Why You Asking All These Questions?
Finding the book Social History of the Media by Burke and Briggs on kindle was impossible so if you are reading this it means you have evolved in the technological era. What sacrifice did you make to be online because I did not print this blog? Are you reading this during a social inconvenience just to meet a deadline? Right now, I’d love to be sitting in a classroom with my peers but this is more convenient right now. Convenience sometimes comes with consequences.
What is Communication?
To create a quality framework for the understanding of this book, we must first define communication. “Communication is defined as the process of understanding and sharing meaning.” We find four key words: process, understanding, sharing and meaning. Process is an activity that changes. Example…you are having dinner at a restaurant by yourself just to have some alone time but your mom walks in and sits at your table and you start talking. What just changed? Imagine if a total stranger walks in and sits next to your mom during your conversation without ever saying a word. What has changed? When we interact, our perspective influences the process of communication.
Understanding has to do with how we relate to information presented. If I told you, I fell of my bed while sleeping. What comes to mind? Sharing occurs when we convey our feelings or insights with each other. Meaning has to do with what we share through communication. The word “bike” is used interchangeably to mean bicycle or motorcycle but asking questions allows us to discover the context or meaning of the word.
Communication involves an interaction between participants: the giver and receiver of the information being communicated. Over 100 years and we still speak of the Azusa Street revival of 1906. Most of us were not involved in the movement but we became recipient of the information. This brings us to a key element of communication, process.
Briggs and Burke
While I could look at the different components of communication, let us look at the overall focus of the book. This book focuses on process of communication. Communication media has both emerged and evolved within social and cultural context. Briggs and Burke is intentional in showing that new communication media (technology) does not replace the old media (print). They coexist to complement the sharing of information. It is quite amazing that the authors used black and white illustrations but never referenced newer communications like CD, DVD or website resources.
Peter Burke focused on the introduction and Chapters 2 and 3 to highlight the early-modern era of communications. Asa Briggs in Chapters 4 to 8 focuses on the evolution in technologies of communications in the modern era. However, neither spoke much about social consequences and this is very important. With our desire to evolve, we shifted from oral to written to visual communication. Just a few days ago, I needed to reach my son at home and I sent a message to his to screen. While that method worked, I could have called him. As we, transition from oral to written, we are also replacing face-to-face with technology.
The Media Tells You How They Want You To Think
Since this is more a social historian digest and not a sociology print, we can see why the authors never focused on how communication media (newspaper, radio, internet, TV, etc) can transform social practices. There is a common trend in social practices and communications. Think about it, there is a book on how to do everything. Almost anything random can be searched on the internet. In fact, I just searched “how to stay awake” and found 12,200,000 results in 0.39 seconds.
I love the fact that the internet provides global freedom but there are also consequences with such freedom. There are probably 1,000 people living in my complex and yet I know less than 10 of them by name. However, I have 5,000 friends on Facebook. If I were to lose technology, I would be left with the people in my complex and I would have to determine the merits. I have been living in my complex almost a year and my neighbor who lives behind me asked if we just moved in the area.
Am I finding ways to discredit the writings? No, I am showing how the authors use information to convict me of quickly embracing technology without considering the social consequences.
 Pearson, J., & Nelson, P. (2000). An introduction to human communication: Understanding and sharing. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, p. 6