What is New Media?

Definition

New media is the use of various digital communication mediums in a way that connects users via the internet. This is just a short definition of what is much larger than one sentence. New Media is built on a foundation by the early thinkers like Marshall McLuhan. New Media has specific functionalities that set it apart from traditional media. New Media is fueled by society being digital. New media impacts national and global events. New Media affects our culture. New Media also impacts our everyday lives whether it’s work or play. New Media is headed for post-humanism. These are all aspects of New Media that I have covered in posts on my blog at one point or another. The purpose of this final post is to combine them all into one large overview of New Media.

Foundation

Marshall McLuhan was one of the pioneers of New Media. In the first chapter of his book Understanding Media, he explains “The Medium is the Message.” This text plays a huge role in helping us understand New Media, just as the title of his book suggests. The idea of this text is that the medium is what makes the message possible, therefore the medium is the message. He uses the example of a lightbulb to demonstrate that a lightbulb by itself has no message, but when you use that lightbulb in such a way that it lights up a message on a sign, that creates the message. In order for the message to be transmitted, the medium had to be used. The container is what matters, not the content. This concept has been a theme as part of our larger discussion of New Media all semester.

Functionalities

New Media has characteristics that set it apart from traditional media. In traditional media, one would skim through the headlines of the daily newspaper, or turn on their preferred TV news network and wait for the top stories to be discussed. This all changed with the internet and the introduction of social media. Once people found out they could get the latest news updates instantly on the internet, print media had taken a back seat. Social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook have developed into instantaneous news feeds so that the moment something happens, whether it’s right under our feet or thousands of miles overseas, we can and we surely will, know about it immediately.

Another differentiating factor of New Media is hypertext. Hypertext is what makes it possible for one document or page on the internet to have unlimited resources of additional knowledge. An example of hypertext is this very post I am writing, all of my previous posts are linked into this one. Another great example is our syllabus for NMAC 4460, which has loads of information linked through hypertext. Hypertext is the medium which makes the internet an unlimited source of knowledge and research.

Open-source software is another functionality of New Media that makes it unique. Open-source software gives the user access to the source code, allowing them to make changes to basically anything digitally they want. Fully customizable is the key attraction here. In closed-source software, only the person or organization that has the rights to it has the ability to change the features of it. With open-source software, the creator(s) of it agree to allow the source code to be open to users to make changes to it as they see fit. Linux is one of the most popular examples of open-source software.

Being Digital

New Media thrives on a society obsessed with being digital. People in today’s society live their everyday lives at full throttle. People have jobs and jobs make them busy. The truth is, people DO have the time to sit down and read a newspaper or watch the news on TV, but the reality is that they DON’T have the patience to do those things. Whether they do or they don’t, their minds have adapted to believe that they don’t have time for them. This is thanks to the invention of the smartphone. Now, people don’t even want to log into their email account on their computer because that takes so much longer than opening the email app on their phone. Better yet, that app will alert them will their favorite alert tone of their choice, or a simple buzz in their pocket when an email comes in. Same goes for updates from Fox News or ESPN. It’s all about being digital, right in the palm of your hand. All of these things that were once only accessible while you sat in a chair on a computer are now available on-the-go.

National and Global Impact

New Media plays a role in national events such as elections. Regardless of what position of office one is running for, promoting themselves on social media is a tactic that would be almost barbaric to avoid in our society. Donald Trump’s campaign for the 2016 Presidential Election is a prime example of this. Trump used Twitter as a medium for promoting himself, or denoting himself in some people’s opinions, during the election campaign. The truth is, it doesn’t matter what he said on Twitter, whether it was right or wrong is irrelevant. The content doesn’t matter, the container is what matters. Twitter is where a vast majority of the audience (voters) of the campaign was, therefore utilizing it was a huge game changer.

Another topic regarding a national affair is e-book copyright laws. The debate here is that some, not necessarily all, consumers who purchase e-books want to be able to download purchased e-books onto multiple readers, either because they have more than one reader or if they chose to switch readers. Currently when an e-book is purchased it only gives the reader one copy, so when it is downloaded that’s it, enjoy that one copy. Essentially this is like buying a paper copy of a book, you own that one copy and you aren’t allow to duplicate copies for obvious reasons. The copyright laws of e-books are for the same purpose, they don’t want you to be able to distribute copies privately, or publicly. This is act is referred to as piracy. David Pogue is a published author who understands consumer’s desires to be able to download copies onto multiple readers, so he conducted an experiment of allowing one of his e-books to be downloaded as an unprotected pdf file. The results were not surprising that it was heavily pirated, however he actually found that the sales of physical copies of the book were up. He believes that even though there were tons of free copies pirated, that this effectively served as a form of advertising that boosted the sales of his physical book.

