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    Reflections on New Media (1)

    I am writing a chapter for a book that will come out next year on New Media, edited by Oliver Grau whose most recent book was Virtual Art . The book will examine the historical origins of New Media and the links between digital culture and previous forms of expression, representation and performance. It will be published by MIT Press.

    I have been researching this area for the last ten years. I put my first web site together in 1994. I remain unconvinced that New Media is a workable term and provides any added value to discussions of media in general. Nevertheless, the term has taken hold in the popular imaginary and given its presence and use in our culture, the question then becomes what do we actually mean when we use it?

    There seems to be no point in engaging in a pedantic discussion of the meaning of the term. Rather, it would be useful to examine the inexorable manner in which digital activities are becoming increasingly woven into every medium that modern cultures use. The ecology of this communications system is best symbolized by the cell phone which has changed notions of mobility, but also resulted in a major shift in how people communicate with each other. As cell phones morph into cameras, video machines and PDA's, new kinds of relationships are established within and among communities. The convergence of cell phones and games means that peer-to-peer communications will become the norm as informal networks are set up to process the multi-faceted strategies that people use to communicate with each other. (More tomorrow)

    Reader Comments (1)

    A discussion on the term "new media" may indeed seem pedantic. I should note, though, that the term has been in use at least since 1967 when UNESCO published "The New Media: Memo to Educational Planners." The book was a companion volume to an extensive and in-depth study of the potential impact of the media of the day on education world-wide. Considering that also the media of our day will look obsolete in, say, another twenty years, I rather avoid using the term altogether and instead refer to digital media.

    A study like the one you describe should, in my view, seriously look at what goes on between individual human beings. However ubiquitous the use of cell phones, chat platforms and the like, for all kinds of purposes has become, how does, what happens as a consequence, impact the humanity of who we are? Surely, in the best of cases "new kinds of relationships are established within and among communities" but what else happens when much of the use of such media results in "idle talk" rather than "inspirational interaction," (see Meira Van der Spa: Cyber-communities: Idle talk or inspirational interaction? at or, in edited version, in Educational Technology Research and Development, 52(2), 97-105)? More important perhaps: What does not happen while we pretend to communicate?Yes, there is a couple of hidden assumptions in my questions, but I'm sure you'll unravel them.
    June 7, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJan Visser

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