Sunday, March 3, 2013

ESPN as an Example for 'Emergent' Media

In "'Emergent' media and public communication: Understudying the changing mediascape," Jim Macnamara looks at the changes happening in public communication and challenges that the term "new media" is really not that new. Although I found this article to be slightly bombarded with quotes and outsources from other authors (note the 2 pages of "references,") I think he did a good job of breaking down the positive and negatives of new media communications and finding four fundamental shifts of media development. 

The paper describes four revolutions in the history of media:  1) the Greek alphabet which led to writing, 2) the invention of the printing press, 3) the development of broadcast media (radio and television) and 4) the arrival of the computer, the internet and social media. Focusing on the last one, Mcnamara highlighted author Terry Flew in 2008 that stated the optimistic view that "the evolving internet will transform society and the public sphere into a democratized and equitable public space offering access to all." In the following paragraph he also says one must be cautious of this interactive media and the 'digital divide' it might create by the power of elites. Miller & Slater who are quoted imply that some might overestimate that transformative impact of new media technology and underestimate the extent to which new media are incorporated into an already existing repertoire of socio-culture activities and relationships. 

To help understand this adoption of media developments, Macnamara comes up with four foundational shifts (mediamorphosis, collapse of the control paradigm and 'emergence', media as practices, not technologies and the rediscovery of public conversation) that explain the complex nature of the changes occurring. While reading this article, I thought about the history and evolution of ESPN and how this "Big Media" outlet could give specific examples to these shifts. 

1) Mediamorphosis - Refers to the morphing of media types and forms. In 1979, ESPN launched it's first and only television program "Sports Center" which one year later became a 24 hour-a-day, 7 days a week service. Three years later, ESPN covered their first sports cast via the radio and almost ten years after that launched an entire station dedicated to sports, ESPN radio. Today, ESPN has over 20 different divisions including specific television networks, a magazine, PPV and even restaurants across the country. This definitely shows how multiple media can be use for the same cause. 

2. Collapse of the control paradigm and 'emergence' - When predominately major corporations owned the networks and content was controlled and provide by media "gatekeepers" now shifts to more audience contribution of information via new forms of media. As mentioned earlier in the article, this top-down influence is now longer the case. News from ESPN now longer only comes from their headquarters in Connecticut, they now have freelancers and journalists living all over the world that cover events and report the news back. They even have a division of students at the college level who write blogs, take pictures and interview athletes.

3. Media as practices, not technologies - Media and public communication is the field of practice and platforms rather than technology. Simply it's not only about the technology but what people do with it. ESPN launched their first website in 1995 but since then this technology has developed into more than just a screen with words and pictures. Through blogs, podcasts, videos, fantasy teams and much more ESPN has created this "culture" to unite sports lovers and give them a platform to share stories, express opinions and communication with one another. 

4. The rediscovery of public conversation - The view of mass media "as one of the most significant affordances of the open, uncontrolled emergent mediascape that is enabled by Web 2.0." Media developments have allowed people from all over the world to unite and interact through conversations. I feel ESPN's greatest example of communication is their twitter outlets. @ESPN has 6.1 million followers and over 46,000 tweets. That's a lot of conversations going on about sports! Their twitter account has also become one of the top news sources for live updates, breaking news and scores around the world that aren't even shown on television. 

Overall, I think ESPN has done a good job of embracing the four fundamental shifts and emerging with the development of new media while staying on top of their game (not pun intended!) 


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