The simple question “What do people do with the media?” becomes a problem in times of technical convergence. What does “watching television” mean today? Or being in front of a television. Or the reception of moving images? Or both – among other things?
In the face of the anticipated difficulty researchers (as well as media providers) will confront in differentiating the tendencies of general media use from the use of the respective individual media, given an environment where circumstances in the media are further converging technically, the concept of the communication mode is being put forward. This merits particular attention because it will become increasingly difficult to recognise from the fact that a particular technical gadget is being used just what its users are actually doing. As they use gadgets, which – to put it simply – can “do it all”, only the users themselves know, in the last analysis, what they are doing in concrete terms, that is, in what communication mode they are operating at any time.
The thesis here is that the boundaries between technical media services are indeed blurring, while the boundaries between various communication modes and their psychic, social and cultural significance are being preserved. Integrating old and new media does not mean a levelling of demarcations between the specific uses and everyday routines connected to the various media services and leading to some unspecific activity in general communication. On the contrary: empirical findings – in particular those that are deliberately seeking out patterns of individual media-use that cross the boundaries between the various media – point to the development of a very specific division of functions between the various media services.