Monday, February 14, 2011

The question of New Media

This is overdue but nonetheless I'll put it up.

I was pretty intrigued with the question of what new media is. It's something that is mentioned and spoken of constantly in media and technology circles, especially with the rise of Web2.0 technologies. Midway through the current decade blogs, online video streaming services and social networks were considered "new media" and everything created before that would then concurrently be considered "old media"?

I find that as a media practitioner myself I often wonder how far back do we have to dial back to set the marker that distinguishes between new and old media. Initially I thought the inception of digital media/technologies would have been the herald of new media. For instance when digital terrestrial television was developed as a new way of broadcasting terrestrial signals. Or if we go further back than that it would be when digital video broadcasting became commercial. So this is why I agree with Lev Manovich in leaving out the word "digital" when it comes to defining new media.

Manovich's statement that "the computer revolutionized the acquisition, manipulation, storage and distribution of media" speaks volumes in this debate. In my opinion it just says that the computer itself it the genesis and defining factor when it comes to new media. Since "older" forms of media, such as cinema and photography, contain elements that would be considered intrinsic to new media it would make sense then that what is truly new media is created with a new technology capable of media production - the computer.

Emanating from the above: All existing media are translated into numerical data accessible for the computer - thereby media become new media.

The most important points from Manovich's chapter are most definitely the five principles of new media.

1. Numerical Representation: more importantly that new media objects are numerical code. Thus media objects become new media objects.

2. Modularity: That new media objects can be assembled into larger media objects but they also retain their individuality.

3. Automation: The first two principles allow for the automation of many operations involved in media creation, manipulation and access.

4. Variability: New media objects can exist in many forms originating from an original form which can be remixed in different ways. In my books this relates to Lawrence Lessig's "Remix Culture" which is the culture that is "permissive of efforts to improve upon, change, integrate, or otherwise remix the work of copyright holders."

5. Transcoding: which is the act of turning media into computerized media. In this principle Manovich talks about the existence of a computer layer and cultural layer that converge to create a new computer culture that also allows for the mashup of new media objects that are intrinsic of a convergence culture (as proposed by Henry Jenkins) and Lessig's remix culture.

To a larger degree I felt that the principles themselves could be tied to Michael Resnick's paper on "the computer as a paintbrush" which is based on contructionist ideals on allowing learners to create, design and invent the materials they use in the act of playful learning.

All in all Manovich's five principles provide a great lens through which we can ascertain what is new media.

If you want to check out the Prezi I made for my concept map go here:

This should be a better link to my Prezi:


  1. What is the picture? I see that it has Manovich on it but it is too tiny for me to see, even when I blow it up. Also, your prezi link is not working. Please relink the information that you have =)

    Can you further elaborate what playful learning might be for Manovich?


  2. Hi Charlene

    I just added a new link to the Prezi. I wasn't sure how many screenshots you'd want to see in the blog. In any case, to answer your question I was trying to link playful learning with Manovich's point that new media objects (be they video, audio, graphics etc) are constructed via computer (the principle of numeracy) and in so doing can be remixed and integrated with other new media objects to form new objects altogether (modularity) whilst maintaining their own identity (which I took to mean form) at the same time. And in terms of playful learning, students are encouraged to create and design their own materials (in line with the principle of constructionism) in order to be fully engaged in the learning process - using the computer as a paintbrush. By "playfully learning" students would be creating new media objects as defined by Manovich.

  3. Now that is what I was looking for! Thank you for the new link =)

    How does this relate to some of the studio time that you have had with Scratch? Also, I noticed you did not fill out the survey yet. How will your readings inform your future projects?

  4. Hi, Siya,
    By reading your comments, it helped me create a better comprehension of Manovich and how it connects to Resnick - but couldn't Manovich also be connected to Papert in that these BIG IDEAS have created (what I call) a 'techie culture?' which has had such a huge impact on society in general - with future "big ideas" and future "playful learning" who knows what result! At any rate, there seems to be countless interconnections! I do like how you explain your connections - I need to do a better job of that - Thanks! :)