Dr. Jay Rosen, professor of journalism from New York University, addressed students from the School of Communications on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016.
Rosen, author of What Are Journalists For? and the blog PressThink.org, has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Harper’s Magazine and often speaks about new media in time of rapid transformation.
In his address, entitled “Audience Atomization Overcome”—his own description to explain what the Internet has done to mass media— he discussed with students how the Internet has overcome the distance between audiences disrupting traditional media models.
“In the era of mass media, part of what made it ‘mass’ was not just large numbers of people but the fact that people on the receiving end were connected up and disconnected across,” Rosen said.
He explained that media talked to audiences but audiences didn’t talk back or to each other. Now, in the Internet age, the media talks to us but we also have an ability to talk back and talk to each other.
“The media system was read only, meaning you could just receive,” Rosen said. “The web is read-write. You can not only download what’s on that site, but you can compose your own site and publish to the world.”
While it used to be expensive and time-consuming to communicate to a mass audience, now all people can communicate with each other with relative ease. This changes the relationship between the creator of media and the consumer of media.
“Shifts from the mass media pattern to the internet pattern are upsetting every form of communication we have,” Rosen said. “Because of these shifts, professionals realize that their public presence is hugely important in their work.”
Rosen explained that professionals must grapple with a shift in authority that comes from the availability of all kinds of information to the audience. This may lead to a potential problem of misleading information but most importantly this new balance of power requires authorities to engage with people, not as masses, but as individuals with individual lives.
Quoting from 20th century philosopher, Raymond Williams, Rosen stated, “there are in fact no masses, but only ways of seeing people as masses.”
Rosen clarified saying that there is no such thing as a mass man or a mass woman. They do not exist. What do exist are the formulas for addressing people that way by reducing people to numbers or ratings.
“Seeing people as masses doesn’t work any more. We have to see people as people. If you can’t do that, you will lose,” said Rosen.