Most of what we "know" is actually second-hand knowledge, information and insight that we obtain from others. Further, how we come to know anything is grasped in terms of symbols, and the meaning content of symbols is, in large part, determined by the form in which they are socially shared. Because of technological innovations, such as the inventions of television and computers, these symbolic forms are being fundamentally altered. It is for this reason that Marshall McLuhan (1967) argued that the medium is the message; what's important is not, for instance, what people watch on television but rather that they watch it. Given their symbolic dependency, changes in both social systems and self-systems have resulted.

Communications determinists argue that culture and institutions are only subsystems of communications technology.  Harold Innis (1951), for instance, observed how all mediums of communication are biased in terms of their control of time or space. Media that are durable and difficult to transport--such as the clay tablets upon which ancient Babylonians etched their cuneiform or the stone columns on which ancient Egyptians affixed their hieroglyphics--are time-binding or time-biased. Media that are light, easily transportable, but less durable--such as television waves, telephone messages, or the thin parchment carried by pony express riders in the 1860s--are said to be space-binding. Innis argued that space-binding media encourage the growth of the state, the military, and decentralized institutions. Time-binding media, on the other hand, foster concern with history and tradition, and favor the growth of religion and hierarchical organizations.


The Media History Project--"Promoting the study of media history from petroglyphs to pixels"

UCLA's Center for Communication Policy--with annual internet usage reports, violence assessment monitoring project, survey of Hollywood beliefs and values, and extensive media resources listings

Sarah Zupko's Cultural Studies Center

SocioRealm's collection of media studies

The Media and Communication Studies Site (U. of Wales)

Mick Underwood's Communication, Cultural and Media Studies (U. of Queensland)

Article Index - Jones Multimedia Encyclopedia Update

Mediamark Research Inc. "the leading U.S. supplier of multimedia audience research"

American Journalism Review

Columbia Institute for Tele-Information

Bruce Jones's The History of Printing

Museum of Broadcast Communications

Newseum: The Interactive Museum of News

American Museum of the Moving Image--containing "the nation's largest and most comprehensive holdings of moving image artifacts"

British Universities Film and Video Council's Moving Image Gateway --"a new service that collects together websites that relate to moving images and sound and their use in higher and further education"

American Communication Association WWW--numerous links's Mass Media/Communication Links

SPEED_Home: Technology, Media, Society Archive of Issues

University of Iowa's Dept. of Communication Studies Communication Resources on the Web

Media Watch
The Smithsonian's Time Magazine Cover Collection

Welcome To HotWired!

Media Education Foundation

Centre for Media Sociology--Belgium

CommWeb - The Resource Center for Communication Professionals

Boston University's College of Communication

Media for Disseminating the "News"

So from where do Americans get their information about the events shaping the course of their lives? In addition to my own analyses of the 1995 Washington Post/Kaiser Foundation "Why Don't Americans Trust the Government" survey, take a look at the 1998 Pew Research Center's Biennial News Consumption Survey.  Notice an increase in fake news reporting politically- (or corporately-) slanted "research"?  Check out the sources at SourceWatch.

Professional Organizations

Radio-Television News Directors Association and Foundation

Media Monopolies: Who Owns What? A Democratic Threat?

Prof. Aaron Moore's (Dept. of Sports Media, Ithaca College) Media Giants Frontline's Who Owns What?
Columbia Journalism Review's Resource Guide on Media Companies and What They Own
Media Giants (as of Feb. 2001) from PBS's Frontline's Merchants of Cool
Project for Excellence in Journalism's Media Ownership and Deregulation
Tom Goldstein's "Does Big Mean Bad?"

Toronto School: Marshall McLuhan and Harold Innis Resources

The Communication Institute for Online Scholarship's (CIOS) McLuhan website
Project McLuhan
Who was Marshall McLuhan?
The McLuhan Probes
The Resonating Interval: Exploring the Tetrad
Harold Innis


Our greatest fear is that the Internet will become a vehicle of free distribution of information.
--Ken Wasch, President, Software Publisher Association
(Washington Post, Sept. 6, 1995)


Sociology of knowledge types must be having a field day these days.  With the internet, information is no longer  filtered by such traditional intermediaries as gatekeepers and opinion leaders.  Have an ailment like Graves Disease and, with the resources on the WWW, one can be more up-to-date than one's overworked, HMO-ed endocrinologist.  Want to check the veracity of a Presidential candidate's claims?  According to the Pew Internet & American Life project's 2001 study, more than one-half of those with work access and one-quarter of those with home access said they went online several times a day.

According to a study by search engine maker Inktomi and the NEC Research Institute, the year 2000 began with one billion pages on the Web.  In the Presidential campaign of that year, candidate Al Gore argued that high-speed internet access "a fundamental civil right."  Track the top subjects of daily searches at Yahoo! with its Buzz Index.

Undoubtedly the web's greatest impact is its democratization of messages.  With this medium, anyone can be a news reporter or anchor, columnist, reviewer or critic, news or documentary photographer, artist, broadcaster, DJ, music distributor,  film producer, teacher, PR department, or advertising agency, and have one's messages disseminated worldwide.

