To define ‘the media’ in 2017 is to engage with an ever-growing list of technologies and interfaces. Gone are the days of relying upon scheduled radio and television broadcasts; we are living in the digital world of online media, content streaming, POTUS tweets and leaked data scandals.
The 21st century will be largely dictated by this modern media landscape, and the ways we interact with it. This latter notion is particularly powerful: no longer are we passive consumers, being spoon-fed our news, entertainment and education by the media: we are now both consuming and producing the media, i.e. produsage, a concept which will continue to develop for many years to come.
What does this look like today? Real-time civilian media production can be found anywhere, from Twitter encounters with policy-makers and authorities, live-streams and uploads of topical people and events – even Snapchat and Instagram have now jumped on the bandwagon with their Stories features, allowing users to connect with and share information between people all around the world. Passive media audiences have evolved into both active critics and creators, blurring the lines along which traditional media was formed. This has allowed for communication without boundaries, with ‘the media’ now a fluid notion of both community and individual engagement.
But with great power comes great responsibility, or so the saying goes. Is this true of the modern media? With so many avenues for people to view the media, and to curate and create the limitless information it dispenses, its typically utopian viewpoint can be quickly brought down by such things as ‘fake news’, media bias, social media algorithms, and just plain old abuse and manipulation. In the past, the media was regulated in terms of content, ownership and ethical practice – with the rise of citizen journalists, and everyday digital media users and creators, do we need to completely revamp the rules? As the roles of both the media and media audiences continue to evolve, we are entering uncharted waters when it comes to regulation. Tweets are becoming landmark deals, Facebook is being accused of influencing elections, data retention and privacy concerns are of continued public debate – the current laws seem to be lagging when it comes to adequately dealing with these new issues, which isn’t wholly unexpected in such foreign terrain. Policy-makers must accept that the ways in which the media is used today are unlike anything seen before, and take steps accordingly to ensure that both success and security are the resultant outcomes.