A Social History of The Media is a history book. It’s stated aim is “to show the relevance of the past to the present by bringing history into media studies and the media into history.” Overall, I enjoyed reading the book. Both Asa Briggs and Peter Burke wrote in a clear, understandable, and enjoyable style, presenting the social media history as a moving picture of the development and advance of accelerating technology.
I particularly appreciated chapter 7 “Media Convergences.” Briggs wrote about the development of the information society and how that “information was considered the organizing principle of life itself” pg. 233. This society quickly “went global with the advance of information networks” and resulting in what he called the “trinity of information, education, and entertainment” pg. 234.
Living through these fast evolving dynamics and reading about them can be overwhelming but also very encouraging. As one whose ministry is focused on leadership development, the convergence of media and the diverse venues to facilitate the transfer of information and to conduct educational behaviors creates a wealth of optimism. I am thinking about distance learning throughout Eastern Europe where lean finances prohibit expensive travel, lodging, and physical conferencing. Mentoring and discipleship can be augmented in situations that would have been almost impossible. Cross gender discipleship can be more safely conducted, small and large group sessions can be facilitated even cross culturally!
Even the explosion of games is encouraging! I am not a “gamer” but the metaphor of gaming can provide a platform upon which new discipleship paths can be constructed and then “played” out among any number of people without geographical restrictions. I never imagined I would look at games to pick up ideas about how to facilitate discipleship!
So, the book was good in that I benefitted from the history lesson as well as the ideas that were stimulated. However, I was greatly disappointed by the section in chapter 8, written by Briggs, which discussed the events surrounding 9/11. I think he made two errors. One, I am not convinced that the whole section, given the way it was written, contributed to the stated purpose of the book. And, two, I believe it was written with an unsubstantiated bias.
The section does not relate any new or different historical information about media nor cyberspace which is the topic of the chapter. He did relate information but then offered opinion without any substantiation. Example. Concerning 9/11 he wrote that e characterized the American response to 9/11 as “The characteristically American response of the Republican administration quickly destroyed any hope of the initial unanimity of feeling being sustained… .” pg. 290. He may be right! But, his statement is not a historical fact as much as it is his opinion.
Another example is the text concerning the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay. He wrote that the prisoners were interned without specific charges. As true as that may be, he offers no purpose for how his statement contributes to the purpose of the book or the chapter and does not open the possibility that there may be mitigating circumstances for why the prisoners are being interned. (For example, a large number of prisoners having been released have been traced to new terrorist activity.)
The book accomplished it’s purpose and I must set aside my angst over the author’s bias. I am greatly encouraged not to make the same mistake.