Is New Media Even “New”?

The term “new media” has developed with the emergence of an increase in the use and distribution of digital and electronic mediums. Lev Manovich’s The Language of New Media discusses the complications in defining what new media actually is. Manovich questions, “How shall we begin to map out the effects of this fundamental shift? What are the ways in which the use of computers to record, store, create and distribute media makes it new?” (2). The word “new” is now relative in regards to media as the vast array of communications and mediums is expanding. Manovich reminds his readers that cinema has been producing what “new media” is providing currently such as discrete representation, random access, and multimedia (50).

There has been a reproduction of materials that have been digitized and translated to the digital realm. This reinvents how we interpret and understand the “new”. Manovich writes, “Since on one level new media is an old media which has been digitized, it seems appropriate to look at new media using the perspective of media studies. We may compare new media and old media, such as print, photography, or television. We may also ask about the conditions of distribution and reception and the patterns of use. We may also ask about similarities and differences in the material properties of each medium and how these affect their aesthetic possibilities” (24).

More specifically, when “new media” is mentioned, social media, new media art such as photography, cinematography, audio, conceptual art, installations, and mass media have become apart of the long list of topics for discussion. These mediums are reproductions of older media and digitized versions of other art and communication forms. “Not surprisingly, modern media follows the factory logic, not only in terms of division of labor as witnessed in Hollywood film studios, animation studios or television production, but also on the level of its material organization” (51). The way in which we do things such as communicate and create art is more rapid and arguably more efficient, but the underground ideas are the same.

The result of the translation of existing materials is new media. Plenty of questions arise in determining how to define new media and how ‘new’ it actually is. Manovich suggests that perhaps new media is not necessarily as new as we believe it to be. New media may provide a new understanding, newer technologies, but the underlying ideologies and utilizations of new media are quite old.

Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2002. Print.


One thought on “Is New Media Even “New”?

  1. I enjoyed this, I was having difficulty as well with Manovich’s usage of the word ‘new’ when describing media. But I agree, though the medium may be new the ideology and train of thought when creating things still remains rather concrete. For sure it is more efficient, but perhaps the paradigm shift wasn’t all that much of a shift but more of a motion to make room for further innovation. So since perhaps there is no need to map out the effect of a fundamental shift, as Manovich insists, do you think then that perhaps he said this prematurely and should we then expect a shift?

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