Media’s Roles and Functions

Media mediates — Between one person and another, one community to another, one time and another.
Media play many functions — Community building. Political debate and economic exchange. Entertainment and recreation. Propaganda and surveillance. Protest and resistance. Knowledge management.
Media are tools — We’re often told media has effects on us, making us more violent, more passive, more sexual. In fact, we do things with media. People use media to archive memories (home movies, family photos), preserve social ties (the Internet, the phone), and experience the central stories of their culture (Greek epic, Hollywood cinema).
All media are participatory — Digital media are celebrated as creating a more participatory culture, where we are no longer passive consumers but active, creative producers; people can build their own website, shop on-line, or participate in chatrooms. But media participation has a long history. When radio was first introduced, it was assumed that everyday people would be able to transmit as well as receive information; instead, radio became in most Western cultures primarily a technology for one-way, broadcast communication. Aspects of its participatory tradition remain, however, in “talk radio” or even when we choose a favorite song to express our feelings for family and friends.
MIT Media Communication Group
Via Digital Story Telling