Humans have always had the need to communicate with each other. Sociologists, anthropologists, and all those other people interested in the evolution of the human animal engage in a never-ending debate over whether the need for communication is a natural, in-born instinctive need or if it’s learned behavior. For the rest of us, its origin doesn’t really matter. What we want to do is talk. And be heard.
As primitive man has evolved to modern man, his technologies have evolved too, including those used for communication. Since the desire to communicate has driven the methods by which we do it, the methods we use to do so have evolved, too. Each new, evolutionary, way we devise to communicate is a medium of communication. Collectively, these methods of communication are called the media.
With each new media innovation comes the need to master the technology. Once media education meant merely conveying a message in a way a second person would understand. Communications spread from clan to clan, tribe to tribe, by word of mouth. Good verbal skills were the best media education a person could ask for.
Over time, animal calls, smoke signals, and similar activities allowed communications to be accomplished over greater distances. A respected media education required the knowledge of how to send and interpret these messages correctly.
As communications technologies were developed, the media education required of using them effectively was developed, too. From mirrors flashing in the sunlight to the written word to Morse code, the communications systems were only as effective as the media education of the people using them.
In the early days, an effective media education could be achieved by mastering a specific skill or two. After the invention of the radio, an effective media education got a little more complex.
As means of communication became more complex still, media education became more specialized. From telephones to televisions to computers and cell phones, we’ve learned many more ways to communicate and we do so faster than ever before and with a bigger audience than anyone sending a smoke signal would have ever dreamed of.
Students getting a media education today can no longer expect to learn the full spectrum of the industry. Instead, specialization in one aspect or another is more realistic although we all employ more and more methods than ever for everyday communications that we take for granted.