Comment on New Media Conference

Chris has submitted the following comment on the New Media conference that was held in Banff in late September.

This was one of the most prescient presentations at the conference. The comments on disciplinarity and the forces that can influence the emergence of a field like New Media are very timely.

To ‘zoom out’ a bit - it strikes me that what is operating here is not altogether dissimilar from weightier macro-issues such as nationality and race. Bear with me a moment. A person’s citizenship and skin colour can appear factual and definitive, but it is important to remember that these designations are based on abstract concepts that extend from amorphous ideals. Nations have physical boundaries and citizens, yes, but it is not possible to represent the sum total of the ideas about what it means to be of that nation; these ideas are always in flux. Simlarly, there is no such thing as 'White' or 'Black', really. (If one finds it in the mind it has been arbitrarily assigned and can only be temporary).

The reason I bring up these topics in relation to the (perhaps) seemingly unrelated question of whether there is a discipline called New Media is that I suspect there is a similar ethic to all boundary-making. To suggest that “disciplines close their doors both as a defensive measure, but also to preserve the history of the struggle to come into being is to remind us that inscribing a circle defines both an inside and an outside. I believe some of the reticence to accept the newness of New Media is in part a reaction to this ethical question.

At the moment it does appear that New Media has manifestly coalesced around a critical mass of praxis and theory. This is perhaps best evidenced by the simple fact that a large group of people will attend an international conference under the rubric of a printed catalogue at the door, like a flag. But it is important to keep in mind that the designation functions best as a malleable framework for discussions about the stuff that is supposedly 'inside' the circle - the goings-on, the art, the evolution.

This stuff will outlive any discipline, anyway.