2 Old to New Media

Social media have evolved through human cultural practices along with technological affordances.

may we have your attention: first social media experiences

Student Content, Fall 2020

At what age should a child have social media?

In today’s society it is impossible to go out in public, and not see someone looking down at their phones. Our phones are the first thing we look at in the morning, and the last at night. We have become so glued to them, it can be difficult to hold a simple conversation. We even use our phones for the sole purpose of not having to interact with others in public. When we use our phones out in public just to avoid conversing with other people we are not only being very anti social, but we are practicing civil inattention. Everyone always says it’s teens who use their phones the most, and maybe that’s true, but why is that the case? Is it because we have more social media accounts, or more followers? Or is it because we choose to use our phones to distract us from the real world? I believe this is true for a number of reasons but the main one being, we’ve never known any different.

iPhones were first released when today’s teens were very young, and many of us acquired our first phone before we even hit our teenage years. It seems kids today are on social media at a much younger age, and now even elementary school kids have cell phones. The childhood experience is so different from what it used to be, but now so is the normal adulthood experience. Before iPhones we all had to get our news from broadcast media, and now we check our social media for updates on the world.

So what age is too young for a social media presence? I interviewed a Freshman at The University of Arizona to share her first experiences with social media, and get her take on how young is too young.

Amara (a pseudonym) is 18 years old, and has an iPhone just like every other college student her age, but the difference between her, and many other of these students is that she didn’t even have a phone until she was 16 in her Sophomore year of high school. Amara’s parents were very strict about phones and didn’t want their only child active on social media at such a young age, and since the only phone she wanted was an iphone, where it is extremely easy to access social media, she was not allowed a phone until she turned 16. This was difficult for Amara for a few reasons, the first being she couldn’t contact her parents after school when they needed to pick her up, she couldn’t talk to her friends outside of school, and she always felt very out of the loop. Vine was very big the year all of Amara’s friends started getting phones and when they would all talk about the latest videos she couldn’t participate in any of the conversations. Amara’s parents valued their young daughter’s privacy over her social life, and at the time this upset Amara very much, but now as she’s older she feels happy that she had different experiences than her classmates.

While other kids talked only through their phones, Amara had to meet up with her friends in person, and she had to have the childhood experiences her classmates never would. She played outside, and did normal kids stuff. This is why I believe that parents should wait as long as possible to get their kids phones, because every child should have those experiences of making plans with friend’s in person, and playing together outside of school. Kids need the experience of being kids, before they should have any presence on social media. Amara’s parents were also worried of any harm that may have come to their daughter if she had had a phone at a younger age. Cyberbullying is so common, and it is so easy for kids to be mean behind a screen. Younger kids especially think it’s ok to say hurtful things over the phone because they can’t see the other person, so they think it’s no big deal. Kids should not be active on social media until they are mature enough to use it properly. Kids should enjoy their childhood while it lasts, and then enjoy all the good of social media when they are old enough to appreciate it.

Graphic of the author

About the Author

May Otzen is a student at the University of Arizona. She spends her days watching Netflix, and using various social media apps like Instagram, Tik Tok, and Snapchat. She loves spending time with her friends, and playing with her cat, Bruce.



It is important to understand the relationships between older media and social media. By older media, I mean the industry-produced form of mass communication available in the US before digital social media became a thing, such as television, radio, newspapers, books, magazines, etc.

Older media can be referred to by other names, such as traditional media. And then there are subcategories of older media: broadcast media are one subcategory of older media, including television and radio, that communicates from one source to many viewers at once. Print media are a paper-based subcategory of older media such as newspapers, books, and magazines, that many users access individually.

Media convergence

New digital media devices inherit many qualities and functions of older media and forms of communication.

Phones in a series growing smaller
Mobile Phone Evolution: The shapes of mobile phones have evolved over time to become less similar to older analog phones.

Here’s an example: When your phone camera snaps a digital photo, it probably makes this sound or something like it. That sound is the sound of a shutter opening and closing. It is a sound that analog (non-digital) cameras have to make in order to function.

