Sunday, January 6, 2013

Week 1: Introduction - New Media and Transdisciplinarity

Overview of the scope and purpose of the course. Evaluation methods, including assignments and participation, will be discussed.. 
What is "new" about "new media"?
What are the characteristics, both technical and social, of new media?
How does new media transform and "remediate" earlier media practices?
This class will end with an introduction to transliteracy which will help guide our thinking until we delve further into transliteracy in week 8.
Some key questions to consider during the first class:
  • What is "new media studies" and its relationship to the humanities and social sciences ? 
  • New Media Studies is a transdisciplinary field of scholarly inquiry, what does this mean?
  • How do different disciplines approach the study of media?
  • What are some current views about the emergence and diffusion of media?


  1. Hello everyone! Looking forward to studying with you this semester.

    I'm just getting my feet wet into new media studies, and found Manovich's introduction interesting. The field of new media examines cultural (objects and production) and computing. To help draw a line between old and new, new media typically includes one or more of these characteristics: numerical representation, modularity, automation, variability, and transcoding (Manovich). It relates to humanities and social sciences because there is a co-dependent relationship between the world of digital data, websites, Internet, virtual reality, computer games, etc. and how we behave as humans and as a society. As Jenkins describes in his piece, media technologies are well-integrated into our routines, interactions, and environments... so much so that we don't even see or recognize it anymore.

    This immersion into every facet of our lives makes new media studies transdisciplinary as computing, data, design, and the tools are used in the sciences, arts, business, education, and more.

    I'm not sure how to adequately answer how other disciplines approach new media studies, but in poking around, it seems like the phrase "new media" is often used in conjunction with ideas of collaboration, public engagement, online sharing, digital resources, and participatory initiatives. Much of the conversation in recent history has been around social media, connectivity, and networking.

    1. Hi Sylvia,
      thanks for responding.
      I think you've mentioned a couple of very key terms that we'll see re-appearing throughout our readings/discussions: collaboration & participatory. These are two major differences we see between web 1.0 and web 2.0 (or, some people say, web 4.0!).

  2. Hi Sylvia, Jess and Gail-Ann - I posted too late last night and hence into the wrong area of the blog (duh!)

    What is "new media studies" and its relationship to the humanities and social sciences ?

    Like you Sylvia, I did a bit of scoping around and liked this excerpt off of the University of Toronto website which describes new media studies as “the intersections of computing, science, the humanities and the visual and performing arts”. This acknowledges the trans-disciplinary field of new media referenced in our questions this week. I’ve shamelessly Google searched for the differences between the humanities and social sciences and gather that in the study of communications the humanities perspective would take a more philosophical approach and that the later would take a more scientific approach with respect to how and why humans communicate using “new media”.

    In her introduction within our textbook Janet Murray speaks to how the computer medium is growing quickly and “drawing on many antecedents and spawning a variety of formats” (Murray, 2003, p. 3). This made me recall reading about a Marshall McLuhan insight that old media tend to become the content of new media. Murray questions why we don’t see the digital medium more clearly as “a single new medium of representation . . . formed by the braided interplay of technical invention and cultural expression at the end of the 20th century? “(p. 3). In a similar vein, Manovich describes new media as “parallel tendencies in modern art and computing technology post World War 11” (p. 15). It was hard for me to get my head wrapped around thinking about computer science being associated with art, but this a bias from my past career in Marketing Communications. For me technology enables art and to consider the “machine” as the art itself is an interesting perspective.

    What are some current views about the emergence and diffusion of media?

