Date of Award

5-2009

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

Professional Communication

Advisor

Holmevik, Jan

Committee Member

Haynes , Cynthia

Committee Member

Morrissey , Lee

Committee Member

Field , Jonathan B

Abstract

The media change we currently witness, the numbers of newspapers that have recently folded, those that face a similar fate and the degree to which the death of print generally is predicted within and outside of academic circles, all call for more research into shifts in forms of media over time. From the first American colonial newspaper Publick Occurrences in 1690 in Boston, to the first punk rock zine Punk in New York City in 1975, to the emergence of the massively multi-player game World of Warcraft in 2004, understanding the factors which may have led to the emergence of new forms of media over time, offers an alternative perspective from which to understand digital forms of media that are often referred to as if they will always be `new media.' This thesis attempts to work historically against these type of neophilic claims for today's forms of digital media and methodologically in a consideration of the degree to which technology influences the emergence of a new form of media. Each of these cases suggest a dynamic in which agency is shared between the tools and actors in given situations rather than, as those who argue for models of change more similar to technological determinism, a dynamic in which actors serve technological forms. Actors in each of these situations used the available tools, from the printing press, to the computer's graphical user interface, to resist perceived impossibilities. We risk losing the possibility of our own agency in models of our relationship to technological forms if we lose sight of these histories of forms of media; we risk losing the stories of actors who used unconventional means to attempt to enact change. And, most importantly, we risk complacence, as the digital divide promises to make literacy ever more difficult for subjects to achieve.

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