The simplest definition of mass communication is “public communication transmitted electronically or mechanically.” In this way, messages are transmitted or sent to large, perhaps millions or billions of people spread across the world. Whenever I heard mass communication, the first thing that gets through my mind is wide. Why wide? As what I have remembered, it covers a very wide range of audience and it uses different forms of media to disseminate its messages. The main functions of mass communication are informing, educating and entertaining even a wide range of people.
There are two forms of media, the Traditional Media and Electronic Media. Traditional media are part of a country’s rich heritage. There are several forms of it like storytelling, folk songs, street theater and puppetry. Right now, when we say traditional media, it points to the foundations or base of the media industry like television, print, photography, radio and film. Electronic media on the other hand are the technologies used nowadays by media practitioners like the online writings, digital media, information technology. These types of media are considered as new media. Television, radio, film, print and photography are also considered as Electronic Media.
There are different institutions that make up the Mass Communication industry. Each institution specialize a specific field. Each specialized field use media technologies depending on their field. Each field has their own way or strategy on how they will transmit the message that they want to convey to their audience. One field may look for the help of the other field in order to make the presentation more attractive and interesting. For example, a TV production may look for a help of a photographer to shoot beautiful angles of pictures which can be use in the television.
An understanding of media richness theory is useful in when examining the impact that different communication media types potentially have on the message. Media richness theory comes primarily from the literature on computer-mediated communications (CMC) and is most often associated with business communication. In this context, media richness theory is used to analyze communication media choices and to help reduce ambiguity of communication through the appropriate selection of communication media.
Media richness is explained by some researchers (Trevino, Lengel et al. 1987) as the ability of a medium to carry information. Sitkin, Sutcliffe, and Barrios-Choplin, (1992) identify two components of a medium’s ability to carry information. These two components are the data carrying capacity and the symbol carrying capacity. Data carrying capacity refers to the medium’s ability to transmit information while symbol carrying capacity refers to the medium’s ability to carry information about the information or about the individuals who are communicating.
Researchers who work with media richness theory often rank communication media on their abilities to carry both information types, but especially the second type, symbolic information. The criteria for ranking a medium’s ability to carry information can be based on the ability of the media to, relay immediate feedback, provide feedback cues such as body language, allow the message to be created or altered specifically for an intended recipient, and transmit the feelings or emotions of the communicators. (Daft and Lengel 1984). In discussing communication in online classes, Newberry (2001) builds on the work of these researchers to construct the following table which attempts to place seven different types of communications media in a three-position matrix (high, medium, and low) expressing the media’s performance or its ability to carry: feedback, multiple cues such as body language, message tailoring, and emotions.
Attempting to rank different media choices does not imply that one is better than the other. Each media type has its own advantages and disadvantages and each is probably more appropriate than the others in different situations. In fact that is the point of much of the media richness research; one should choose the media type that offers the greatest efficiency and the greatest opportunity for the intended message to be conveyed accurately. In educational activities the choice of media can be influenced by many factors. Some of which include, technology availability, time constraints, familiarity with the technology, task appropriateness of the technology and desired outcomes of the learning activity.