Digital cameras don’t have shutters; they function through chips that sense light coming into the lens. So why do so many digital cameras make that shutter sound? Because developers wanted your device to signal to you that the photo was taken, and that sound has become associated with picture taking in our society. Media scholar Henry Jenkins calls this type of blending of old and new media “technological convergence.” (Convergence just means coming together while moving through time.) Technological convergence is one of several types of media convergence that Jenkins writes are crucial to understanding our media world today.

Our technologies are full of convergences with older, traditional media helping us make sense of new media. Some signs of technological convergence go away over time as we become more comfortable with technologies. For example, mobile phones were once shaped more like analog phones, which helped people feel more comfortable calling and talking on them. However, as they gained more entertainment-related affordances, they began to appear more like remote control devices.

The history of communicating with many at once

Traditional media can be limiting when viewed as the only influence on new social media. Think of a famous athlete’s Facebook post seen and raucously responded to by thousands of people. Would that have been possible through traditional media like a paper newspaper or radio broadcast? No. But now imagine it in this ancient amphitheater in Syria (below). That athlete could have shouted an insult at an opponent, and gotten roars of approval and disapproval from the crowd. Spectators may even have gotten into fights with one another. Those types of interactions have a long social history.

The Bosra pano in Syria
The Bosra pano in Syria: This amphitheater from the ancient Roman empire afforded viewership by a large crowd that also interacted with one another.

Humans can communicate to broad and distant audiences using many other means outside of print or broadcast media. These include:

  • Vocalization and voice amplification
  • Staging for visibility
  • Oversize objects
  • Movement and dance repertoires
  • Songs and repetition
George W. Bush street puppet
This giant puppet is one example of a means developed before digital social media to communicate a message to many people using performance and imagery.

Some of these means of communication are very old. But the smartest developers and users of new media let every possible means of communication and visibility inspire their designs and practices.

It is important to recognize that when we use media, we communicate and spread our ways of interacting with these media, not just the content delivered by the media. Theorist Marshall McLuhan referred to this with the phrase, “The medium is the message.”

When developers consider new features, they have to consider what is present in the cultures that will interact with those media. If a feature relies upon brand new methods of interaction, it increases the likelihood that those media will confuse users. See one interesting way people are looking at new gestures developed in the digital age here.

A millennial shift: Web 2.0 as user contributions

It is with traditional media in mind that New York University Journalism professor Jay Rosen wrote The People Formerly Known as the Audience in 2006. He claimed that these people were taking over the media by using social media, and that his statement was their “collective manifesto.” He claimed the people were speaking out to resist “being at the receiving end of a media system that ran one way, in a broadcasting pattern, with high entry fees and a few firms competing to speak.”

Today’s media exist in a different era from the turn of the millennium. Rosen reminds us that broadcasters used to refer to viewers as “eyeballs.” Think about what that metaphor means. An eyeball has only two powers: To look, and to look away. There are plenty of media content creators who still only care about whether or not people are looking. But far more now allow users to “take part, debate, create, communicate, [and] share.” It increases their viewership, for one thing. And whereas the traditional media model involved advertising to the individual, the new model involves persuading the individual to advertise your product to their contacts.

The term Web 2.0 refers to sites that afford user contributions, such as likes and votes. O’Reilly Media coined the term Web 2.0 in 2004; you can read about that here. They were referring to social media sites popping up all over the web at that time. These new sites were different than the static sites of the 1990s and 2000s, the “Web 1.0” era. Web 1.0 sites would provide information or maybe some entertainment, but would not allow user contributions. You might say they were designed for eyeballs only – although creative users found ways to connect on Web 1.0, as we will learn when we learn about the Zapatistas in Chapter 5.

Web 2.0 sites that emerged in the early 2000s offered new capabilities, or affordances, to users. With Web 2.0 affordances, users can weigh in with likes and votes. They can comment or write their own posts. They can upload content, like images and videos. They can connect with others, and offer their own profiles and content to connect to.

