time stay private. Martens (2012: 21) presents Facebook as an classic example of such a situation. It is a social website which allows us to meet hundreds of people around the world and at the same time not reveal all information from our life. Choosing proper settings makes that we can hide information concerning our age, education or even our hometown. The degree of privacy depends on us and our own preferences (Markham, 2012: 52).
Nowadays more and more people crave for another two features of new media such as entertainment and personalization. McQuail (2007: 157) agrees that times have changed and people are no longer satisfied with monotony and uniformity. It is in their nature to show off, boast about their achievements and successes, and be independent in their decisions. Only by being familiar with new media and using them on a regular basis are they able to reach their goals. The word ‘entertainment’ is strongly embedded in our everyday routines and habits. It is enough to open YouTube to listen to new songs or watch some funny programs. The moment we log in on Facebook, we see hundreds of advertisements encouraging us to play various games or join some groups.
36 Thanks to all these functions, we have access to all facilities which did not exist in the past. Listening to the radio or watching TV provided us with basic news and information without serving fun and entertainment (Niewiadomska 2011, 17).
Not only can we benefit from entertainment, but we also can make our person more popular in the net. Thanks to Facebook we can create our own profile and make it as personal as possible by adding more photos and videos. We can publish some news from our life and collect as many comments and likes as possible. Additionally, Instagram allows us to observe our followers and other people who want to make contact with us. These are the reasons why new media differ so much from old ones and make that we pay more attention to them. Grzenia (2006: 21) depicts and compares all these features of new media which stem from differences in communication. This comparison is included in Table 4.
Institutional Very low Inequality of roles Table 4: The comparison of media in terms of communicational features (Grzenia 2006:
Grzenia (2006: 21) points to the fact that the range is one of the most important features which distinguishes old media from new ones. As one can notice, the Internet has a global range due to the fact that at the same time thousands of people from
37 different countries can use the same news service. The rest of the media mentioned above will not be able to possess a global range unless they choose the Internet as their main channel for spreading information. Not only will they be able to expand their range, but also have an easier access to potential receivers. Nowadays, we can notice a very strong correlation between the radio and the Internet owing to the fact that more and more radio shows and programs are transmitted online and a great number of people are willing to listen to them. Even though television still encounters some technological barriers caused by not sufficient numbers of the Internet connections, it is believed that soon its range will be similar to this one reached by the radio.
It is important to mention that the activeness of receivers and the relation between broadcaster and receivers shape the general outlook and functioning of new media.
Table 4 illustrates that the highest activeness of receivers appear when talking about computer networks. It is caused by the fact that these recipients have already started to take an active part in matters connected with the process of communication and at the same time one can observe that the interaction between broadcasters and receivers is much higher than in the case of other media such as the radio or the press (Krejtz &
Zając 2007: 195).