Within the realm of New Media, it seems no one definition is sufficient enough, and the more specific the definition, the easier it is to disprove or contradict. Therefore it seems while attempting to define New Media, the more flexible and general the definition is the better.
The term New Media is almost always associated with new technology, for example, the computer, in fact it’s very rare that we do not see it associated with technology in one way or another. It’s a term often used to encompass the vast emergence of new technologies and forms of electronic communications, such as: web sites, DVDs, CDs, online communities, social networking web sites, email, chat rooms, and the list goes on. Most of these technologies that are associated with the term New Media have characteristics of being manipulatable, dense, compressible, networkable and impartial.
New Media art is almost always defined by being compared to “old” media. For example, in Lev Manowich’s book The Language of New Media, he states that texts distributed on a computer (Web sites and electronic books) are considered to be new media; texts distributed on paper are not. However he then goes on to say that this definition is far too limiting, because New Media is not simply defined by how it is distributed or exhibited but also by how it is produced. This is where New Media art is often clumped as art that is produced digitally or distributed digitally as opposed to art that is produced by hand on paper or canvas. Manowich claims that “new” media came about when Daguerre’s daguerreotype and Babbage’s Analytical Engine, the Lumière
Cinématographie and Hollerith’s tabulator — merge into one. The result: graphics, moving images, sounds, shapes, spaces and text become computable, i.e. simply another set of computer data. In short, media becomes new media.
As is stated in The Digital Dialectic: New Essays on New Media the very term “new media” is ambiguous. Is video still a “new” medium? Are operating systems media? Is hypertext a different medium than the electronic book? In the end, the phrase “new media” turns out to be yet another placeholder, this time for whatever we eventually to agree to name these cultural productions. To say the least defining New Media is to ask a series of almost unanswerable questions.
For me, New Media is something that is interactive, no matter what medium is being used to produce it. It encompasses a variety of mediums and processes, most of which are multi-media or digital, and is most easily defined by what it is not. However, even that is not exactly what I would call an easy task. New Media is forever changing and expanding, along with what defines it.
1. Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press/Leonardo Books, 2001.
2. Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_media
3. Definition of New Media – http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia_term/0,2542,t=new+media&i=47936,00.asp
4. Webopedia – http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/N/new_media.html
5. What is New Media art? – http://www.rchoetzlein.com/theory/?p=11
6. Lila Pine Blog on New Media, “What is new media?” – https://mpm17fall2009friday.wordpress.com/
7. Lunenfeld, Peter. The Digital Dialectic New Essays on New Media (Leonardo Books). New York: The MIT, 2000. Print.