Technology, Democracy, and Media Senior Individualized Project
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My purpose in this project has been to connect theories about the media's role in the formation of public opinion to the particular technologies that dominate media landscapes, and my argument is that technological forms matter because they enter into reciprocal relationships with the context in which they exist and can thereby shape behavior and action. If we understand the media's function in the political sphere to be a kind of gatekeeper of attention, serving the role of setting the political agenda, framing the terms of the issues on the agenda, and creating standards for evaluating individuals and policies related to those issues, particular technologies may or may not create conditions that make possible the realization of these functions. This gatekeeping role is critical in a democracy because it allows the media to serve as a kind of public forum where citizens can develop a range of shared experiences and a common vocabulary for addressing issues of political salience. Using William Russell Neuman's terminology of one-way vs. two-way and push vs. pull media environments, I have attempted to describe the differences between the news environments created by newspapers and radio and television in order to show why the Internet's capacity for enhanced personalization in an environment where information is increasingly abundant may undermine the agenda-setting, framing, and priming functions and the media's ability to act as a public forum.