“The principle of variability exemplifies how, historically, changes in media technologies are correlated with social change. If the logic of old media corresponded to the logic of industrial mass society, the logic of new media fits the logic of the postindustrial society, which values individuality over conformity. In industrial mass society everyone was supposed to enjoy the same goods–and to share the same beliefs. This was also the logic of media technology. (…) In a postindustrial society, every citizen can construct her own custom lifestyle and “select” her ideology from a large (but not infinite) number of choices. Rather than pushing the same objects/information to a mass audience, marketing now tries to target each individual separately.”
When I read this passage, my mind immediately jumped to my favorite subject: genre fiction. More specifically, the marketing of genre fiction, and the targeting of the masses versus the individual. It’s a prime example of old media/new media. Whatever is going on socially in a time period ultimately decides the popular genre of that time. In the earliest times, literature was mostly long, battling epics or religious stories. Vampires came into play in the sexually-confined Victorian period, where a handsome succubus was an indulgent fantasy. In the 1920s through the 1940s, mysteries and thrillers were the top sellers, due to the rise of the magazine and the mystery serials.
But now, like the “postindustrial society,” ideal, popular fiction has less to do with association to social change, but rather focus on the individual’s preference. A wider variation of genres are popular now because of the connectivity that technology gives us, and the popularity of a book can spawn a genre shift in and of itself. Rather like digital websites will give you ads based on your internet browsing, books will often lead to other, similar books. Before the rise of computers, around the 1980s, publishers would put pages in the back of books that would say “If you liked this book, check out ___.” After that, it became all about sales and the reader’s feedback. The popularity of Twilight led to the rise of the paranormal romance genre. The popularity of the Hunger Games series led to a huge rise in dystopian fiction, giving light to other series such as Divergent or Matched. And now, bookselling websites or websites like “Goodreads” can suggest books for your interest based on the cumulative aspects of all of your previously viewed novels. I like to think that this evolution of genre fiction not only showcases the way technology can shift the way we view media (old media/new media), but even more so how “old media,” such as the printed novel, is in itself relative to the digital concept.