“Thank you, old media.” “No. TY, new media.”

Qualman’s first chapter brought on this little post.

Oh, yes.  Old media vs. new media: the oft-discussed subject in the Technical Communication and MSTPC programs.  Both have their pros and cons, and I think that at this point in time, each has its proper place.  Since my son just celebrated his 9th birthday and we’ve been working on thank-you notes, I’ll go with this comparison:

Old media is to handwritten thank-you notes

as

New media is to sending thank-you e-mails.

Handwritten thank-you notes are a must for grandparents and other respected individuals. This thank-you media requires more thought, effort, and even comes at a higher monetary cost (stationery, stamps, smiley-face stickers, etc.)  We are likely to send them out with correct spelling, capitalization and punctuation.  Errors or missing details can’t be added once the thank-you is sent without going through the entire process again.

E-mail thank-yous, however, will suffice for close friends and other situations in which informality is acceptable.   We may let punctuation and spelling slide, and e-mail is a free service, so it costs us nothing.  An e-mail can come across as more of an afterthought, with generally less time and effort put into it.  We could turn around and send an additional e-mail correcting errors or adding things we forgot in minutes.  There is a more fleeting feeling to them, and recipients are not very likely to keep them once they are read.

Likewise, old media creates more of a record, whereas new media seems fleeting and fickle.  I think of watching a story develop over the course of a day, and watching the headlines change on CNN.com.  We can get very different information, depending on at what point of the day we check the website, and we understand it’s best to wait until everything is sorted out before taking the online news reports as complete and accurate.  Old media (newspapers in particular) gather the information once per day, so there is really only one opportunity per day for erroneous stories.  While the possibility of misinformation still certainly exists, it is not nearly as rampant, and it is not acceptable when misinformation appears in hardcopy print because we expect these outlets to verify their sources and information.  They, themselves, are often considered to be more respectable organizations because their reports are more reliable.

This might seem like a case against my argument, but it demonstrates that when old media gets something wrong, it’s a big deal, but when new media reports something erroneously, it’s no big whoop.

For similar reasons, I think we are more likely to keep, for example, a newspaper clipping of our graduation announcement rather than printing out the online version of the article.  We might see the article online first, but we would be prompted to go out and buy that day’s hardcopy newspaper for scrapbooking or archiving.  It is my opinion that we have a lot more trust in old media than new, but we are drawn to new media because of our love of instant gratification.  Humans are a pretty impatient species, and new media can give us what we want instantly.  There’s a saying at my place of employment: Do you want it done now, or do you want it done right?  New media does it now, but old media is more likely to do it right.

Posted on September 29, 2012, in Society, Trust. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Laura,

    I can definitely see where you are coming from. Technology is my right arm; however, there is a coldness – a distance that the human touch can only remedy. It is for this reason that my daughter and I have taken up scrap booking. By melding the old and new, we add warmth to the recount of our lives that hopefully will also be cherished by generations to come.

    You can buy a production-line bedroom set (quilts) that are beautiful to see, but they do not compare to a hand-made quilt in many ways. Likewise, I would like to envision a great-great grand daughter some day saying “Look Mom! My handwriting is so much like Granny Robins!”

    **PS – I miss this class 🙂

  2. Hi Laura,

    Although I completely agree that old media offers something that new media cannot by way of sentimental value, I don’t agree that old media is more trustworthy. I understand that with social media there are millions of authors and accuracy is a significant concern. But is it really less of a concern with a book, for instance? Socialnomics offers the Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia comparison, where they turned out to be equally accurate – and inaccurate. But, that actually isn’t the reason I venture to disagree. My first position after receiving my undergrad was to work as a designer in the book publishing industry. There were a few instances (of hundreds of books though, I concede) where notable errors made it through to the final piece.

    My thought is that new and old media are products created by people and people are prone to errors. However, as you stated, possibly new media does accentuate people’s propensity for errors, by allowing quickly publishable and editable texts?

  3. I think that “Dewey Defeats Truman” picture is a really good representation of this battle between old and new tech. You said that where you work people ask, “Do you want it done now, or do you want it done right?” Well, at that newspaper someone decided that it was more important to do it now than to do it right. But, today they could wait longer since there are no presses to stop and still get it right. Or, as is often the case, they could do it now and be wrong, and then fix it for nothing later to make it right.

    But I do totally agree with you about the lack of warmth in new media compared to old media. There is nothing like a handwritten note, or a hand-stitched quilt, or a homemade meal. When someone takes the time to add that personal touch it lets us know they care.

    Last week my wife had a really bad day at work and our eight-year old son picked up on it and told her to sit down and relax while he made her dinner. Then he went into the kitchen and made her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and even cut it into triangles. It absolutely transformed her day–and mine.

    But I do think that maybe social media could allow us as technical communicators to make our information more personal and maybe even show our customers that we are real people behind these documents and we want to help them do their jobs. I’m not sure that we are there yet, but the potential is there, I think.

  4. Fantastic final sentence! I agree, to an extent, but I actually wanted to add to your analogy, given the points made last week about the death of email, that “Social media is to ‘liking’ as a means to say thank you.”

    I know I see this most often on someone’s birthday. If all 300+ friends write happy birthday on your Facebook wall, the quickest way to acknowledge that is to “like” what they said. You can always add a comment, but then you’re on FB for way longer than you might have planned or you run out of witty ways to say thanks. 😉

    Oh, an easy way to include the links to the images you find, rather than inserting them into the post, is to paste it in the “Link URL” section of the form. Let me know if this doesn’t make sense!

  5. What? You don’t like five-line web addresses under pictures? 😛

    • Lol. I’m glad you were crediting the source but since WordPress offers us an easier way, let’s use it. BTW I only just discovered that feature!

  6. Your idea that old media leaves more of a record seems quite true and important. My wife’s aunt died recently. In going though her condo we found many photo albums. What a history those pages contained! Conversely, she also had a Facebook account, but no one knew the password, and all the family really wanted to do was close it out. No record there. Her kids found letters she had received and some that she had written and were returned to her when the recipient died. They were letters full of voice. They were historical narratives too. Beautiful artifacts to treasure. Who keeps emails–even when they are carefully crafted, it’s not likely they will be taken out an looked at months or years down the road.

    I love technology, but it comes with a price.

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