Response to New Media

New media is the “use of a computer for distribution and exhibition rather than production.”  This definition is too limiting. “The computer media revolution affects all stages of communication … all types of media.”  All media has potential to change culture.  New media can be reduced to “numerical representation, modularity, automation, variability, and cultural transcoding.”  The development of new media and the development of computers occurred about the same time, which is not surprising !

Media machines and computing machines “were absolutely necessary for the functioning of modern mass societies” if we ever wanted to see true development in any term of efficiency.  Mass media and data processing are “complementary technologies.” You could say they are directly proportional.  Computers are similar to cinematographs in that a camera is recording data onto film and has a projector read it off, while a computer also has its “program and data… stored in some medium.”  Media are typically  “reduced to their original condition as information carrier.”  As cinema moved away from film it became a “slave” to the computer.  Media and computer meet with Zuse’s film – in its use of “binary over iconic code.”  The computer in that moment becomes a “media processor.”

The principles of new media can be broken into 5 variables.  (1) Numerical representation. “New media object” is able to be described “formally (mathematically.)”  It is “subject to algorithmic manipulation” and can now be seen as “programmable.”  Digitization (converting continuous data into a numerical representation”) can be broken down into sampling and quantization.  This quantification of samples is “crucial for digitization.”  “Without discrete units, there is no language” between and within media.  Assembly lines? Factory systems?  Just like modern media. There is a standardization of parts and a distinct separation within the production process.  (2) Modularity.  “The fractal structure of new media” means media contains the same “modular structure throughout” before being assembled into larger objects.  These small structures retain their “identities” in this process.   (3) Automation.  “Numerical coding” and “modular structure” allow for the “automation” of many new media operations: “bots,” virtual “theater” and “actors,” computer games, even  “Al engines” and software “agents” for organization. (4) Variability.  One type of media usually “gives rise to many different versions.”  There is a response to a demand.  It can be correlated with “social change.”  It is similar to idea of “variable media.”    Particular cases of the variability principle:

1. media database

2. different interfaces can be created from one database

3. user information can be used to customize the interface as well as create elements itself

4. branching type interactivity

5. hypermedia

6. periodic updates

7. stalability (generating different levels of detail)

(5) Transcoding.  “Cultural” and “computer” layers of new media influence each other and will  result in a new “computer culture.”  We are transcoding culture into the computer.  There is a “conceptual transfer.”  We must “turn to computer science” to understand this new media. New media is “analog media converted to a digital representation.”  All digital media “share the same digital code.” New media “allows for random access.” Digitization causes inevitable “loss of information.” Digitally encoded media “can be copied endlessly without degradation.” New media is “interactive.”

The distinction between “new” and “old” media is blurry. Of course it depends on your definition, but I think it is implicated by cultural / social norms / expectations.

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