What role have communication media played in the formation of modern societies? How should we understand the social impact of new forms of communication and information diffusion, from the advent of printing in fifteenth-century Europe to the expansion of global communication networks today?
In this major work, Thompson addresses these and other questions by elaborating a distinctive social theory of communication media and their impact. He argues that the development of communication media has transformed the spatial and temporal constitution of social life, creating new forms of action and interaction which are no longer linked to the sharing of a common locale. The consequences of this transformation are far-reaching and impinge on many aspects of our lives, from the most intimate aspects of personal experience and self-formation to the changing nature of power and visibility in the public domain.
Drawing on the work of social and political theorists, cultural historians and communication researchers, Thompson develops his argument through an analysis of several interrelated themes: the rise of mediated interaction; the creation of new forms of mediated visibility, the emergence of global communication networks, the transformation of tradition, the reshaping of the process of self-formation, and the changing character of the public sphere.
Combining breadth of vision with sensitivity to detail, this book situates the study of the media where it belongs, among a set of disciplines concerned with the emergence, development and structural characteristics of modern societies and their futures.