War of the Worlds to Social Media

Mediated Communication in Times of Crisis
Edited by Joy Elizabeth Hayes, Kathleen Battles, Wendy Hilton-Morrow


Seventy-five years after the infamous broadcast, does War of the Worlds still matter? Contributors revisit the broadcast event in order to reconsider its place as a milestone in media history, and to explore its role as a formative event for understanding citizens’ media use in times of crisis. Uniquely focused on the continuities between radio’s «new» media moment and our contemporary era of social media, the collection takes War of the Worlds as a starting point for investigating key issues in twenty-first-century communication, including: the problem of misrepresentation in mediated communication; the importance of social context for interpreting communication; and the dynamic role of listeners, viewers and users in talking back to media producers and institutions. By examining the «crisis» moment of the original broadcast in its international, academic, technological, industrial, and historical context, as well as the role of contemporary new media in ongoing «crisis» events, this volume demonstrates the broad, historical link between new media and crisis over the course of a century.


Kathleen Battles, Joy Elizabeth Hayes, Wendy Hilton-Morrow

PART ONE: Looking Backward: War of the Worlds, Media Power, and Audiences “Talking Back”

PART TWO: Backward and Forward: Media Forms, Conventions, and Crisis<

PART THREE: Looking Forward: War of the Worlds and Social Media


This fascinating volume traces the rich themes of new media, crisis and interactivity from the ‘War of the Worlds’ broadcast to now, but even more importantly, these smart and engaged essays demonstrate strikingly just how well carefully researched media history can illuminate the present. (David Goodman, University of Melbourne)

As a whole the book represents a thoughtful read for anyone who wants to dig a bit deeper, and a wonderful resource for those who want to stimulate debate in a class or reading group. The authors convincingly show that a historical grasp is essential to understand contemporary issues in the present, and that the narratives of the past can disguise just as much as they reveal. (Tim Wall, Birmingham City University)

In this wonderful collection, the ‘War of the Worlds’ broadcast represents, variously, the founding object of study in an emerging communication-industrial complex, a training tool for covering twenty-first century wars, and a template for understanding crisis communications ever since. A must-read for anyone interested in the symbiotic relationship between new communication technologies and the crises they mediate. (Jason Loviglio, University of Maryland, Baltimore County)

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