The age of digital media – what comes next?

Digital Media

School of the Arts student, Woon Yen Loi, investigates the future of digital media.

“Have you ever thought of reading the latest news headline on a social media platform like Instagram? The 15 second “Insta-video” format would feed you with ‘bite-size’ breaking news, allowing you to assimilate information very quickly and move on to the next piece of news. Quite the contrary to a TV news bulletin which lasts for an average of 15 minutes.

News broadcasting companies have been busy optimising their digital news to increase efficiency and reach out to a wider audience. The BBC mobile site works on a range of devices and screen sizes. It operates through a live page format where mobile users would be notified with the latest breaking news. All you have to do is to scroll down the site and skim through the latest news headlines, summaries, Most Read articles and In-story video clips. Imagine just how much information you can access through an average mobile screen?

Shift in emphasis

Mike Hughes, radio producer of BBC Radio Merseyside reveals how digital media is playing a central role in the news broadcasting industry: “Initially, digital media was deemed to be something that adds value. Now it’s recognised as quite often, the primary place that needs to be served first.

“The BBC and SKY news especially, have invested millions in their digital offer, making sure that their viewers and listeners have total faith in what they see on their websites.

“There is a general belief that there are huge benefits to breaking stories online as opposed to waiting for the next radio or TV bulletin. This is a massive shift in emphasis.”

Indeed, digital media is no longer an ‘extension’ to news broadcast. It plays a central role and offers many benefits to the ordinary citizen. Online news facilitates public discussion and encourages citizen journalism. It particularly engages teenagers and young adults who are often more connected with their mobile devices than the radio and TV.

Edge of burnout

Whilst having easy access to information is indeed a privilege, it can also potentially pose some adverse effects. I asked Dr David Hill from the University’s Department of Communication and Media for his opinion on the impact of digital media:

“I think one of the most interesting effects of the instantaneity of information is the demands it places on our attention. There’s a pressure that originates, I think, from social networking sites to be always available to and for communication.

“Being in contact and keeping up with trends can be exhausting. We forget that attention is a valuable resource and it’s one that’s both perishable and finite.

“You asked me of the impact on the 21st generation: I worry that we’re all on the edge of burnout just trying to keep pace with the speed and ubiquity of information.”

Instant gratification

The ‘edge of burnout’ will not be familiar to many of us. There are increasing worries on the upbringing of children and teenagers in today’s digital world; young people seek instant gratification, with fast entertainment and information.

Research has revealed that when we are exposed to a plethora of information, our desire for deep, analytical thinking will be diminished as a consequence. At the end of the day, we might know more, but understand less.

As we live in this fast-pace information age, where information can easily be accessed through clicking, sweeping, and scrolling a mobile screen, we must learn to take control of our information intake. Keep a sharp eye in detecting key, useful information, and at the same time, know exactly when to filter and ‘switch off’ from unnecessary information.”




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