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The importance of newish media

October 11, 2009

In our desperate research efforts to keep up with the latest media technologies we often overlook the importance of not-so-new media. For example, when we set up the EASA Media Anthropology Network five years ago (in 2004), a mailing list seemed like the ideal medium as virtually all students and academics by then used email on a regular basis, and a mailing list required little more technical expertise than emailing. Over the years the mailing list has grown steadily by word of mouse and last week we crossed the 700 mark – not spectacular but rather sustained growth. Had we opted instead for something more unfamiliar like a collective blog or a wiki I think a majority of people would have been left out. Another example is the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) where a lot of members are advanced users of the latest technologies but again their mailing list serves as a common ground that brings everybody together. Newish media are ‘new’ in world-historical terms (e.g. it was only in the 1990s that mailing lists really took off throughout the social sciences) but they’re not the latest technologies or platforms, and yet they are of vital importance to a great many social worlds.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 11, 2009 3:25 pm

    Yes, I agree. The same can be said about RSS. Nobody knows what it is, no huge success among average users.
    What about popular networking sites like Facebook or Ning? Are they an alternative to mailinglists?

  2. October 11, 2009 4:47 pm

    I think it’s hard to compete with mailing lists when it comes to reaching a broad constituency of scholars and students, esp. across age groups, and here I’m thinking specifically about the social sciences which I’m more familiar with.

    Academics who are now in their 50s to 70s will be using email on a regular basis but many may not fancy joining a facebook or ning group -indeed even some younger scholars resist these platforms. I reckon good old-fashioned mailing lists still have a lot of life in them. After all you don’t want to create an environment where only the new-tech minded are active.

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