New media and cultural change: the three literatures
On surveying the vast corpus of work around new media and cultural change I am beginning to think that we can distinguish three main literatures:
1. Communication studies
Centred in the US with offshoots in other regions, especially in the global South. Preference for quantitative and ‘applied’ studies about the effects of media technologies on processes of socioeconomic change and modernisation. Communication, ICT, mobiles, etc, for development.
2. Media studies
British heartland, rooted in Cultural Studies: Birmingham, Glasgow, London… since 1980s tensions and mutual influence between ‘critical’ (Marxist) and postmodern strands. Late 1980s ethnographic turn (from text to context), current media anthropology sub-genre originating here.
3. Media visionaries
Back to North America. Innis, McLuhan, Rheingold, Castells, B. Anderson, C. Anderson, Shirky… Popular non-fiction on new media and their cultural consequences; widely read by academics and the general public alike. Knack for catchy terms bordering on the oxymoronic: global village, virtual community, network society, imagined community, long tail, etc.
What have these literatures contributed to our present understanding of new media and cultural change? Erm, I’ll have to give this question some thought.