Humans create content with intent; all content has a purpose.
#3509 Created 07/26/2013 Updated 04/28/2017
We* have difficulties with the word "media." It's the similar to the difficulties many have with the word "power."
It's easy to see media, because it's physical and electronic artifacts surround us everywhere. But we historically used the word in a variety of ways. For example, "it was reported in the media" (content published or carried), or "she works in various media" (a physical location of jobs or tasks) ,or "the media exaggerated the story" (reification of a collection of entities into an object), or the "media business" (a pattern of relationships in content creation, manufacturing, marketing and distribution), or "I lost my media on the train" (possession of physical and data objects).
"Look, up in the sky! Is it a Verb? Is it a Noun? No, it's Media!"
Interestingly, all of these types of references to media are not centered on the two points in the history a media object that are important: the moment of its creation, and the moment of its consumption. For, in between those two moments, media lives only in the world of artifacts. Stuff. Matter. Atoms. Vibrations in the ether.
Tellingly, in the age of Social Media, media has become more of a "place" where people "go" to "do" things. A place of human action, interaction, and relationships. While fairly common as a form of usage of the word, this form of behavior has historic roots, and reveals something about the word, and world, of "media."
The pre-dawn of mass media, about the time of the American Colonies, was a time when the way that people (consumers?) began to shift they way they used media. That shift accompanied media's transition onto the printing press, and the advent of the distribution of multiple copies of reproduced material.
Printed materials were objects that contained thoughts. They were difficult and tedious to create, requiring lots of time and labor for a few copies. Printing "runs" were usually in the dozens to hundreds of copies, and it was expected that each copy would eventually be read and passed only to dozens or hundreds of people.
Run the history clock forward a bit, and the "mass" part of mass media starts to appear as presses improved in design and ability, and were eventually hooked to steam engine. At that point, the reproduction ability increased dramatically and would continue to climb throughout the industrial era.
The expectations about readership shifted as press speeds climbed. Where printed objects had been greatly valued for their ability to be passed along and shared, their new abundance shifted their value from durability to immediacy. As the content and purpose of printed objects became more immediate, their durability faded. Newspapers, books and magazines became designed for obsolescence, fresh today, but replaced tomorrow with a new edition, a new issue, or a new competitor.
That sense of permanence faded more in the 20th Century, as movies, then radio, then television moved to the foreground, adding a shouting imperative to the sense of immediacy. The purpose of media -- the way people used media -- began a transition away from "objects that contained thoughts" toward "objects that attract and hold attention".
The key to understanding lies in the motives of authors. We must concede that humans create content with intent; all content has a purpose (cite). The author puts pen to paper (or characters on a screen) with some intent.
At the dawn of printing, with the costs of creation, production and distribution prohibitively high, that intent has a great deal to do with the nature of the content. It was difficult to transform text into published product -- tediously hand-setting type, laboriously hand-imprinting individual sheets, hand-sewing sheets into signatures and hand-binding signatures into books (cite). The difficulty of production -- and the high labor costs of skilled craftsmen -- set limits on the business models of publishing in that era. The market was restricted to those with wealth, a small portion of the population (cite). The author, therefore, had to create a work that would appeal to the available audience, and be of a subject matter worth the effort of creation and production.
* Well, I do, anyway.
where to go; therefore the author's intent was focused on transfering the meaning of the content to the reader's understanding (poorly worded).
then, in the future, the need shifts to merely holding the attention of an idle audience, who is consuming media objects of very slight individual copy value (like mass broadcasts).
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