Standage and Katz-week 6

Both Standage and Katz focus on certain aspects of communication that are initially held in high regard but then lose their potential as time progresses.  While Standage discusses the implementation of the telegraph, Katz introduces a new hypothesis two-step flow of communication. Both means of communication fail to live up to their hoped for influence.

In chapter 5, Standage discusses the beginning stages of building an Atlantic telegraph. He explains the high hopes that people had for the telegraph in being a novel, peace-making invention. After the telegraph is first laid down, people rejoice at this new means of communication that will unite the people of Britain and America, and even go so far as to claim that, “’it is impossible that old prejudices and hostilities should longer exist, while such an instrument has been created for the exchange of thought for all nations of the earth.’” Standage explains how people believed that the invention of the telegraph would erase conflict due to nations ability to communicate faster. The cable deteriorated as fast as it was put up, simultaneously shutting down the public’s hope for this new innovation.

Katz discusses the initial interest that the two-step flow of communication generated among the public. While the perceived influence of the mass media was increasing, this hypothesis offered a view that contradicted the belief that the media directly implanted messages into viewer’s heads. This theory proposed that the messages form the mass media first reach opinion leaders, who then discuss their views with peers. Thus, these opinion leaders were essentially the middlemen between the public and the media, and there were more interpersonal communications than previous theories of media influence proposed. However, like the initial struggles of the telegraph, the theory of a two-step flow had a setback: the pressure to conform.

Although it seems questionable to compare a telegraph with an “opinion leader,” both means of communication aroused interest in the public and then struggled to maintain their power. The hopes people had for the telegraph to halt international conflict and for the two-step flow to lessen the media’s impact did not prevail.

This leads me to my question: do you think there is any modern day invention/theory that will fail to live up to its potential?

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