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A Study of New Communication Technologies and Civic Engagement : A Time to Reconceptualize the Research Constructs?
Unformatted Document Text:  1 Introduction Last two hundred years have been marked by an unprecedented progress in science and technology with new scientific inventions being more readily applied in military and commercial domains than ever before in history. Rapid industrialization of the Western world was followed by proliferation of communication technologies including steam-driven cylindrical press, film, radio, and television that gave birth to the concepts of the mass media and the mass audience. The arrival of any new mass communication technology was hailed as a great breakthrough, and while millions of citizens were busy engaging the new medium, hundreds (if not thousands) of scientists, researchers and pundits were trying to gauge its impact. Frequently, the mass media became usual suspects, accused of causing a range of social ills, from antisocial behavior to depression. As a result, thousands of research studies were generated, examining effects of newspaper reading, television viewing, video-game playing etc. One of the relatively recent preoccupations of scholarly community has been the impact of communication media on civic engagement. The questions about the impact of media technologies on civic life stem from the fact that our present environment is much more information rich and communication intensive than any of the environments that shaped our political institutions throughout the history (Bimber 2000). This debate has been prompted in the United States by several phenomena that have been observed since the seventies, namely the falling rates of political participation and the decline of traditional civic organizations. A number of indicators have demonstrated this shift away

Authors: Skoric, Marko.
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1
Introduction
Last two hundred years have been marked by an unprecedented progress in
science and technology with new scientific inventions being more readily applied in
military and commercial domains than ever before in history. Rapid industrialization of
the Western world was followed by proliferation of communication technologies
including steam-driven cylindrical press, film, radio, and television that gave birth to the
concepts of the mass media and the mass audience. The arrival of any new mass
communication technology was hailed as a great breakthrough, and while millions of
citizens were busy engaging the new medium, hundreds (if not thousands) of scientists,
researchers and pundits were trying to gauge its impact. Frequently, the mass media
became usual suspects, accused of causing a range of social ills, from antisocial behavior
to depression. As a result, thousands of research studies were generated, examining
effects of newspaper reading, television viewing, video-game playing etc.
One of the relatively recent preoccupations of scholarly community has been the
impact of communication media on civic engagement. The questions about the impact of
media technologies on civic life stem from the fact that our present environment is much
more information rich and communication intensive than any of the environments that
shaped our political institutions throughout the history (Bimber 2000). This debate has
been prompted in the United States by several phenomena that have been observed since
the seventies, namely the falling rates of political participation and the decline of
traditional civic organizations. A number of indicators have demonstrated this shift away


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