Library of Congress' Explore the Internet, including info on its history 
Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives. We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology. Where each worker may bloom secure from the pests of contradictory and confusing truths. Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!

Harvard Law's Berkman Center for Internet and Society

Alan Liu's Voice of the Shuttle: Cyberculture

First Monday a peer-reviewed journal on the internet

Peter Kollock's "Sociology of Cyberspace" course (UCLA)

Marc A. Smith and others at Microsoft are engaged in some fascinating analyses of our electronic interactions and the new social structures being formed. Track Internet activities with Netscan, whose goal "is to collect base-line measures of the Usenet, its structure and dynamics so as to map of the kinds and qualities of the groups and institutions that form when people use the net to interact with one another. Netscan provides a range of measures of activity in the Usenet including the number of messages in each of the groups studied and the number of people who participate in them."

Martin Dodge's The Geography of Cyberspace Directory (University College London)

What key words are people entering into search engines? Find out at Yahoo!s Buzz Index, Metaspy,'s "Search Engine Spying," and at The Lycos 50 Daily Report.

Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life

Steve Baldwin's Ghostsites: an image gallery preserving the home pages of sites that expired 1998-2003

Need some stats on internet use and e-commerce? Check CyberAtlas

PBS's Digital Divide--"shines a light on the role computers play in widening social gaps throughout our society, particularly among young people"

Social and Economic Implications of Information Technologies: A Bibliographic Database Pilot Project (NSF)

Carnegie Mellon's HomeNet Project

Identity Theft


The Press Freedom Database (of the Committee to Protect Journalists)
FAIR Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting
Yahoo directory on Censorship and the Net
Know Your Enemies
Project Censored


Center for Democracy and Technology



NewsLink--links to hundreds of newspapers, magazines
The Ultimate Collection of Newslinks (broken down by continent, country, and state)
NewsVoyager "A gateway to your local newspaper" Web Wombat, an index to 10,000 online newspapers from around the world
ABYZ News Links--Links to over 15,800 newspapers and other news sources from around the world.
The Newspaper Association of America's "NewspaperLinks"
The New York Times on the Web
Washington Post
Christian Science Monitor
Los Angeles Times
The Chicago Tribune
San Francisco Examiner News Wires Page
Boston Globe Online: Search (15 yrs. of articles)
San Francisco Examiner News Wires Page
The Austin Chronicle
San Antonio Express-News Online Home Page
Compare the front pages of newspapers in the U.S. and around the world at Newseum: The Interactive Museum of News


Brooklyn Daily Eagle online: 1841-1902


The Internet Public Library: foreign news
Online to papers from around the world
London Telegraph
The Guardian
Maximov --News, Information And Guide To The Russian Federation



New Jour--Electronic Journals & Newsletters
SALON: Current Issue
Third Age - The Web for Grownups
CyberWire Dispatch, by Brock N. Meeks



What this generation was bred to at television's knees was not wisdom but cynicism.
--Pauline Kael (1919- ), American movie critic

Television--a medium. So called because it is neither rare nor well done.
---Ernie Kovacs

One half century after television's entry into American homes, the medium remains a favorite scapegoat for the multitude of perceived social and cultural ills arising in post-war American society. Its audience-attracting themes of violence, for instance, are seen to underlie the historically-increasing rates of aggression and homicide. U.S. News & World Report charged in 1955 that the very mind and character of Americans was being altered by television. Over the next twenty years the medium's potency to affect both identity and social structure was to attract the energies of scholars and popular writers alike. Among its suspected effects were (followed by year argument first appearing according to author's informal survey of popular literatures):

In the 1980s, the medium was accused of having effectively destroyed childhood as a developmental stage (Postman 1982). In 1990, a Gallup survey found nearly seven in ten Americans believing that they would be better off or at least not adversely affected if television was to disappear from their lives.

Such beliefs are reminiscent of the 1930s research which saw radio technology centralizing, standardizing, and massifying (Lazarsfeld 1940). Arnheim, for instance, writing a short decade after the radio became a commercial success, condemned the new medium and its listeners in scathingly contemptuous language:

Wireless relieves the listener from the necessity of `mental labours.' Instead of an individual with definite preoccupations who ... seeks certain things and rejects others ... the wireless listener bobs like a cork on the waves, hears one after the other on endless succession of totally unconnected things, and so entirely without a breathing space that he does not manage subsequently to ponder and consider what he has heard. Which suits him just as well (1936:264-65).