    Manovich’s fifth proposition regarding new media pointed out that all new communications at some point goes through the “new media stage”. This had me recalling Winston’s theory of innovation from the MACT course Comm 505 course on the history of Communications technologies. This theory looked at how the innovation and diffusion of new technology always goes through the same predictive cycle which originally builds off a new idea, which is then initially pushed back by society who are still comfortable with existing, incumbent technologies until eventually there is a “supervening social necessity” and the timing is right for its acceptance. With “new media” artists, writers, or publishers ability to use the computer because it is faster, more cost efficient for design, publishing and sharing (Winston, 1998, p. 14). The cost to produce one printed copy of a print text book versus an electronic book really underscores why the diffusion of new media forms is attractive to even long established, traditional industries like publishing. This becomes even more magnified when quantities of print books increase alongside the production of one electronic copy easily distributed to the masses. Everett Roger’s theory on the Diffusion of Innovations is helpful to explain why new media technologies like Smartphones and social media are diffusing so quickly. His attributes of greater relative advantage, compatibility, trialability, observability and less complexity are at work (Rogers, 2003, p. 16). As costs of the phones quickly decrease, more of us are buying and using and “seeing” their functionality, they are more useful than the old tethered landlines and compatible with our life styles and values of keeping in touch at all times if we choose.

    1. Interesting thoughts Teresa - thanks for sharing.

      Just wondering about the ideas in your final paragraph (you refer to Manovich and Winston and Rogers). I wonder whether it is the efficiency and cost that really drive these kinds of changes or something else...I'm thinking of publishing. A very traditional sphere which has only lately taken to the online realm. I wonder if that has to do with the readers themselves - wanting books available in a variety or formats and enacting different business models? A chicken or egg questions perhaps: the reader or the publisher?

    2. No question Jess, consumers drive demand. If you think of it in terms of Winston’s model the “acceleration” is driven from the ever increasing numbers of portable mobile devices and the comfort level with digital content and e-commerce. So shifting reading and shopping preferences are a major driver. It is interesting that college students at NAIT, at this stage in the diffusion of eBooks, and from my personal experience, still want the paper text book even though we offer the option of the e-version at an attractive discount.

  3. Hi Teresa! Like you, I posted last night and this morning! I'm not sure where it"s gone...sorry to all if multiple posts appear!

    1. Well Gail-Ann you've made me feel better for it :-) I will look forward to your post/s. It is nice to "meet" you. Are you based in Edmonton?

    2. Don't worry!! I'm glad you're all figuring this out. Keep me posted if any problems arise.

  4. How does new media transform and "remediate" earlier media practices?

    Manovich’s article was helpful for reinforcing how new media transforms and “remediates” from earlier media practices. With respect to the “parallel development of art and computer technology” he says that technology overtook art by extending the artists original ideas much further than they had originally conceived (computer programming, graphical human-computer interface, hypertext), “as a result these technologies themselves have become the greatest art works of today (p. 15). Would that be like giving credit to the medium (the print magazine) or even the printing press equipment versus the beautifully designed print ad within it? Certainly, Steve Jobs and his team spent a lot of time ensuring not only Apple software but the hardware associated with it were functional and also beautifully designed.

    Manovich says that the human-computer interface comes to act as a new form through which all older forms of cultural production are being mediated (the web browser supplements the cinema screen, a museum space, a CD player, a book, and that really all culture past and present is being filtered through the computer screen and those responsible for this development should be considered todays major modern artists (p. 16).

    The Jenkins article noted that amateur production is on the rise again -- the mass media era saw society become “cultural consumers versus producers”. The new media technologies, particularly social media have provided a means to refashion the 19th century participatory culture, for example, blogging, Facebook and Twitter.

    This article also reminded me of McLuhan’s tetrad theory. For any new media the theory considers what it enhances, makes obsolete, what it retrieves that has been previously lost and what the medium reverses (or flips) when pushed to extremes. In considering social media via cell phones/tablets it retrieves the connectedness of the local community, making it easier to stay in touch with family and friends yet in the same breath people do use new technologies to cut themselves off from people, for example texting instead of calling or visiting in person. Could face-to-face, in-person communication be what is becoming obsolete?

  5. Hi Jess, can I ask for some feedback on what you'd like to see for length of posts and "formality" of them? Expectations in discussion forums is wide and varied from professors -- everything from short and informal to long, and formal in terms of expectations around full APA citations both in-text and references in the thread. If we answer all your questions for the week it will obviously be a very long post (and I learned with my post last night (in the wrong area of the blog - sorry) that we do have to stay within a certain character amount. In light of that insight are we expected to answer all questions? Also, I gather there is no formatting? I was looking for where I could use bold or linking within the blog. Please bear with everyone as this is a new course format for me :-)

    1. Great question Teresa!
      On the blog, especially when one is commenting, the style can be more colloquial and you def. do not need to use APA style. However, if you embed an image (though you need to know HTML for that) I'd ask you to please fully cite the image (you can use APA or MLA style).

