New Media is often a key topic in a Media Studies course and yet it is often difficult to know how to approach this topic. For example, you could look at a specific area of study (language, representation, institution or audience), or a specific case study or text, or even particular form technology (hardware or software). For this post I would like to prioritiSe the notion of CHANGE & TRANSFORMATION as a way of thinking about NEW MEDIA which can be linked to the key ideas of a media syllabus. For example, the transformation of social interaction (audiences); the transformation of individual identity (audiences and representation); the transformation of institutional structures (industry); and the changes in textual content and structure (language). In summary, this could be described as the changing nature of symbolic interaction and a lot of the work on this blog is essentially discussing this concept.
Consider a future device . . . which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.”VANNEVAR BUSH, THE ATLANTIC MAGAZINE, JULY 1945
Many ideas and approaches to these ideas can be found in the work by Alex Krotoski, so a useful starting point would be to look at an episode of her series The Virtual Revolution. For example, she looks at the pioneering work of Vannevar Bush – ‘As we may Think‘ (1945) that describes a memory machine that would make knowledge (and thereby understanding?) more accessible. The idea of how our minds process information is interesting, with the suggestion that we do not think in a linear or sequential way, but associatively and sensorily, so that information is linked to patterns, consequences, almost like nodes of hyperlinked information. Does this mean that we are superficial? That we can only read with short term memories? Does it suggest that we have breadth rather than depth of knowledge? And how are our own neurological pathways similar to the neural networks of the new media? Are computers super-human beings or just processors? A useful discussion on this topic is provided in THE DIGITAL APE, a book which re-considers our relationship with new media technology and in particular with Artificial Intelligence.
Alex Krotoski: The Virtual Revolution
Krotoski also looks at the network effect, ‘the constant loop of digital information’ (Krotoski), which create a loop of action/reaction which allows for (companies to predict?) future action. This is an important concept for understanding how and why business masquerade their operations as personal interactions, which often appear to be ‘free’, but which can actually generate great reward. So the transaction is not based on monetary exchange but is the release of data. Many now argue that this relationship needs to be recognised and reorganised so that we are all able to maintain rights to our own data.
For example, look at the research paper by ResPublica: ‘Technopoly‘, which looks at the relationship between corporations, governments, individuals and BIG DATA. As the debate continues more information, debate and discussion will start to appear as we all become much more aware of what NEW MEDIA involves.
As such, looking at New Media allows for a re-thinking of the relationship between the private and the public as new technology is allowing the public world of organisations, commerce, government and business to infiltrate the private worlds of presonal ideas, friendship and informal exchange, read this article from Open Mind: The New Media’s role in Politics. Similarly, disclosure and analysis around Cambridge Analytica, the Trump election and the Brexit Campaign have brought these debates sharply into focus and any of these areas could be used as useful case studies to explore the impact of New Media on society and the individual. However, overall, I think the key approach is to look at NEW MEDIA AS A KEY MOMENT OF CHANGE and then try to break that down into what that may mean.
Dan Gillmor is a useful theorist to look at, you can read his book We Media by clicking on this link
Table to contrast ‘New’ vs ‘Old’ Media: Do you agree?
|Active involvement|| Passive involvement |
|Two-way conversation||One-way conversation|
|Open system||Closed system|
|One-on-one marketing||Mass marketing|
|About Me||About You|
|Brand and User-generated Content||Professional content|
|Authentic content||Polished content|
|FREE platform||Paid platform|
|Metric: Engagement||Metric: Reach/ frequency|
|Actors: Users / Influencers||Actors/ Celebrities|
|Community decision-making||Economic decision-making|
|Unstructured communication||Controlled communication|
|Real time creation||Pre-produced/ scheduled|
|Bottom-up strategy||Top-down strategy|
|Informal language||Formal language|
Key Words associated with New Media
Marshall McLuhan: The Medium is the Message:A way of understanding ‘technological determinism’ the idea that it is the tool that shapes us, rather than us who shape the tool.