For public health leaders to strategize around how to use new media for health advocacy, behavior change, and promotion, it helps to understand the fundamental revolution happening under our own feet. The traditional mass media, the bullhorn that moves information from broadcasters to the mass public, used to be the only way to get a message out. As public health leaders, if you wanted critical knowledge about health inequity, smoking cessation, or food justice to be shared with target communities, the best way to do it was to convince a major media outlet of the “news-ness” of these problems. If you were really successful, you’d get an Op Ed in the New York Times published or have a local news station cover an advocacy event. Today, we don’t have to rely on traditional media outlets to get our stories out. We can do it ourselves. And, understanding a little about the new media landscape helps a lot.
A number of scholars have been dedicated to defining and describing the media landscape. Henry Jenkins’ (2006) description of the new media landscape is one of the best. As he describes it, the landscape is differentiated from traditional mass media by eight trends:
- rapid innovation driven by “prolonged and profound technological change”;
- convergence of old and new medias so that “every major idea, image, sound, story, brand, and relationship will play itself across the broadest possible range of media channels”;
- integration into our everyday lives, every where we go;
- increasing ease of appropriation “for people to sample and repurpose media”;
- decentralized networked interconnection “so that messages flow easily from one place to another and from one person to another”;
- global flow of communication across national borders;
- generational differences in the use of communication technologies so that “young people and adults live in fundamentally different media environments”;
- unequal access to the technology and opportunities to develop user skills, representing a disparate and “new source of power, wealth, and knowledge”.
Jenkins’ description distinguishes itself from others in its non-utopian assessment of the inequalities inherent in new media and a precise identification of democratic opportunities that are also presented by these changes. Read more about these ideas on Jenkins’ blog.