      When it comes time to the assignments and your own blog posts I expect the writing to be more formal and thoughtful, complete with proper referencing (APA or MLA is fine). Also, as you'll see in the moodle information I encourage multimodality in your blog posts so please include images or videos and links to pertinent sites. It's good practise too.

      The formatting is easy - hard return for a space between paragraphs! You can also change the font type and style in the blogger post template (but only when you author your own post, not when commenting).

      Let me know if anyone has any other questions.

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    1. Hello to all...Thanks for your patience with me as I try to figure things out!!! I've learned some very interesting things in the last 24 hours about posting blogs. For example that my laptop can make them magically disappear when they are almost done, and that even if you try a million times, a blog that is too long will not get published!!! I have been humbled to find out how little I know! I'm surprised how much trouble shooting I had to do for a simple fix! My apologies for the delay in submitting my posts, I hope they are interesting and reflective.

    2. Ha ha Gail-Ann - we've all been there. A good tip; before posting anything (even a blog post) save it to your clip board (control/command a to select and then control/command c to copy). That way, if it disappears you can just paste it and try again.

  7. Hi Everybody. This course looks like it will provide some very stimulating discussion. I am excited to have the opportunity to share that with you!

    Defining New Media was an interesting task. It appeared straight forward and categorical, but turned out to be more complex. I agree with the definition that you chose Sylvia, where Manovich identifies new media as cultural and computing. When he lists objects which use digital computer technology for distribution and exhibition (the internet, web sites, computer multimedia...), in a cultural capacity the definition of new media became more clear to me.

    The relationship new media has to the humanities and social sciences can be connected by the thread of culture. Art and literature are an expression of culture reflecting societal trends and core values of their time. They are important mediums that influence and impact the societal conscience. New media has changed the landscape in which art and literature are expressed and experienced. Manovich goes on to write that "the technologies themselves have become the great art works of today". The tools of the renaissance used to express culture through art and literature (paint brush/canvass, pen/paper), have been digitally replaced with computer interfacing, industrial design, cinematography, animation, and digital photography. The impact of new media is profound and transformative, reshaping how we address the humanities. In "The End of Books" by Coover, he writes that the print medium is out of date and doomed. He states that "the novel has come to an end". Manovich goes on to refer to web as the greatest hypertext...more dynamic than any novel written by a single human writer.

  8. I see new media as boundless, and applicable to multiple fields of study as it creates an atmosphere for conscious thought to emerge. Many forms of new media allow for creativity, and processing through the senses. As I read "Eight Traits of the New Media Landscape", Jenkins characterization of innovation stood out for me. New media as a transdisciplanary field of scholarly inquiry can be seen through this characterization which describes new technology as spawning a different rage of users, inspiring diversity of aesthetic responses, and deployed by different communities of users.

    I think that the disciplines evolve with the use of new media. As a high school teacher, my experience with new media was just in its application. I would utilize technology for it's tools to deliver information out of the curriculum. It is a major paradigm shift to view new media as a study on it's own. I'm now understanding that new media brings disciplines into the 21st century. New media is exploratory, creative, collaborative, and rapidly progressive. The amount of new information and processes accessible, investigated, and posted, makes it impossible for disciplines to remain static. Manovich's description of the evolution of the art world to reflect the impact of new media, and Coover's comments on the impact of print text with the invention of hypertext are two examples.

    The current views about the emergence and diffusion of media reflect change; both positive and negative. There is resistance to diminishing print text, as it reflects a loss of culture and history. Conversely, digital print supports deforestation. Users and over users of new media can be as socially disconnected from "real" people, impairing their development of social skills and relationships. Globally, more people are connected in "real time" than ever before. Interesting paradox!