"Principles of New Media" from The Language of New Media by Lev Manovich (2001)

Author Lev Manovich defines five important principles of “New Media”:

  1. Numerical Representation:  Simply – converting data into a numerical representation is called digitization, which requires sampling and  quantization.  Author shows new media follows individual customization rather than mass standardization.
  1. Modularity:  Now media elements – sounds, images, shapes or behaviors are represented as collections of discrete samples (pixels, characters, scripts).  WWW is also modular.  Numerous web pages containing separate media elements

Ex: movie clips/images can be moved around in Director

  1. Automation: Manovich shows with the numerical coding (pinc 1) and modulation (princ 2) allow for the automation of many operations.  Examples: 3-d graphics, word processing, auto correction in Photoshop – all low-level examples.  Other examples are A.I. and “bots” in chat rooms.   

Media access is also changing.  Switch to computers to store media assets. Ex stock agencies, UNIX could search and filter text files.  Virage VIR image engine search for content in images.    The internet the hugely distributed media database, caused overabundance of information. He argues that the problem now becomes not how to create a new media object, but find one that has already been created. 

Also, now new technologies are needed to store, organize and efficiently access new media.  The emergence of new media now coincides with this second state of media society- accessing and reusing existing media.

  1. Variability:  The new media object is not fixed.  Can exist in infinite versions.  We are moving toward an “on demand” ideology as opposed to “just in time”. 

The conclusion Manovich reaches is that new media also allows us to create versions of the same object that differ from each other.  Ex: adjustment layers in photoshop, Wax Web – can change the adaptation of a video narrative.  From here we can see important characteristics of new media:  branching interactivity. 

Author points out that changes in new media correspond to changes in society – social change.  Postindustrial society values individuality over conformity.  In industrial mass society, everyone was supposed to enjoy the same goods and to share the same beliefs.  Marketing now tries to target each individual separately. 

Question – do we all want and need such freedom?  Grahame Weinbren argues in relation to interactive media – there is a moral responsibility.   Ex:  use of phone or web-based automated menu systems by companies. 

  1. Transcoding:   The  principal – computerized media still displays structural organization images, text files etc., but from another point of view, structure now follows the conventions of the computers organization of data.  Ex: lists, records, arrays.  Now enters into a dialogue with other computer files.  Data points:  file size, type, compression format. Dimensions are computer not human. 

Manovich – Chapter 2

Myth of the Digital

Here Manovich addresses the myth that if "Its digital, its better".

         argues that analog to digital results in loss of information.

         Digital copies are not identical to original

         Continuous tone photograph  vs. digital w/ limited visual and tonal representation

      Myth of Interactivity

       –         can be menu-based, scalability, simulation, image-interface and image-instrument

         danger:  “interactivity” will be equated to a physical interaction between a user and a media object.  (pressing a button, choosing a link, moving the object). 

         Argues that programming interactivity is the modern desire to externalize the mind.  Can be related to the demand of modern mass society to standardize.

Conclusion:  “What had become a mental process, a uniquely individual state, now became part of a public sphere”.  Mental processes can now be shared. What was private became public. What was unique was mass-produced.  Argues that “interactive computer media perfectly fits this trend to externalize and objectify the mind’s operations.”    Now they could be discusses in public, employed in teaching and propaganda, standardized and mass distributed.  We are being asked to follow a pre-programmed mental route.

Nina – Group 5

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