Tools of change: Online cultures

The result of Web 2.0 is sites that are shaped by user cultures. Culture is a concept encompassing all the norms, values, and related behaviors that people who have interacted in a social group over time agree on and perpetuate. Think about the Web 2.0-enabled social media spaces you frequent. Perhaps when you spend time on Tumblr, you see that people talk about their emotions, and you talk about your own. Meanwhile, in League of Legends chat you don’t talk about your emotions because you know you will get attacked if you do. On Facebook and LinkedIn, you might wear a high-buttoned shirt, as you have seen is the norm; but you might appear in a robe on Snapchat, or a bikini on Instagram. Culture encompasses how users talk to each other, present themselves for one another, and take cues from and influence each other as they collectively decide what’s in and what’s out.

Software platform developers do influence culture in their user designs. For example, Facebook has its own shirt buttoned up rather high, with its plain white background and limitations on user customization of profiles. Online cultures do take some cues from developers, and users are restricted or guided by their affordances. But users have a lot of agency as they develop and share cultures within these sites.

hypebeast: a platform for men’s fashion

Student Content, Fall 2020

The construction of my social media

: Person who wears high fashion clothing, typically a person who has experience with reselling luxury items and trades for higher priced pieces. Person who can either afford or not afford this expensive lifestyle.

In the present world, social media possesses the ability to shape a person by his/her interests and through this, a person has the volition of choice to either have a positive impact on the internet or to have a negative attitude to certain topics. Even though I have had a rough past from relationship issues to cyberbullying, I chose to create my social media to be positive on the world and for me to not let my enemies’ thoughts dwell on my life. This stance symbolizes how I am set apart on all my social media platforms because of how I have different uses for each app.

On my Instagram, I am the most active because I utilize my Instagram feed as a reselling service for the hypebeast community.  In this community, I found my closest friends where we built our own unique reselling business and sold hundreds of items, each ranging from $100 to even $4000. This business allowed me to grow as a person and discover a unique side of myself I never thought I owned. I greatly enjoyed my time reselling in NYC with my friends and through this experience, I now have connections all across Manhattan in New York.

Part of being a member of the special community, I was involved with heavy acts of networking because of how my friends and I connected with buyers first on the internet and then in person to finalize the transaction. With the initial connection online, we were able to communicate with the buyer prior to meeting to identify if the buyer is serious on purchasing the item. If the transaction were to be successful, the buyer would then spread the word of our business and we would then have an increase of potential buyers, each with his/her own taste for fashion. Random people soon became some of our best buyers that we still keep in contact and these buyers led to more transactions. With the success of the small business with my friends, I was able to give the money to my parents and help pay for the bills.

At the time, my family was not financially stable but because of the hard work, I was able to obtain a taste of what determination is in reality. I was determined to help my family and with the extra income, my mom was able to became a well-known real estate broker in New York City and my father became a phlebotomist. With all of my family experience mixed with social media, I can testify that I am different from anyone and that the cultural knowledge of reselling aided me in becoming a better person.

My Snapchat, on the other hand, is not used for reselling purposes. I mainly use my Snapchat as a method of talking with old friends and classmates who need a lending ear. I tell people that if they ever need to talk about anything without judgement, my Snapchat is always open. I have had many conversations with friends and family where I would give them advice on work or relationships. I vowed to myself that I would be there for all my friends and family because my desire is to help those who need it even though I did not receive aid in my darkest times. I want to place others above myself and help whenever I am capable of a task.

All of these moments in my life molded me into a better person and my life illustrates that in life, it is not how you begin a race but how a person finishes. A person can either finish strong or finish weak. The choice is left to the runner.
Graphic of student author

About the Author

My name is Matthew Kim and I am an engineering student at the University of Arizona. I am a retired reseller of clothing, gamer enthusiast, miniature comedian, and adventurous!


Dominating today: The platform economy

…we are in the middle of a contest to define the contours of what we call the “platform society”: a global conglomerate of all kinds of platforms, which interdependencies are structured by a common set of mechanisms.”

– José Van Dijck and Thomas Poell, Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space. Social Media + Society, July-December 2015: 1.

