Jorden Gemuend – Week 6 – Standage and Katz

In order to first receive mass media messages, we must first have a mass media. However, even though our technologies today have enabled mass communications with ease, our primary source of influence still comes from interpersonal communication.

The process of developing a mass media was well underway in the 1800s when the first trans-Atlantic telegraph lines were being conceived. Standage describes the process by which this first trans-Atlantic telegraph line, a difficult and unthinkable endeavor, was successfully completed in the book The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-Line Pioneers. Soon after the line was completed, the demand for its use was incredible, and the telegraph quickly became “essential,” just as the internet is regarded today. Standage explains the process in which, through a series of interlinked telegraph lines, pneumatic tubes, and messengers, a Victorian internet was created. People were connected in ways they had never been before.

As was with the Victorian internet of telegraph technology, our modern day mass media keep us connected more than ever. With so much connection and media, a hypothesis was developed about the flow of communication of influences and ideas. This two-step flow hypothesis, as described in Katz’ study “The Two-Step Flow of Communication: An Up-To-Date Report on an Hypothesis,” is the idea that “opinion leaders” receive their information from the media, and then disseminate it to those who are influenced by them. However, Katz’ concludes that while opinion leaders do have more contact with media, it is not by much more than those who are influenced by the opinion leader. He also states that opinion leaders do not actually gather most of their influences from the media, but rather interpersonal relations. People communicating with people is the primary way ideas are transferred.

With the establishment of the Victorian internet changing the way the world communicated and leading up to our present day mass media, it might be expected that this is where our influences come from. However, as Katz’ study supports, we are still more inclined to be influence by real people than our media. The interesting thing about the media is that these are still people, their ideas are just being mediated by technologies. Nevertheless, our media has been changing since the time of Katz’ article. Now more than fifty years later, technologies have blended more and more with our interpersonal relations. The introduction of cell phones and the internet provide us with more efficient ways to communicate to our those we know, but not necessarily new ways. The Victorian internet existed before Katz’ article, and yet interpersonal relations are still the number one influence. Simply put, communicating directly with people is powerful.


My Question: What is it about interpersonal relations that is so influential that media does not have?

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3 Responses to Jorden Gemuend – Week 6 – Standage and Katz

  1. bhkadin says:

    The increased influence of interpersonal relations over the media is dependent on the individual. People who do not care about politics or current events are not seeking out the information. They are not actively watching the news or visiting news sites. These people are finding out their information from their peers. Uninformed citizens are becoming more informed due to the growth of interpersonal relations on the Internet. These people may not necessarily follow the New York Times on Twitter, but if one of their friends retweets a major news headline, they are still receiving the information. Current events have become part of our conversations, whether they are face to face or through some social media. This is why the influence of interpersonal relations has become so strong: citizens are becoming informed, not by purpose, but by accident.

  2. kbking1 says:

    I think the biggest differences between interpersonal communication and mass media communication have to do with trust and verifiability. When you’re talking to someone you know, they’re sort of socially accountable for what they say and you’re more likely to take it seriously because of that. You also tend to care about what the people around you care about, and the idea of a few opinion leaders filtering information for the masses doesn’t necessarily account for that. People socialize in interactive networks, not in easily definable vertical hierarchies. The internet makes it easier for people to receive information in a format that mirrors how they interact with others in daily life. It’s not necessarily that people’s interests have changed, it’s just easier now to share information with those who you already know.

  3. pcomameh says:

    Physical interpersonal communication operates on a level far above that of mass media communication. It has been utilized for far greater a span of time and has appropriately evolved numerous UNspoken communicative characteristics as well. Different physical cues such as body language, eye contact, hand gesturing, voice inflection, syllable emphasis, etc. are exercised freely and without much thought yet add a great amount of depth to the message being delivered. Such cues can delineate the importance, truthfulness, tone, seriousness, or sincerity of a given message without a need for any actual additional words.

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