Manovich: "What Is New Media?"

Manovich, Lev. "What Is New Media?" The Language of New Media. 1st ed. Cambridge  Mass.: MIT Press, 2002. Print. 19-61.



What is new media?


consideration of using comp for dist and exhibition rather than production-- but M finds it too limiting. Notes how comp media revolution affects all stages of communication "including acquisition, manipulation, storage, and all distribution; it also affects all types of media--texts, still images, moving images, sound, and spatial constructions" (19).


Asks how to begin to map f/x of fundamental shift


what ways in which use of comps to record, store, create, distribute media makes it ''new'' (20 bad para)


How Media Became New


charts tech advances-- dageurreotype (1839); Babbage''s 1833 Analytical Machine (punch cards; borrowed from Jacquard''s loom [ca 1800]). 1890s still photos -> motion pictures. Edison''s "Black Maria" (movie studio-- 1893). 1895 Lumière Bros Cinematographie camera/projection hybrid. 1890 US Census tabulated electronically (24). Birth of IBM in 1924. Relating computing functions to cinemagraphic. 


Zuse-- binary code/ first digi computer. 


Translation of Daguerre, Babbage, Lumiere, Hollerith''s tabulator. Argues here media became new media (25). 


Principles of New Media


ID''s 5:


Numerical Representation


concept of mathematical representation; algorithm. Programmable. Digitization. 


Theorizes that modern media has discrete levels (chunks) due to industrial rev. Factory system, standardization, etc. 




"fractal structure of new media" (30). Representation as collections of discrete samples, combined without losing independence. Chunking (think of placing objects in INDD or PS). 


"In short, a new media object consists of independent parts, each of which consists of smaller independent parts, and so on, down to the level of the smallest ''atoms''--pixels, 3-D points, or text characters" (31). 


WWW modular (web pages -> web sites)-- consider how increased with XML. 


analogy to computer programming. many new media programs are comp programs following structural programming style (31 bad pa). Layering in PS. 




generation of content, filters, word processing. WYSIWYG. Consider bots. 


Media access-- searching and classifying online. Likens net to a "huge distributed media database" (35). Issue of automating media access (especially for pics)-- wonder what he thinks of/considers with social tagging?




New media object not fixed (chunking?).  Argues tied to automation-- not to modularity? Cites particular cases of principle:


  • media database
  • number of different interfaces can be created from same data
  • customizable for user and by user
  • branching-type interactivity/ aka menu-based
  • hypermedia--elements independet of each other, connected through hyperlinks. Hypertext is one such example.
  • periodic updates
  • scalability (level of detail; outline command in Word, full-sized image and icon in PS)
  • versions of same object that differ substantially (Smart Objects; CSS) <--doesn''t mention these specifically.


distinguishes as open interactivity as opposed to closed interactivity. Not hardwired (as a book) but more fluid. 


Industrial vs postindustrial, values "individuality over conformity" (41). Think of how user experience customized when viewing web pages, from ads etc. 


Posits may be a consequence of computer representations of variables rather than constants (43). Color, size, shape, freely modified. 




exists on numerous levels. The digitized picture is a cultural construct/ representation, but it is bits, pixels, algorithms. "Computerese" as type of file, reader, etc.  Cultural layer and computer layer (46). Layers influence each other. 


to transcode= translate into another format. Conceptual transfer. 


States most "fundamental" quality of new media has no historical precedent-- programmability (47). 


What New Media Is Not


argues/grapples with popular conceptions of new media


Cinema as New Media: Didn''t it already contain much of these principles?


The Myth of the Digital: cites Wm Mitchell, that digital involves loss of info (52). Yet M says it doesn''t matter with current scanners/ detail avail. Finds irrelevant. Programs that use rendering algorithms may surpass this issue. Keep thinking vector/raster argument. "Therefore, while in theory, computer technology entails the flawless replication of data, its actual use in contemporary society is characterized by loss of data, degradation, and noise" (55).


The Myth of Interactivity: finds term tautology. Once object represented in a computer, it automatically becomes interactive. Argues all art is interactive in anumber of ways. Therefore, don''t limit to physical interactivity between user and media object (57). Finds a desire to externalize the mind, relates to modern mass soc need for standardization (60). Interactive comp media "perfectly fits this trend to externalize and objectify the mind''s operations" (61). 


Ends by stating: 


If the cinema viewer, male and female, lusted after and tried to emulate the body of the movie star, the computer user is asked to follow the mental trajectory of the new media designer." (61)