Human-to-human connection is what social media is supposed to be about. This belief, this hope, was an impetus for this book when I began writing it in 2016. Historically, human-to-human connection was also what the internet itself reached for, at least in the dreams of its creators. This Web 1.0 or the “read-only” web as it would later be called was quite limited in its reach compared to today. And yet…that potentially infinite web of networks was still a wonder, and a site of international connections and information wars (as you’ll see in Chapter 5 with the Zapatistas).

Then what happened? Well on the surface, the web simply became more social. By the early 2000s with Web 2.0 and the “read/write web,” great excitement and euphoria surrounded the participatory cultures that blossomed on Web 2.0 sites. The wonder of the web refracted across our lives, as we marveled at how easily we could connect with one another. This world of connections broadened our human imaginations and expectations in irreversible ways. And many were overjoyed when, by 2009, all this human connection grew teeth – which is to say viability in the form of real currency exchange – with the “sharing economy” that enabled regular folk to share services and goods with one another. Platforms that began as tiny businesses with few assets gained tremendous value as the places to go to socialize online, with family, with customers, with friends, with influencers. The more real or potential network connections we had who used a platform, the more certain we became that we had to use it too. In the platform economy, the more, the merrier. These continue to drive audiences to platforms at dizzying rates, rapidly eclipsing product pipelines and business models that dominated in times past.

Behind the visible connections, all this sociality also marked the beginning of voracious – yet invisible – intermediaries. We were giddily giving up our data in exchange for the peer-to-peer exchange of services, a backroom exchange with implications few would recognize for nearly another decade.

And today? Welcome to the “platform society,” in which we are connected to one another, but only through platforms that derive immense power from and over our human connections.

What are platforms?

I define a as follows:

Platform: An ecosystem that connects people and companies while retaining control over the terms of these connections and ownership of connection byproducts such as data.

Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon: These are the major platforms that José Van Dijck argues have defined how society and both public and private life function today. These platforms reach deeply into human lives worldwide, with their publicly understood purposes forming only a fraction of their activities and profits. And rippling from these big four platforms are smaller ones, which emulate their models in various ways. These platforms and their stakeholders transform not just what we buy and enjoy but what we need to live and thrive: how we educate, how we govern and are governed, and how we structure our societies.

The impact of globally operating platforms on local and state economies and cultures is immense, as they force all societal actors—including the mass media, civil society organizations, and state institutions—to reconsider and recalibrate their position in public space. (Van Dijk and Poell, 1.)

Platforms have a profound effect on how societal life is organized. Airbnb has changed not just the hospitality sector, but also neighborhood dynamics and social life. Uber has not only affected the taxi industry; it has affected the construction of roads and public transportation services. We do not yet vote through platforms, yet they have had irreversible effects on our elections. Today almost every sector of public life has become platformized: Higher Education. News and Journalism. Fitness and Health. Hospitality. Transportation. And in these platforms, transactions that are visible to consumers are undergirded by other transactions in which consumers become unwitting producers, their data a form of currency that subsidizes the transactions the chose to engage in in the first place.

Future directions in the online world

With so much human activity and cultural expression enabled in Web 2.0, what is Web 3.0? Look this up on the web and you will find no shortage of responses. There is no consensus – no agreement among experts or among users. We don’t even know if we are already using Web 3.0, because it is hard to know where Web 2.0 ends.

Surely one valuable perspective on the present and the future of the internet would come from Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the internet in 1989. (It was released to the public in the 1990s; read more of that history here.)

Today Tim Berners-Lee has a new mission – to make sure we really are connected by the internet. He describes what drove him to pursue this mission this way:

“Now people feel very disempowered, because the end result is that they’re telling their computer who their friends are, and who’s in the photographs, and planning things and designing things — and those plans and designs and friendships are sucked up and held by these social networks. And they’re not really social networks, they’re silos.”

The data you create as you move across online spaces is often controlled and owned by those spaces. Berners-Lee is now working to develop new methods of linking data across virtual space without relying upon governments, corporations, or the many others with an interest in controlling that data. You can read more about this new mission in this TechCrunch article.

