From speech to Internet videoconferencing, humans have always found ways to communicate.  Nowadays, the media—a catchall term that encompasses the various ways in which entities communicate with others—isn’t just a convenience, it’s practically a necessity.  It is almost impossible to travel anywhere, for example, without knowing how to read; and it could be very difficult to constantly keep in touch with faraway friends and family without telephones or the Internet.

But the obvious conveniences of media also come with potential drawbacks.  Mass media outlets can efficiently communicate information to large groups of people, but can also mislead the public by conveying certain perspectives while omitting others.  Personal media tools, such as blogging, can counteract this by allowing individuals to broadcast their opinions, but this could also result in the dissemination of unreliable information.

Fundamentally, media is a tool and its uses are a reflection of the people who use it.  So understanding the media itself and its dynamics will help in using it and in mitigating its downsides.  The media is here to stay, so it’s not like there’s much of a choice, anyway.

This Issue in Depth will address what the media is and how it interacts with society—specifically, the types of media, the media‘s role in society, governmental roles in media, control of media, alternative media, the economics of the media industry, and a case study on a pivotal moment in history involving the media and its implications.


Next: Types of Media