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How PR faced the challenge of the “information superhighway”.

Watson, T., 2013. How PR faced the challenge of the “information superhighway”. In: International Public Relations Research Conference, 7--9 March 2013, Miami, FL, USA. (Unpublished)

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Before the Internet, social media and search engine optimisation, there was the “information superhighway” and the “Megachip age” in the 1980s. Although PR practitioners were slower than other communicators to recognise the potential of Internet and social media, there was some discussion thirty years ago. Drawing on the archive of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA), this paper reviews 21 papers of contemporary discussion over a 15 year period from 1981 to 1996 and draws lessons about the stages of adoption of innovative technology by practitioners. The views of practitioners varied over time. In the initial period from 1981 to 1987 their attitudes ranged from advancing the potential for rapid international outreach (Plank, 1983; Hietpas, 1984) to gloom about deskilling (McPhail 1987) and the future irrelevance of public relations counselling (Pessalano, 1984). From 1989 to 1996, as PR 1.0 (use of email) came in practice, there was less comment but continued concern that the faster information flow was leading to communication “dis-information” (Linning 1995). Only in 1996 was the term “Internet” introduced and lauded as beneficial development (Wilson, 1996). Overall, public relations practitioners are portrayed as slow to understand the benefits of the rapid technical advances in communication and holding doggedly to models of mediated communication. They also failed to foresee that information would be available for more people through IT developments, rather than fewer. The very evident reticence displayed by the IPRA publications sample may indicate why the digital communications sector was able to form outside the purview of the public relations sector and became a competitor to it (Theaker, 2004; Earl & Waddington, 2012).

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords:adoption of technology ; information superhighway ; IT ; practitioners ; public relations history ; public relations
Group:Faculty of Media & Communication
ID Code:20835
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:01 May 2013 10:55
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 13:47


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