Types of Media
Types of Media

Mass Media vs Personal Media

Personal media is any form of media designed for use by a specific person, in contrast to mass media, which is any form of media designed for use by large sets of people.  Personal media can also denote person-to-person communications, such as speech, gestures, mail, and telephony. 

The earliest forms of personal media, speech and gestures, had the benefit of being easy-to-use and not needing technology.  But the downside of not being able to communicate to large audiences led to the development of mass media, such as writing.

New technologies can lead to new types of media and the ability to use a given form of media is related to the ability to use its related technology.  For example, modern humans have used a technology, writing, to enhance speech.  But writing was once the exclusive domain of scribes—professional hand-writers—and that monopoly only really ended after the advent of another technology, printing.  While it then became easier for many people to learn to read—auto-didactically or via institutions—the ability to write was not wide-spread until the industrial revolution, when paper and writing utensils became affordable and widely-available.


Today, technology is further universalizing the ability to produce media.  Printing, radio and television are some examples of mass media in that they are intended to reach vast audiences.  But these forms of media previously could not be used by the average person.  The advent of personal media technologies like blogging, podcasting and Internet video allowed the average person to do what was theretofore restricted to media companies.

But the ability to use communications technology is now so unrestricted that even the line between these definitions is becoming blurred.  For example, The New York Times has a channel  on YouTube, one of the world’s most popular websites (Alexa, 2013), which allows anyone to upload videos.  Likewise, Current TV  is an American 24-hour television network based on viewer-created content.  In China, the most popular website is Baidu, a Chinese language portal that offers a plethora of services such as searching, multimedia content and social networking.

List some ways in which you notice a mixing of mass media and personal media.  In what ways are these examples allowing multiple perspectives to be shared?  What are some benefits and drawbacks of this?  How can consumers of media—both mass and personal—ensure that the information they get is derived from trusted sources?

For More Information:

  • Professor Shigeru Miyagawa on mass media and personal media:
    Shigeru Miyagawa, professor of linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discusses both mass and personal media in a very clear and concise way: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7bkHu27P5o
  • Evolution of YouTube could mark the beginning of age of personal media:
    The following article explores the early stages of the personal media age, describing the change from monolithic media sources “firing” news and entertainment in one direction to a situation in which the flows occur in multiple directions: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/ kevinmaney/2006-06-13-youtube_x.htm
  • iPod era of personal media choices may be turning us into an iSolation nation:
    The following article examines potential pitfalls of excessive personal media use, such as the tendency to only expose oneself to ideas with which one is already comfortable and the resulting social isolation: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/ arizonaliving/articles/0912customize0912.html    


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