Media Theory for the 21st Century

March 1, 2008

news, text messages

Filed under: Discussion — reneehudson @ 9:40 am

I meant to post this earlier, so sorry for the delay.

During one of my conversations with my mother following the Oxnard school shooting, I distinctly remember being struck by the fact that teachers and school officials told the students that if they had cell phones, they could use them to call their parents. I thought it was an interesting acknowledgment – cell phones are prohibited on the campus and will be confiscated if discovered. Yet (of course) the teachers, etc. knew the students (like my nephew) had them on hand.

At home that following weekend, reading Vesna, I thought about cell phone use in the aftermath of the school shooting, particularly when, speaking of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, she commented: “Communication moved into the ‘virtual’ realm as the Internet and cell phones became the established connection to the ‘real’ world when the wire lines failed” (Vesna 9). Similarly, cell phone use became the main form of contact as the school was locked down. On my end, I relied on the Internet for news, with the result that I often had more recent information about what was going on than my family (who were actually in Oxnard) because I continually refreshed Google news results.

One of the articles mentioned that in addition to phone calls, the students sent text messages to parents and each other, partly to piece together what had happened. With these thoughts in mind, flash forward to Fuller: “Newspapers, for instance, gained ‘addictive dependency’ for extracting up-to-date news from the far corners of the networks and the national territories that became perceptible around them . . . The newspaper never simply become a transcript of calls to the editor, but it changed in its relation to what constitutes news” (Fuller 47). I imagined a system (which may exist, but preliminary Google searches did not reveal anything, despite the intuitive nature of this concept) that allowed people to send texts directly to a centralized police and / or news source(s) to add to the up-to-date quality of the information while helping to construct a coherent narrative more quickly (after all, I knew more than was reported because my nephew was there). In a sense, this would constitute a running transcript to the police / news, similar to the Cctv faxes. Again, I’m fully aware that this isn’t a novel idea, but the fact that it’s not a system people engage in automatically (like dialing 911) emphasizes that it’s not widespread.

I also thought about the nature of the news – earlier this month Kate mentioned the shift in news from the local to the national. The shooting underscored the idea of news as already shifted from the national to the global – one of the sites I read, which provided the most context, is a paper based in Dubai. I assumed I would read wires and updates from The LA Times, The Ventura County Star, and The Associated Press, but it didn’t occur to me to look to a paper from The United Arab Emirates. With or without the use of text messaging, the news is apparently able to pull “from the far corners of the networks.”

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