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From a passive receiver to an active participant!

Apr 30,2023 - Last updated at Apr 30,2023

In the field of communication, or media generally, a distinction is made between the sender and the receiver. Generally, the former creates, designs, and transmits the content, while the latter primarily receives, comprehends, and deals with it as he/she deems fit.

For centuries, and perhaps for millennia, the sender has been the actor and the receiver has been acted upon.

Such a clear-cut distribution of roles then may have been largely justified for at least two factors.

One pertains to the fact that the sender was overall precise, credible, and professional. On this basis, the receiver confined his/her role to that of a recipient and a trusting consumer.

Another has to do with the perceived role of the intellectual or “learned” individual.

In those days, the learned person was seen as someone who knew or stored more than others and retrieved what he or she knew in situations that required it.

The “learned” person, in fact, was a “source” of information, since sources were limited, and was defined in the literature as someone who "knew" everything about something and something about everything.

The prevailing understanding, it should be reiterated, was that information, in general, was reliable and truthful.

Hence, the recipient was comfortable with the task of amassing all that can be known.

Recently, with the emergence of what is called the information revolution and the exponential growth of communication channels, the situation has dramatically metamorphosed, and the rules of the game have changed.

The multiplicity, diversity and differing intents and qualifications of senders have made the task of reception much more difficult than it used to be. Therefore, it has become incumbent upon the recipient to verify, examine, evaluate and filter the information before accepting and storing it.

Is what one hears, reads, or watches accurate? Is it trustworthy? Is it an opinion, an impression, a rumour, or even a big, fat lie?

The role of the receiver has undergone a fundamental change; from being a "passive" recipient to being a vigilant, critical, and analytical player in the business of knowledge.

The task of “reception”, in fact, has become a huge responsibility and a burden, requiring skills and qualifications never even heard of before.

This emerging development, that of the receiver’s complex “qualifications”, is a general trend in today’s world, and not unique to the fields of communication or media.

In the realm of pedagogy, the learner, who also used to be a mere recipient, is now expected to be an active, independent actor who possesses analytical, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, rather than just being a memoriser of information.

We also find this same notion in the context of literary theories, especially the reader-response theory, which views the reader of literary texts as a participant in the creation of meaning, as important as the author of the text.

The more sensitive and risky context in today’s world, however, is perhaps the one pertaining to the media, both the official media, as well as the less formal social media.

The challenges here are real and potentially far-reaching and the responsibility falls essentially on the shoulders of the receiver alone in deciding whether what one receives is trustworthy or not.

A lot needs to be done by way of preparing receivers to deal with the challenge. Two are crucial:

The first is for the receiver, or communities of receivers even, to search earnestly for reliable sources of information, some of which are fortunately still available.

These consist of the writings and works of genuine scholars and thinkers in various fields of knowledge, as well as the outcomes of sound research and studies published in reputable scientific journals; in addition, of course, to a handful of trustworthy news and media outlets.

The second is the careful, ongoing education of individuals and awareness-raising, from an early age, on the part of the family, schools and universities, and the concerned state and societal institutions.

Qualifying receivers in today's world is of paramount importance and must be given top priority

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