Media is communication through a medium. New media represents the introduction of new technologies, which in turn enable us to communicate in new ways. These vessels of communication would be considered new media. However, new media is not solely the sum of new technologies developed in the last half century: it’s what the medium can do and does differently from our past paradigm of media communications.
Arguably two of the most important developments that shape new media would be the introduction of the internet and personal computing. It is not necessarily the content of the medium that is important but the medium itself (thank you Marshall McLuhan). The content is not what makes new media new: video, image, text and audio have all been explored before, but in essence these are still the things we are communicating with this new medium. New media is the reorganization of our information; the digitization of our previous and future communications. Digitization is important because it allows us to circumvent our physical limitations. The digital can be copied and modified almost limitlessly. Computing is responsible for this shift in taking physical forms of information and transforming it into something abstract: code. Essensially removing the medium from the media: there is no longer a reel of film, but a digital representation of the footage through code.
The most important thing that differentiates new media substantially from our previous methods of communication is: networking. The internet took our organized virtual spaces and connected them with each other. This means that all the information in one place can be sent to another place, or even exist in both places at the same time. We are now flooded in a sea of information that is readily available, indexed and searchable.
The word “personal” in personal computing is important. Computers have permeated through our society and now it is hard to find a household that does not have a computer in it. The prevalence of computers, coupled with the internet, has put the media in to the hands of everyone and removed it from the select few. It’s no longer just the mass media communicating to us, it’s the population communicating back. New media has brought interactivity to the audience. It has brought production and distribution to the general population.
New media is our communication through digital means. I argue it is characterized by the ability to replicate, manipulate, interact with and share our information.
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