C10. Rice, R.E. (1985). Implications of the media habit for electronic publishing. In M. Greenberger (Ed.), Electronic publishing plus: Media for a technological future (pp. 63-68.) White Plains, NY: Knowledge Industries Publications.


The observations and analyses of viewer behavior reported in Section I seriously challenge traditional assumptions about how and why audiences use media. Two of the positions articulated have extensive ramifications. The first position, based upon evidence summarized by Russell Neuman under the label of "media habit," is that audiences are likely to pay, at best, only partial attention to the media and their use of it, and then primarily when such use is tied to daily living patterns. That is, media use is habitual, seldom instrumental and only vaguely conscious. Television use is not only passive, but, for the most part, directed to nothing more significant than pleasantly passing the time.

The other position argues that use of new media such as electronic publishing must be analyzed in both a historical and comparative context by looking at early patterns of media use and at how similar media have been used in the past. This position overlaps with the media habit position when one considers social norms that develop around new media, or location contexts that foster habitual use of new media. John Carey asserts that we need to analyze the historical patterns of media use to determin social and technological forces that make analogies to new media appropriate or inappropriate. This position leads us to be more thoughtful about automated teller machines, vending machines, telephone answering machines and video cassette rentals as a basis for making predictions about videotex and online software. We should use this wider perspective in studying the social role of mass media in general.

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