“Right now we have the worst of both worlds, in which people not only cannot control their data, but also can’t really use it,” Berners-Lee said in the project’s announcement last year. “Our goal is to develop a web architecture that gives users ownership over their data.”

attention! first social media experiences

Student Content, Fall 2020

Social Media has been a part of my life since 6th grade. I didn’t have a lot of friends then, as I had just moved to a new state and a new school. It was the only way of staying in contact with my friends for a while, until life got too busy for that and I eventually found my own friends in Washington. Looking on where I am now, nothing much has changed, especially with the pandemic. I use social media now to keep in contact with all my friends back in Tuscon and in Seattle.

However, keeping in contact with friends is something we all use social media for. What makes my experience unique is what else I use it for. I draw a lot, and post a lot of my work to twitter. I’ve been able to not only grow a following of people who like and even buy my art, but also have been able to make several friends online. I mainly interact with online communities like , and video game or film related fanbases. Especially since quarantine, by interacting with a few publics I already spent time with, I built relationships online with people who shared those same interests with me. Not only that, I’ve been able to gain a lot of experience and skill with my art thanks to these friends

Social media has given me a lot of opportunities both with my own personal work and with making new friendships, hell, I met my first boyfriend online. People think that a lot of the people who try to build relationships online are perverts or criminals or something. While I won’t deny there are definitely predators online, 99.9% of the time they’re just normal folk. Social Media has shown me that there’s a lot more good people in the world than there are bad people, despite how much social media might make that seem the opposite. The best way to parse the genuine people and people who are looking to mess with you is just learning to read profiles and how they interact with others.

Now why can I make these claims of people wanting nothing but good for others? Well, other than my friends, I’ve seen that kind of kindness from complete strangers. Ive been commissioned to do art plenty of times, and every time, they offer to pay up front, take as much time as I need, tip me very generously, or any mix of the three. People are grateful for your business, and even to talk to you, and having that generosity given to you makes you want to pass the feeling forward. So you be kind to artists, and that makes you want to just be kind to everyone. Weirdly enough, social media has done nothing but boosted my confidence, as well as my social skills in real life. The stereotype is that a lot of people who spend too much time online don’t have those kind of skills, but my time online has done nothing but helped me appreciate my time and friends in real life.

Also by this author: Twitter, Algorithms, and Artists

Editorial note: This is not the full video, but this excerpt demonstrates how the affordances of a platform can shift, challenging content creators.

A graphic of this student

About the Author

Jack Rogers is a Student at University of Arizona. He spends a large amount of time drawing, talking with friends, and watching some weird show called Kamen Rider.



Core Concepts and Questions

Core Concepts

one subcategory of older media, including television and radio, that communicates from one source to many viewers

a subcategory of older paper-based media such as newspapers, books, and magazines, that many users access individually

blending of old and new media. For example, cellular phones were once shaped more like analog (non-digital) phones

sites that afford user contributions, such as likes and votes

a concept encompassing all the norms, values, and related behaviors that people who have interacted in a social group over time agree on and perpetuate

a shorthand name for a key set of features that have made the internet what it is today

an ecosystem that connects people and companies while retaining control over the terms of these connections and ownership of connection byproducts such as data

the more a platform is used, the more likely that platform is where we go to interact with family, or friends, or customers, or all of these. In other words, in the platform economy, the more, the merrier

Core Questions

A. Questions for qualitative thought

  1. What are examples of qualities that digital media have inherited from traditional media other than those discussed here? Try to think of some that don’t make the new media work better.
  2. Can you give an example of a site that allows you to create and share? And then of one that still treats you like little more than “eyeballs”? Explain.
  3. Do you think you are part of “the people formerly known as the audience?” Is it still possible to feel that you are only an audience (not a participant) in the age of social media? Or are there different terms we should use now?
  4. Try to conceptualize a platform that you use. Make it a place, familiar or imaginary. How is it organized? Who is there? How are they behaving?

B. Review: Which is the best answer?


Related Content


Hear It: Air Facebook


Platforms can be difficult to understand and conceptualize. Humor can help; so can illustration, and imagination. Here is how I imagine one platform that’s been significant in my life, but that I find it difficult to leave due to network effects.


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