An ambitious primer on mediated communication falls just short of its aspirations to textbook status.
Fang (Emeritus, Journalism and Mass Communication/Univ. of Minnesota) presents an overview of all forms of media that deliver thoughts, news and ideas from one place to another without involving one-on-one human interaction. Through chapter-by-chapter histories of–among other phenomena–the printed word, postal services, photography and movies, video games and the Internet, Fang walks the reader through serviceable introductory histories to a variety of fields of media study. With the ambivalent, repeated keynote that â€œnothing comes into our lives without replacing something else,” Fang generally offers an even-handed assessment of the pros and cons of most significant technologies and media. Occasional flashes of wit enliven the otherwise dry prose, as in his note on home movies shot â€œwith enough pans and zooms to make a sailor seasick,” then â€œinflicted on guests as after-dinner entertainment.” Yet Fang loses his balance with the odd questionable assertion–as in his offhand note that â€œthe book continues as the standard that marks an educated person”–and fails to provide citations for most of his quotes and claims, such as when remarking that â€œaccording to one witness, the more time spent playing electronic games, the lower the school performance.” Such unsupported remarks call into question the author’s objectivity, especially in chapters focusing on more recent forms of media, which frequently spiral into complaints over the alleged increased coarseness and frivolity they offer. Because Fang often divides fields traditionally regarded as interrelated–e.g., film and television–into separate sections, redundancy in ideas and quotes ensues, sometimes offering up the same verbatim block quote twice. Nonetheless–while hardly revelatory for specialists–as an introduction to the history and basic ramifications of significant communication media, this is a valuable synthesis of general knowledge for beginning students.
A solid, if flawed, single-volume introduction to mediated communication’s various strands.