The development of mass media could be traced by taking note of the important milestones – the oral and written eras in communication, print revolution, the electronic and digital eras, and media convergence. During the oral and written eras in communication, information was passed on from one person to another by word of mouth. The invention of the alphabet improved the means of transferring information through a more convenient tool – written texts. Although the oral tradition is practical and the transfer of knowledge through texts is effective, several parties clashed over the differences between the two because it created a gap between the literate and illiterate. Despite debates, written form of mass media continued to develop through the emergence of print revolution. Access to the printing press increased the reach of media through mass produced texts. Although the print revolution opened opportunities for the development of media, the electronic and digital eras had the most influence on culture. The dawn of the Information Age during the late 19th and the early 20th century contributed to mass media being an independent and profitable industry. Furthermore, the media played an important role in facilitating communication in various fields such as business and the military and in expanding opportunities for communication development that led to the invention of computers and other technological devices that we use today. Consequently, these developments led to the Digital Era in mass media. The Digital Era in mass media contributed to improvements in news and knowledge sharing. The Internet, for instance, expanded the reach of media by facilitating international transmission of news and information. Other improvements include the emergence of various media networks that utilize specific types of information to lure different target audiences. The continuous development of disruptive technologies caused media convergence, which refers to the power of the media to shape culture and affect our future due the various mediums where we gather news and information. Media convergence also led to businesses capitalizing on news and information to establish profitability and competitive advantage in the industry.

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The oral or written communication?

The oral vs. written communication debate during olden times significantly influenced the socio economic divide in America and other countries as well. The capacity of individuals to write and read became a status symbol such that the elite are recognized due to their literacy. The print revolution, on the other hand, focused more on social and cultural changes. Through print media, various issues became known ranging from politics, socio-economic conditions, race and religion, etc., which were easily disseminated through mass production of texts. Americans learned about those issues and were compelled to act upon them due to the information they read in the media. While the print revolution focused on the influences of media on the political and social landscape in America, the Electronic and Digital Eras, on the other hand, contributed to growth of media as business. Various organizations saw how profitable the media was and through the integration of services with new and existing technologies, businesses took advantage of mass media and information to lure their target markets. The mass media also became an effective marketing tool for these businesses. Thus, mass media also contributed to the development of corporate America and consumerism. Aside from the development of the business aspect of mass media, the Electronic and Digital Eras also fostered networking and sharing. With the popularity of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc., media transformed into something that could be manipulated by readers and shared to their family and friends through online networking sites. Social media networks allowed people to interact with news and information because it allowed readers to post and air their views and opinions about certain issues. The relationship between the media became interactive and instead of being passive readers or absorbers of information, the audience found a way to take action and respond to them.

The Digital Age created an independent American society

People can choose what news or information they want to read, especially in their own social networking accounts. People can make decisions about news and information they read or watch. Media convergence also leads to the widespread availability of news and information across different platforms, which means more people have access to them, and thus, more people are well informed. The availability of media across multiple platforms could be observed by determining how people access news and information nowadays. Media convergence, in its most literal form, could be represented by the many ways that people read or watch news. Nowadays, people use their portable devices, like mobile or smart phones, tablet computers, netbooks or laptops, etc. through a wireless network. People can also choose to read news in the traditional style by reading newspapers or magazines or watching them on the television or online. Businesses have even taken advantage of media convergence by tapping the application and software development market. People can read their news through news aggregator applications and readers can apply filters so they can choose what kind of news they want to read from their preferred source. Essentially, media convergence focuses on how news sources and distributors could increase access to information for readers or to provide various mediums through which people can read news.

Due to the widespread access to news and information, the need to apply media literacy became urgent. People can access news and information easily nowadays. However, not all sources of information could guarantee the quality and truthfulness of the information they offer. Since news and information strongly influence the views, perspectives, ideas, and culture of society, it is important for people to know the purpose and kinds of information spreading through the media. Media literacy could help people understand the reason behind the media and discern the intentions of those behind it. Moreover, media literacy helps the audience understand the kinds of news and information out there and make decisions about the types of information or platform that suit the interest and preferences of the audience. Overall, media literacy helps people make right and effective decisions when it comes to embracing specific types of information or not.

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