New media refers to on-demand access to content anytime, anywhere, on any digital device, as well as interactive user feedback, creative participation. Another aspect of new media is the real-time generation of new, unregulated content.
Most technologies described as "new media" are digital, often having characteristics of being manipulated, networkable, dense,compressible, and interactive.Some examples may be the Internet, websites, computer multimedia, video games, CD-ROMS, and DVDs. New media does not include television programs, feature films, magazines, books, or paper-based publications – unless they contain technologies that enable digital interactivity.Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, is an example, combining Internet accessible digital text, images and video with web-links, creative participation of contributors, interactive feedback of users and formation of a participant community of editors and donors for the benefit of non-community readers. Facebook is an example of the social mediamodel, in which most users are also participants.
In the 1960s, connections between computing and radical art began to grow stronger. It was not until the 1980s that Alan Kay and his co-workers at Xerox PARC began to give the power of a personal computer to the individual, rather than have a big organization be in charge of this. "In the late 1980s and early 1990s, however, we seem to witness a different kind of parallel relationship between social changes and computer design. Although causally unrelated, conceptually it makes sense that the Cold War and the design of the Web took place at exactly the same time."
Until the 1980s media relied primarily upon print and analog broadcast models, such as those of television and radio. The last twenty-five years have seen the rapid transformation into media which are predicated upon the use of digital technologies, such as the Internetand video games. However, these examples are only a small representation of new media. The use of digital computers has transformed the remaining 'old' media, as suggested by the advent of digital television and online publications. Even traditional media forms such as the printing press have been transformed through the application of technologies such as image manipulation software like Adobe Photoshop and desktop publishing tools.
Andrew L. Shapiro (1999) argues that the "emergence of new, digital technologies signals a potentially radical shift of who is in control of information, experience and resources" (Shapiro cited in Croteau and Hoynes 2003: 322). W. Russell Neuman (1991) suggests that whilst the "new media" have technical capabilities to pull in one direction, economic and social forces pull back in the opposite direction. According to Neuman, "We are witnessing the evolution of a universal interconnected network of audio, video, and electronic text communications that will blur the distinction between interpersonal and mass communication and between public and private communication" (Neuman cited in Croteau and Hoynes 2003: 322). Neuman argues that new media will:
- Alter the meaning of geographic distance.
- Allow for a huge increase in the volume of communication.
- Provide the possibility of increasing the speed of communication.
- Provide opportunities for interactive communication.
- Allow forms of communication that were previously separate to overlap and interconnect.
Consequently it has been the contention of scholars such as Douglas Kellner and James Bohman that new media, and particularly the Internet, provide the potential for a democratic postmodern public sphere, in which citizens can participate in well informed, non-hierarchical debate pertaining to their social structures. Contradicting these positive appraisals of the potential social impacts of new media are scholars such as Ed Herman and Robert McChesney who have suggested that the transition to new media has seen a handful of powerful transnational telecommunications corporations who achieve a level of global influence which was hitherto unimaginable.
Scholars, such as Lister et al. (2003) and Friedman (2005), have highlighted both the positive and negative potential and actual implications of new media technologies, suggesting that some of the early work into new media studies was guilty of technologicaldeterminism – whereby the effects of media were determined by the technology themselves, rather than through tracing the complex social networks which governed the development, funding, implementation and future development of any technology.
Definition Although there are several ways that New Media may be described, Lev Manovich, in an introduction to The New Media Reader, defines New Media by using eight propositions:
- New Media versus Cyber culture – Cyber culture is the various social phenomena that are associated with the Internet and network communications (blogs, online multi-player gaming), whereas New Media is concerned more with cultural objects and paradigms (digital to analog television, iPhones).
- New Media as Computer Technology Used as a Distribution Platform – New Media are the cultural objects which use digital computer technology for distribution and exhibition. e.g. (at least for now) Internet, Web sites, computer multimedia, Blu-ray disks etc. The problem with this is that the definition must be revised every few years. The term "new media" will not be "new" anymore, as most forms of culture will be distributed through computers.
- New Media as Digital Data Controlled by Software – The language of New Media is based on the assumption that, in fact, all cultural objects that rely on digital representation and computer-based delivery do share a number of common qualities. New media is reduced to digital data that can be manipulated by software as any other data. Now media operations can create several versions of the same object. An example is an image stored as matrix data which can be manipulated and altered according to the additional algorithms implemented, such as color inversion, gray-scaling, sharpening, rasterizing, etc.
- New Media as the Mix Between Existing Cultural Conventions and the Conventions of Software – New Media today can be understood as the mix between older cultural conventions for data representation, access, and manipulation and newer conventions of data representation, access, and manipulation. The "old" data are representations of visual reality and human experience, and the "new" data is numerical data. The computer is kept out of the key "creative" decisions, and is delegated to the position of a technician. e.g. In film, software is used in some areas of production, in others are created using computer animation.
- New Media as the Aesthetics that Accompanies the Early Stage of Every New Modern Media and Communication Technology – While ideological tropes indeed seem to be reappearing rather regularly, many aesthetic strategies may reappear two or three times ... In order for this approach to be truly useful it would be insufficient to simply name the strategies and tropes and to record the moments of their appearance; instead, we would have to develop a much more comprehensive analysis which would correlate the history of technology with social, political, and economical histories or the modern period.
- New Media as Faster Execution of Algorithms Previously Executed Manually or through Other Technologies – Computers are a huge speed-up of what were previously manual techniques. e.g. calculators. Dramatically speeding up the execution makes possible previously non-existent representational technique. This also makes possible of many new forms of media art such as interactive multimedia and video games. On one level, a modern digital computer is just a faster calculator, we should not ignore its other identity: that of a cybernetic control device.
- New Media as the Encoding of Modernist Avant-Garde; New Media as Metamedia – Manovich declares that the 1920s are more relevant to New Media than any other time period. Metamedia coincides with postmodernism in that they both rework old work rather than create new work. New media avant-garde is about new ways of accessing and manipulating information (e.g. hypermedia, databases, search engines, etc.). Meta-media is an example of how quantity can change into quality as in new media technology and manipulation techniques can recode modernist aesthetics into a very different postmodern aesthetics.
- New Media as Parallel Articulation of Similar Ideas in Post-WWII Art and Modern Computing – Post WWII Art or "combinatorics" involves creating images by systematically changing a single parameter. This leads to the creation of remarkably similar images and spatial structures. This illustrates that algorithms, this essential part of new media, do not depend on technology, but can be executed by humans.