what is new media?
New Media is a new category; a new discrete syntax term, the limits of which reflect the limitations of the object-oriented, colonial epistemology that created it.
New Media is a capitalist term; it describes new tools that come about through the process of digitization, the construction of virtual systems, or the organization of digital information. The Internet in its entirety is not “new media”—this network of analog cables and interstellar satellites are seldom referred to this way.
Is spell check in a word processor “new media?” Clearly it is a technology, but it is not a tool by which capitalists can explicitly harvest something. Spell check may facilitate style, organization, and communication, but information moves through spell check, spell check does not create information.
New media is a new way to exploit information. Coal is harvested from the earth, burned and converted into electricity, which powers the hardware on a machine, that gives light to delicately encoded magnetic patterns on thin film strips of ferromagnetic material (hard drives). Power to the man who creates a new economy around the materialization of a resource, the means to process that resource, and the ingenuity to package that resource to other men. Information technologies don’t promise to change the way the world works, only to change who has the power to work in the world.
New Media has been designed to enable users to shape and edit information generated about the world [possibly, the universe at large] in such a way that is understandable, interpretable, digestible to a dominant paradigm—a paradigm that already shapes the real world, the world outside of the technological apparatus, outside of the virtual network. New Media, just as easily as old media, can be used as a tool to obscure and elide how information is produced, used, and commodified.
New Media production is still controlled and/or monitored by old, classed networks of powerful people that dominate the real world. With exception, there are opportunities for networks of new media users to insert one of them into old and established domains of power. “Successful” independent game developers, for example, are a shining example of people uplifted by their online networks into domains of fame and material wealth. Markus “Notch” Persson’s game, Minecraft (2012), began as an independent project confined to the realm of a tech community forum and a development blog. Information about his game propagated from this network into the networks of friends, families, and colleagues outside of the community forum. This information spread quickly and easily because that is how information is designed to move on the Internet. Speed, not necessarily information, has a lot of power online. “Buckets of money” is a reserved estimation of how much cash he now makes weekly, just over 3 years after starting the project. New Media, or the tools of New Media production, accelerated the development of the project, facilitated his connection to a community of capitalists wanting to purchase the game, and shaped his public image as an independent developer. The economic system is the same; the product is different. The understanding of entertainment has changed, but it wasn’t technology or New Media that changed how people think about entertainment—people, with greater access to different deliverables that they could openly define as entertainment, changed the way they think about entertainment and how they want to buy it.
Unfiltered noise inspires “new” from the cacophony of information humans have been able to capture, harness, and store. However, the way we process information hasn’t changed. The way we value and organize information has fundamentally not changed. What does the organizing, and how detailed the information is—those material things no longer rely on the limitations of a human brain or a human processor. The algorithms, though, functionally do the same kind of work—the goals are the same. There is nothing new about the perceived utility of New Media, whatever it is. That’s not to say that there is nothing new that can be done with New Media or through New Media, but probably not without a reorganization of New Media’s limitations, interfaces, and deliverables. I cannot know, though, I can only predict.