I hadn’t given much thought to how and why I use media. It was always so accessible to me that I never questioned it– it just became a part of life. It wasn’t until we were asked to examine our media use that I realised how much I actually used, and how much time I spent not actually producing content unless it was for business purposes. This made me think about what kind of relationship we have with media and technology. There have been many theories on the matter but the ones that I’ll be primarily focusing on is the technological determinism theory, and the theory that technology is neutral. When discussing technological determinism I’ll be drawing from Marshall McLuhan and Friedrich Kittler because they both debate that technology is what shapes us, whilst the neutral theory will be focused on what Barry Jones proposes.
We were asked to write a blog post every day for the next seven days about our media use. This meant that by the end of each day we had to recall all the different types of media we had used, and explain what it was that we did with that media and why. In the beginning I would write down notes throughout the day so I wouldn’t forget what I had used, but by the third or fourth day I was able to recall each media use without writing it down. By this point I had realised that each day wouldn’t differ too much from the last–I was using the same media platforms, always sticking to an unintentional routine.
The main platforms I used were Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Messenger. When I’d use Facebook for my own personal use I found that most of the time I was browsing through my news feed ‘liking’ and commenting on posts, or sometimes tagging friends and sharing content. When I used Facebook for business purposes I would be a lot more active by writing statuses or sharing various events (as described in my day two and four blog post). I used Instagram and Snapchat passively and actively, however most of the time I would be scrolling and ‘liking’ pictures, or checking ‘stories’ that my friends had posted. I used Instagram differently from Snapchat–I would post high quality photographs (mostly regarding fashion) on my Instagram whilst on Snapchat I would post things that were a lot more personal to me, and not as high quality (I also mention this in my day four post). I didn’t give too much thought in the beginning but I find it interesting that I was authoring and publishing very different content on these two mediums.
Although there were small contributions along the week I wouldn’t consider to be myself an active author and publisher–instead I took a much more passive approach and simply scrolled through or watched content without giving too much thought on what I was doing.
Since I found myself going back to the same media platforms every day, and noticing that I was much more of a passive user I wondered whether technology had some control over me. Considering I wasn’t primarily using media to author or publish anything, perhaps instead media was shaping the way I was living my life. To further develop this idea I looked into a theory called ‘technological determinism’. This theory sees technology as an agent for social change (Murphie & Potts 2003, p.11), and Marshall McLuhan was a prominent theorist to discuss this theory because he believed that technology and media shaped our environments and interactions with people. McLuhan believed that “the media are extensions of human senses” (Siapera 2012, p.7), and in a reading from Eugenia Siapera (2012) she uses the example of a telephone to interpret this idea saying, “telephone extends human voice, but it also ‘amputates’ face-to-face interaction” (p.7). In this case we can also argue social media to do the same–authoring, publishing and distributing would be just another extension of our voice. In my case, using it passively would suggest that media is so ingrained in me that I’m using it as though it were a body part (an extension of myself), arguing that media and technology is changing the way we are as people.
Friedrich Kittler is another theorist that also looks at technological determinism arguing that “media and their technologies make possible the kind of people that we are, and the societies that we have” (Siapera 2012, p.10). I found this interesting because having access to various mediums means that we are able to conceive different versions of ourselves, for example as I mentioned previously, I use Instagram and Snapchat very differently from one another. I am able to construct different versions of myself because of particular audiences I have on each medium, and because it’s made it possible for me to live out these different versions. On Instagram I posted a clear, nice photograph of myself to show what I had worn that day and also to show the street art that was featured behind me–in some ways without Instagram I don’t think I would be this person who would upload ‘ootd’ (outfit of the day) photographs.
Although these two theorists make valid points, I admit that they don’t consider the type of impact humans make to media and technology–Barry Jones however views technology as neutral. Even though I was passive and felt as though I was stuck in this habit of having to check my social media platforms (even when there was no reason for it), I’m still given a choice as to how I want to use these platforms. Jones proposes that “any technological change has an equal capacity for the enhancement or degradation of life, depending on how it is used” (Jones in Murphie & Potts 2003, p.22). Due to being a passive user it allowed me to believe that media and technology was having some sort of an effect on me however, If I think of technology the way Jones does, I am able to shift that power back me, the user, and understand that being passive still enhanced my life in some way–Netflix and YouTube brought me entertainment when I felt the need to relax, and Instagram gave me inspiration for my own content as I glimpsed over other people’s photos. However in saying this, I would like to author and publish a lot more in the future just as I have done with my blogs. By using WordPress I was able to create my blogs which have helped me to understand the kind of media user I am, so if I can continue to use media and technology the way I want to I’m able to continuously grow to be an active content creator.
I explored whether media and technology were the ones shaping who we are or if we did have some control. Although media and technology allows us to author, publish, and distribute, it doesn’t completely control who we are and doesn’t have strict instructions on how to use it. Instead, we are given the option to use media and technology the way we like and to tailor it to suit our needs and interests. Even though I concluded that I was a passive user, it doesn’t necessarily suggest that media and technology has control over me it just means that if I want to become an active user, I have the option to author and publish content more frequently. It’s also important to acknowledge that there were outside factors that resulted in my passive behaviour such as, university projects and socialising with friends. Therefore, it would be interesting to see if I were to conduct the same research project on a different week, if it would have the same results. I also would’ve liked to note down how much time was spent using media due to a notification compared to when I didn’t receive a notification– it would have shown whether or not technology encourages our media use.
By documenting this process it has allowed me to identify in what areas I can improve on when using media–especially as a music industry student. In my field I need to become visible in the community in order to network and also to show that I have an understanding of what is happening in the industry. In my internships I’m always producing content and so it would great if I could continue that in my own personal use.
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Murphie, A & Potts, J 2003, ‘Theoretical Frameworks’, in Culture and Technology, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, pp. 11-38.
Siapera, E 2012, ‘Understanding New Media’, in Understanding New Media, Sage Publications, London United Kingdom, pp. 2-16.