And so for the past forty years the radio generation has informed the younger television generations that they have been cognitively impaired by their viewing practices, with such symptoms as shortened attention spans, weakened linguistic abilities, eroded imaginations, impatience with deferred gratification, and inability to distinguish information from wisdom. On the other hand, radio was praised for its ability to evoke imagery, its creativity, and its ability to present dramatic events. In fact, television's "Golden Years," we're told, coincided to its early era when controlled by the radio elite. One wonders whether the next forty years will feature the television generations similarly belittling the virtual reality generations

There is a prevalent view that the printed page is the only truly intellectual medium. Other media are suspect in terms of their ability to satisfy educational needs and are portrayed as "mere" entertainment, at the least offensive end of the spectrum of contempt, to the creation of mindless followers whose very emotional state is molded by the non- print media, at the most hostile end of the spectrum. There is, one suspects, a bit of the Protestant Ethic embedded in these critiques: if it is fun and easy it must be bad; intellectual stimulation must be difficult, time consuming, and "work."

Click here to see the percent of Americans watching four or more hours of television a day, by age and education. What measureable effects does such viewership have?

Let's consider the relationship between the hours of television individuals watch daily and their responses to the NORC General Social Survey question "In general, do you find life exciting, pretty routine, or dull?" (variable LIFE) What do you hypothesize this relationship to be? When thinking about your answer, reflect on two possible causal directions that might underlie any correlation between these two variables:

Such findings are often the disappointments for those attempting to demonstrate television's causal effects using survey data. Typically there are extremely weak correlations between hours watched and individuals' stereotypes, beliefs and fears. And even if moderate relationships are located they generally are spurious, explainable in terms of individuals' education and age.

Another research tradition has been to study the medium's demographic biases. For instance, click here to see the underrepresentation and stereotypical depictions of older persons.  Minorities and women fare no better. According to a survey of prime-time shows during the Fall of 2000 by Children Now, a child advocacy group, out of a total prime-time population of 2,251 characters, there were 145 black, 25 Asian, 18 Hispanic and no native American female characters.

TV Net®
Welcome to The TV Rundown
Nielsen Media Research - Interactive Services
UltimateTV -- TV Biz -- Nielsen Media Research
Vanderbilt Television News Archive
Ad Age -Facts & Features - History of TV Advertising
Museum of TV
Ascom Standardization Service, Telecom Standards
The History Channel
Discovery Channel Online
The BBCNC Home Page


Museum of TV
Home Page of Rich Samuels: Broadcasting in Chicago, 1921-1989


Welcome to Warner Bros. Home Page


The Fireside Chat by George Segal at the FDR Memorial


100 Years of Radio--Marconi
Old Time Radio (OTR) WWW Page
Surfing the Aether--history of radio
Antique Radio Page
Phil's Old Radios -- Antique Radio Gallery
Public Broadcasting Corp
NPR Online
Radio Classics--RealAudio versions of the classic programs
Case study: Impacts of listening to Limbaugh on Americans' confidence in the Clinton administration



Public Relations Society of America Home Page
Spector and Associate's "Museum of Public Relations"
The Museum of Public Relations


From what I hear, one current focus of media researchers is "media literacy." In part, an outgrowth of the likes of the missile gap of the old, Americans nowadays are supposedly more susceptible to the stream of electronic messages than those of other developed (particularly European) nations. Their lack of cognitive immunity from the emotional and irrational component of these messages derives from their media illiteracy.

There are, not surprisingly, a number of groups having a vested interest in this concept and "problem." For the academic field of communications studies, for instance, it is what defines the discipline and what distinguishes it from the myriad of social sciences--and what prevents the discipline from slipping to a media technologies training profession on par with medical technicians and dental hygienists. For those in English, media literacy provides opportunities for grant monies and for expanding the discipline's purview beyond critical/competitive reading/interpretation of paper-based works in an increasingly non- reading, paperless, multimedia world.

Nevertheless, there can be little question that the media ecology produces intriguing effects on its consumers' cognitions, values, identities and behaviors.  Perhaps most-studied nowadays is the influence of media violence on aggressive behavior.  Further, there's how television provides its viewers with role models in societal situations for which prior generations did not supply scripts, such as the 37 extramarital affairs that Dallas presented during the 1980s. But it is a proverbial two-way street: media power is a function of audience receptivity. Might it be the case, as Muriel Cantor (1987) argues, that people turn to television as a substitute for real experience because of their feelings of helplessness. Click here for studies of the effects of television and radio on the American voter.

And then there's the matter of understanding how mediums' information streams can be contextualized, or framed, by the viewpoints of presenters.  If, for instance, a story item conforms to the mindset of those deciding what's "news" then it is more likely to be reported in the press (i.e., in 1992, making Presidential candidate Dan Quayle's "potatoe" misspelling in a grade school classroom a news story because it reaffirmed the belief that he was not the most intellectually gifted of the candidates).

Center for Media Literacy--replete with Media&Values archive
Yahoo! - Media Literacy sites
Media Awareness Network (award winning Canadian site)
Media Research Center media literacy lessons from the right--with video collection of Gore gaffes but none of Bush's
The Center for Public Integrity: Investigative Journalism in the Public Interest --these are the folks who in 2008 reported how in the two years following 9/11 President Bush and his top officials made at least 935 false claims about the Iraqi threat in order to galvanize public opinion for war
Media Literacy Online Project
Media Literacy from KQED
From the Museum of Hoaxes, test your pop culture literacy with the Hoax Photo Test

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