The interaction between technologies and society: Lessons learned from 160 evolutionary years of online news services

An Nguyen


In mapping the evolutionary process of online news and the socio-cultural factors determining this development, this paper has a dual purpose. First, in reworking the definition of “online communication”, it argues that despite its seemingly sudden emergence in the 1990s, the history of online news started right in the early days of the telegraphs and spread throughout the development of the telephone and the fax machine before becoming computer-based in the 1980s and Web-based in the 1990s. Second, merging macro-perspectives on the dynamic of media evolution by DeFleur and Ball-Rokeach (1989) and Winston (1998), the paper consolidates a critical point for thinking about new media development: that something technically feasible does not always mean that it will be socially accepted and/or demanded. From a producer-centric perspective, the birth and development of pre-Web online news forms have been more or less generated by the traditional media’s sometimes excessive hype about the power of new technologies. However, placing such an emphasis on technological potentials at the expense of their social conditions not only can be misleading but also can be detrimental to the development of new media, including the potential of today’s online news.

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