Rapid technological changes have escalated the transition to an information society. These changes are shaking up the ordinary media. New media technology is associated with the computer.
It has come with terms like information superhighway, information age, podcasting, internet broadcasting, online, e-world, cyberspace, MySpace, weblog, world wide web, digital and so on.
According to Straubaar and LaRose, new media technologies have brought their good and bad side just like any other innovation would do.
Publication of newspapers and literary works has been made easy when compared to the last two or three decades. Today the world is quickly going digital. Most things are becoming computer readable (i.e. digitalized).
As such, the traditional distinguishing features of conventional mass media are shrinking. This is because the old media is integrating with computers and telecommunications — the new media. This phenomenon has been called technological convergence. Experts say it promotes communication.
Bigger companies have responded to converging technologies by merging. For instance, a newspaper publishing house is running a broadcast station and publishing newspapers at ago, as well as existing online and physically. A soft and hard copy version of a newspaper then internet broadcasting is the jargon in the media today.
Convergence poses a threat on a number of things in the world nowadays. Job market, lifestyle, traditional regulation, and changing careers have been affected by this technological advancement.
Blistering legal issues like copy rights and invasion of privacy have not been out of danger either. One can, for example, obtain (by downloading) audio, video, text, and graphic materials from web pages legally or illegally. It has become uneasy to monitor observance of such issues on the World Wide Web (www).
At the same time conversation with friends and workmates is now done electronically with equal ease. Communication with persons separated by thousands of miles is now achieved in a matter of seconds via e-mail [electronic letter], phone SMS or calls. Unlike the Post Office way of conveying messages that could take two or more weeks, new media send messages instantly.
The new media are leading us into the e-world. Nearly everything is going electronic and online. The prefix e is getting added to most things in the world today. We now have
e-commerce (electronic commerce/trade), e-books (electronic books), e-banking, e-mail, and e-registration just to mention a few. Cyber is another prefix (cyberspace, cyber hate…).
Therefore, the new media technology is reaching areas of life and society previsiously free from mass media influences. This poses questions of invading private life.
It is also evident that conventional compact tapes that were bulky are steadily waning. They are being replaced by computer readable ones that are much more compressd. Compact disks (CDs), Digital Video disks (DVDs), VCDs, MP3, MP4, flash disks, and others are becoming a commonplace because of their enormous advantages over the old video and cassette tapes.
Important to note also is the fact that new digital satellite music and videos challenge the legendary conservative broadcasting formats.
Newspapers, radio and television stations have found it a culture to exist in space and terrestrial. This is testified by thousands of online television and radio stations and newspapers that have sprang up. Digitalized mobile phones can allow one to access TV, radio, take and share pictures with comrades wherever they are.
Photography is also following the trend. Film cameras are struggling to co-exist with digital ones. Digital cameras offer such opportunities as taking photos instantly and short videos.
The working world is coping up with new media changes. While some countries are far ahead in knowing and accessing the new media others are lagging especially those in the third world.
With new media technologies, jobs and careers are becoming volatile as companies re-organise themselves to compete on global scale. Most people joining professions, say journalism, will soon be expected to be multi-skilled in various aspects of their professions. The notion of specialization seems to be fading.
In turn, unemployment may result because of improved information technology and automation. Take for example broadcast technicians, newspapers typesetters and proof readers, as well as telephone operators will have to disappear as their work can be done by computers operated by a single individual.
New media have accelerated the free flow of anti social values like violent movies, pornography, and cyber hate.
The new media also raise concerns over mental and physical health of those who use them.
At the same time it has brouht about a gap between those having access to information on the Web on one hand and those with lagging communication technologies on the other. This is known as information divide. The poor countries have less access to the Web.
However, the above facts do not suggest that the old media have disappeared. The old media are here to stay. It won’t wane all of a sudden. It has to co-exist with the new media. In rural areas and developing world, for example, where there is very little or no connection to the Web due to low technology, no electricity or load shedding new media are a sheer dream.
Another thing is that the old media are cheaper compared to the very expensive new media despite the fact that they are highly interactive.
Because of huge importance of new information technologies, nation states are incorporating them in their legislation. The USA did this in 1996. Uganda has gone a stride ahead by introducing a minister specifically for Information Communication Technologies ICTs. In 2000, Uganda enacted the Uganda Communications Act to cater for nesw media.
Mubatsi Asinja Habati
Makerere University Kampala