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Sample essay

How far has new media technology changed audience leisure patterns ?

1000 word essay using some of the technologies so far discussed and used. Note how it follows through an argument and each paragraph links to the next. It sticks to the question and gives a few actual examples to support points made. It covers a range of areas but does not try to cover everything.

You might consider how you could use other technologies to answer this question and also how you could use the same material and adapt it to answer other questions.

The growth of new media in recent years has created many more opportunities for audiences to consume and indeed to create media products. This essay will look at the ways in which this might be seen to represent a change in audience leisure pursuits.

For young people, the expansion of internet access, particularly broadband, has led to a boom in downloading music files. Peer to Peer sharing (P2P) began with napster and has recently continued with a host of illegal programs. It is not uncommon to find people with thousands of music tracks on their computers which they have downloaded for free. In the last few months, this has been further fuelled by the growth in sales of MP3 players. The iPod has become cheaper with the arrival of the iPod mini, though at well over £100 it is still expensive. Rivals like the Creative with similar capacity have also become popular and all these players, with huge storage capacity mean that instead of the Cd walkman with its one disk has been almost replaced as people now like to carry their whole record collection round with them.

The record industry is attempting to strike back with the random selection of users who the BPI has threatened to prosecute, with in many cases parents settling out of court to pay compensation for the illegal downloading. However, as with all new technology, once it is out there it becomes increasingly hard to stop. The other route taken by the industry is to encourage legal downloads; sites like iTunes have licensed the sale of millions of tracks and most recently the growth in legal downloads has been recognised by their inclusion in the sales charts alongside conventional CD sales in shops.

Sharing itself could be seen as a change in leisure patterns, but it could be argued that it is merely an extension of home taping which the industry also accused as athreat back in the 1970s. Its scale (you can download dozens of tracks in a couple of hours) and the fact that you can get music from other people’s computers all over the world (rather than just your mates) is what marks the MP3 boom as different. It could also be said to offer different opportunities in that downloaders might come across music and artists they have previously not heard or access otherwise unavailable material, thus perhaps extending audience tastes in unexpected ways.

One step on from MP3 file sharing is the creation of podcasts, which is an even more recent innovation. This could be seen as a mix of MP3 collection and broadcasting, since it involves the creation of a sort of radio programme, which could be music, speech or a mixture, created by anyone with appropriate (usually free) software and access to the internet. In creating your own podcast, you can share your taste still further by uploading it to either your own or a ‘collective’ website, such as Podcastalley, where others can listen or even download to their own MP3 player for later listening.

Although again there are issues of copyright infringement potentially here, it could also be seen as a good example of the way the web opens up the possibility of more ‘democratic’ media use. Audiences can themselves become producers relatively easily and if they find an audience for their podcast may quickly become well known and see their audience snowball. This is particularly the case where sites showcase a top 10 or top 50, so that those near the top tend to generate more listening and may gain publicity outside the site and become ‘cult listening’ as in ‘Yeast radio’ whose quirky transsexual DJ got newspaper coverage and picked up listeners as a consequence.

The notion of the consumer becoming a producer is ever more likely as technology becomes cheaper and easier to use, particularly via computer software available free on the web. It is possible to create professional-looking products very quickly and though they may not compete with the mainstream distributed product they can nonetheless gain a strong niche audience via search engines and online communities. An example is the fashion for blogging. With over 8 million bloggers in the USA and an increasing number worldwide, covering all manner of topics from personal diaries and hobbies through to political news, there is a huge potential for audience leisure time to shift away from pure consumption to active production. I found setting up a professional looking blog from a template at blogspot.com very easy to do and was quickly able to link to sites and pictures and even upload my own pictures to a free host, Flickr.

This is also the case with movies, as no longer need the home video be purely a tool for recording birthday parties and probably only boring your relatives with hours of aimless footage. Programs like iMovie and the cheap price of DV camcorders (now as little as £300) mean that people can shoot footage and edit it to a good standard (the same program was used to edit the recent documentary ‘Tarnation’ which did well at the Sundance festival on a budget of $200 and is now on general release in the UK). It is even possible then to upload your finished film to short film websites where it can reach an audience. Programs like iCritique, which is used to display films made for A level Media at my college, further allow feedback from remote audiences and I am able to say with confidence that some of our films have been viewed by people as far away as Australia.

So yes, New Media technologies are impacting upon audience leisure time- maybe not everyone yet, but certainly for many people giving them the chance to see, hear and find out about new things and to produce media texts from blogs to podcasts to movies to themselves find an audience.

posted by Long Road @ 2:22 PM,


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