Reflections on New Media (1)

I am writing a chapter for a book that will come out next year on New Media, edited by Oliver Grau whose most recent book was Virtual Art . The book will examine the historical origins of New Media and the links between digital culture and previous forms of expression, representation and performance. It will be published by MIT Press.

I have been researching this area for the last ten years. I put my first web site together in 1994. I remain unconvinced that New Media is a workable term and provides any added value to discussions of media in general. Nevertheless, the term has taken hold in the popular imaginary and given its presence and use in our culture, the question then becomes what do we actually mean when we use it?

There seems to be no point in engaging in a pedantic discussion of the meaning of the term. Rather, it would be useful to examine the inexorable manner in which digital activities are becoming increasingly woven into every medium that modern cultures use. The ecology of this communications system is best symbolized by the cell phone which has changed notions of mobility, but also resulted in a major shift in how people communicate with each other. As cell phones morph into cameras, video machines and PDA's, new kinds of relationships are established within and among communities. The convergence of cell phones and games means that peer-to-peer communications will become the norm as informal networks are set up to process the multi-faceted strategies that people use to communicate with each other. (More tomorrow)