So I was banging on about properties of media the other day and mooted something called shoutability claiming that talking had this property and email didn't. Reader Stefano Artesi rightly called me on this: "Think of sending a message to every address in your contact list. Or, like spambots do, you grab addresses on the net and send to them. What did you mean?"

Okay, I'm kind of new to media studies so this is all by gut feeling, but I'll try and explain what I mean.

"Shoutability" has two facets.

The first is that a single message can be effortlessly sent to more than one person. This isn't the same as duplicating a message and sending again, because the message could change -- it must be the *same* message being broadcast. Email, it seems to me, sends a message once for each person on the distribution list. Whereas shouting itself, or television, the message is transmitted once regardless of how many receivers there are.

Secondly it feels that the broadcast itself has to be independent of the listeners, such that the range is specified in distance or volume. This has two effects, both of which fall under the property of shoutability for me:

  • If the properties of the message are content and targets (who the sender is pointing the message at), for the message to truly be one-to-many the message properties should not change at all whether than many is ten people or one hundred. Rather it should be some other property (the volume of shouting, say) that is varied to change that.
  • Because a one-to-many message mustn't explicitly state individual listeners, a listener may move into range of a message without having to tell the broadcaster.

This last is what shoutability really comes down to. The ability for an extra listener to receive the same message as other listeners without changing the existing system at all.