A global affair that relates to New Media is control over the internet. Everyone wants it. It could be disastrous if it fell into the wrong hands. Tim Berners-Lee developed the world wide web around 25 years ago when he was working on creating a way to link documents to each other via computers. Now, we all know the internet is arguably the most powerful resource, if there is anything that holds an argument against it. Berners-Lee intended, and still intends, for the web to be free to use by anyone. The global affair that he, along with the help of many others, is fighting is that many governments and corporations want to own and control it. This could mean a variety of things that affect the usage of the internet: limited access, limited locations, 24/7 surveillance, cost to use, etc. These are just a few examples, but there’s no predicting what might be done with it. That is why Berners-Lee developed a campaign called Web at 25, and similar campaigns like We We Want are all fighting to keep the freedom of the internet.

Culture

Lawrence Lessig’s book, Remix, gives an explanation as to what the differences are between a read-write culture vs. a read-only culture. Defined by Lessig on page 76, “remix is collage; it comes from combining elements of RO culture; it succeeds by leveraging the meaning created by the reference to build something new.” This means that his idea of remixing is taking knowledge, whether from a book, the internet, a song, a speech, etc. and using it in work of your own, with your own twist. Lessig defines a read-write culture on page 28 as a culture that “gives back” by consuming content and responding. Whether that is reading something online and blogging about it, or listening to a song and then creating a song of your own by implying features of that song with your own flair. That is remixing, that is a read-write culture. The opposite is a read-only culture that he explains on page 36 as a culture that watches a movie or listens to a song, then simply puts it aside and moves on to their next task. The overall goal is to sustain a read-write culture because a read-only culture does not replenish itself.

Affecting Our Everyday Lives

As I mentioned in the Being Digital category of this post, New Media affects our work, but it also affects our play. Cyberdrama has exploded in video games. Cyberdrama is storytelling in digital format, but there’s more to it. Cyberdrama submerges the reader, viewer, or player (for video games) in a way that novels, TV shows and movies can’t relate. Janet Murray, author of Hamlet on the Holodeckbelieves that interactiveness is what sets video games apart from traditional mediums of storytelling. She expresses the reader being able to guide the story; making decisions, choosing paths, etc. I agree with her 100 percent. An article written by Oliver Campbell provides more support that video games are the champion of storytelling. In his words, “Do not misunderstand me when I say that video games are the final frontier of storytelling.” The great thing about video games is that it is a medium that is rapidly changing and advancing, ultimately driven by competing companies like Sony and Microsoft who are always trying to get ahead of the other.

Ludology is the study of video games, while narratology is the study of narrative. The debate between the two over which group is right about video games is fierce. Ludologists study gameplay mechanics of video games and narratologists study the story of the games. Ludologists believe that they should be the ones who are accredited with studying video games because narratologists have plenty of novels and movies to focus on and should stay out of the way of the video game experts. Narratologists believe that they have the right to study video games because they are in fact narratives, or cyberdramas as I mentioned above. In my post about this topic I discussed how both sides have valid arguments, but also that I believe it would be smart for game designers to have some sort of education in narratives. If they are going to tell stories within the game, shouldn’t they know how to tell a good story? I think that most, including myself, game players would agree that they want a good story.

Post-humanism

A cyborg is a hybrid of man and machine. A cyborg exists in a post-gender, post-human world. Donna Harraway thinks that our society is already populated with cyborgs. Her examples include people with prosthetic limbs, or people on life support. These are clear cases of technology and machines keeping people alive, which is the very definition of a cyborg. Another great example is warfare. The military uses planes, tanks and guns as weapons to combat the enemy. These things are all technologies that are used by the control of humans, but either of them alone are ineffective in combat. Only when they are combined, as cyborgs, is when they are extremely lethal. Bryan Johnson is a technology entrepreneur who wants to develop a way for humans to keep up with the advancing intelligence of machines. He has developed a tiny chip that can be put into the human brain to help people suffering from Alzheimer’s, strokes or concussions. However, the vision of the technology goes far beyond that. The hope for the future is that the chip will be able to increase memory and intelligence.

Conclusion and Self-Evaluation Grade

In conclusion, New Media is defined by it’s foundation, functionalities, and a society focused on being digital; it also affects national and global affairs, our culture, and our everyday lives; and the path that New Media is taking is headed for a post-human society. All of these aspects are what we covered in class in NMAC 4460, and what I covered in my blog throughout the semester. When I had my mid-term meeting I found that I was not meeting expectations for this class and it definitely made me realize that I needed to pick things up. After that meeting I began looking at more articles online for supporting my blog posts, and applying the recommended texts on the syllabus to my posts. I did have a slow start to this course, however I do strongly feel that I have made great strides in the second half of the semester. I feel very confident in my posts after mid-term, and I have gone back to the posts before mid-term and added some links and information to improve them. All of my posts have at least one link to an external source of information, while many of them have multiple links. As for my attendance I think I missed 2 days of class, but other than that I was always on time. I certainly am not one of the more vocal ones in class but that is just part of my personality, I have never been a very confident speaker. However, I am confident in my writing skills and in my blog posts, and that is where I have displayed what I have learned in the course.

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