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Our basic thesis in this chapter is that although we are undergoing a veritable revolution in new media technologies-in technical innovation, aggressive marketing, and deregulation-our most serious challenge is to understand their impacts on human behaviors and institutions. This is the task of the social scientist of communication, and many of our contemporary theories and research techniques will aid us in meeting the challenge. The technologies are new, but our deeper human uses of them are not necessarily so. We will still communicate in order to relate personally to other human beings, to operate organizations, and to interact with the public structure of our societies. The applications of social scientific thinking to this problem area should not only illuminate the impacts of technologies on these traditional human purposes, but should enable us to maximize their benefits. In this chapter our review moves from the personal to the public context of communication uses. In so doing, we hope to reinforce the point that the traditional categorized distinctions among different types of communication are being reduced by technological change.

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