New media technology was changing the way we perceive
ourselves and each other, an Australian communication academic
said in Dunedin yesterday.
"The focus on individuality is increasingly powerful," Deakin
University communication and creative arts head of school
Prof David Marshall said.
"Technology can now throw an individual's voice across the
room, like a ventriloquist. It's a presentation of the self.
"Technology in the 19th century related to communication.
Now, we have the ideology of individualism. We've changed
from representational media to presentational media.
Something shifted and we have moved into an area of persona,
which has manifested itself in politics, public culture,
Prof Marshall's well-attended lecture, "The Era of Persona:
Presentations and Representations of the public self",
examined the role of social media in changing public
"Technology is a bridge between the collective and the
individual. It's a connection. In the past, celebrity was
established by the news media and press, television and film
produced that public personality system.
"Now, with internet and social media like FaceBook and
Twitter, there is instant celebrity. Social media is the
village of celebrity. It's the elevation of individuals as
forms of representation of ourselves. It's an apparatus, but
it is in us to have these connections. There are twin needs;
the ideology of the individual and the ideology of the
collective," he said.
"Celebrities stand in for us and we allow it to happen. For
the last couple of centuries, we've elevated about 200 or 300
people, roughly the size of a village, to represent, embody
and be us.
"It had its zenith with television in the 1970s. TV does it
better than anyone else, because when you're watching you're
connected with other people watching. The sense of television
is that it is present, or was present. Although, TV from the
1970s has weakened as a representation of the collective."
Prof Marshall used the example of United States television
anchorman Walter Cronkite, who captured public sentiment when
he removed his glasses and wiped his eyes when announcing
President Kennedy's assassination.
"He was a relatively junior anchorman, but he emerged from
that as the most trusted person in the US. It was the
embodiment of an emotion. All he did was take off his glasses
and that captured the moment and represented us."
The internet had superseded television with a presentational
media forum, where people could individualise experiences and
"The representational media regime hasn't broken down
completely, but now there's a weird interplay between
representational and presentational. We might be heading into
an area of incredible instability. We might no longer need
the systems we've built over the last four centuries, but
they're still powerful," he said.