Re: [-empyre-] Opening remarks on new media history

This has been a really hot discussion, and here's my take for today...

On Saturday, January 3, 2004, at 10:42  AM, Sue Thomas wrote:

I'm interested in the notion of new media as a 'discipline' (see Anna's
comment below). Is it possible that new media (or whatever we want to call
it) is the first artform to be defined as a discipline (with all its
critical and academic overtones) rather than as, simply, a form of art.

Part of the useful vagueness in the term 'new media' that Anna points out is that is has many possible meanings. Some of these are:

1) Historical category (old media, new media)

2) Artistic medium (oil painting, sculpture, architecture, new media...)

3) Media technology (print, television, cinema, new media...)

4) Field of study (history, sociology, geography, new media studies...)

Computer-based media are often new media, but (as someone said earlier) not all applications of computers are new media; nor do all new media practices use computers.

Another way to define new media studies is to say it is research (which includes both production and analysis of others' work) into expressive events that change not only the content, but also the mode of communication.

When a communicational event is relatively conventional, we can't talk about it in as new media. Where it deviates from conventional standards, it becomes a new media event: it creates a new medium, and it is this dimension of innovation that becomes the object of focus for new media studies.

This definition has implications for all the above meanings:

1) Contemporary experience is characterised by a proliferation of new media forms, motivated largely by desires for economic expansion, and ubiquity of computer technologies. So the term 'new media' is currently meaningful as a historical distinction, although this is not necessary for the term to be useful.

2) New media artists tend to experiment with the modes by which communication takes place (by playing with relationships to audiences, modes of interaction), as much as operating with content and expression. This is where the history of performance art might be considered part of a new media tradition (for better or worse).

3) Since computer-based media are software controlled, they are vehicles optimised to produce new media events. A new program creates a new mode of communicating. So while not all new media are computer-based, computers are optimised to perform as new media. However, programming is only part of software control, since it's the gaps for user input (that allow the software to do things beyond those anticipated by the programmer) that are crucial to new media configurations.

4) New media as a field of study tends to look at media change, at each of the above levels, to different degrees (we could retrospectively identify Innis, McLuhan, Ong & others who have looked at media change as new media theorists).

-- - Dr Chris Chesher Work phone 61 2 9385 6814 Senior Lecturer Mobile: 04040 95 480 School of Media and Communications Messages: 61 2 9385 6811 Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Fax: 61 2 9385 6812 University of New South Wales Email: UNSW Sydney 2052 UNSW CRICOS No: 00098G

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