Simply put, new media tends to be digital media: any form of media that allows a person to not only immerse themselves but also construct their own unique identity. Old media, in contrast, is what we know as books, radio programs and television; in other words, we are not able to interact with these forms of media, nor represent ourselves within them (unless we ourselves are the creators). New media allows its user to add to, critique and in a sense find themselves in the creator’s material. New media, then, is uniquely not restricted to the creator alone.
New media reflects a progression from traditional media, otherwise known as old media, to creative and interactive media. This progression displays how humans inherently evolve through their need to develop more all-encompassing and intimate forms of communication.
The existence and purpose of various forms of media is “now less a distinct sphere of life… [and instead] an entity permeating everything” (Chalkley, 2012, pp. 13-14).
New media, primarily digital, has enabled humans to share information from all areas of life; thus, bringing those from all parts of the world figuratively closer than ever before. Rather than share a piece of writing with our closest peers, we are now able to upload it online and share it with anyone in the world, inviting helpful hints, as well as further praise and/or criticism.
According to Murray (2012), who reminds readers of the perseverance of humans as a species in order to bring technology into fruition, “we are drawn to a new medium of representation because we are pattern makers who are thinking beyond our old tools” (p. 11).
New media not only allows humans to express themselves in an increasingly interactive way, but also enables them to share this representation of themselves with others; thus, forging a connection with like-minded individuals. Instead of solely belonging in a physical group, we are now engaged in digital groups through which we can learn, share, and construct our individual selves away from the constraints and distractions of physical characteristics.
So why hasn’t old media disappeared entirely?
Old media typically consists of limited sources of communication such as print, radio and television; whereas, new media embraces the creative pieces each of the above produce and digitizes them, making them available on demand and to a wider audience.
- A radio program that previously could only be heard at a specific time on a radio station is now available online, allowing one to listen to it whenever and easily share it with others.
- A book that previously had to have been purchased and brought along by its buyer can now be purchased and read online at any time and on nearly every device. In addition, book recommendations give the user further reading options that they would not obtain from the physical book itself.
- A television program can now be watched online instead of forcing the user to wait for a specific time for it to be aired on their television. One can discuss this program with others online, and as with books, can also see recommendations for similar series.
The common thread that links these examples is convenience. New media has eradicated all restrictions to our time and availability, permitting us to access creative pieces whenever and wherever we may choose.
The important thing to remember is that old media is still celebrated, it has just broken through its barriers to gain further popularity; thus, transforming into new media. The specific brilliance of new media is that it does not eradicate old media, but honors it by allowing one to respond to the creative works of others and to easily create and share their own creative works.
How do everyday technical communicators use new media?
As many utilize new media in their daily lives, technical communicators especially use it as it enables them to research and find solutions to worldwide problems; furthermore, they are then able to share this information, which in turn allows others to revise it and even discover new information and solutions.
Murray’s (2012) engineering mentality, for example, “fosters the comic view of the world in which we are resilient enough to problem-solve our way out of our troubles up to the very barrier of mortality itself” (p. 4).
In other words, no problem is too daunting for humans to solve except, perhaps, death itself. It is new media that not only represents the perceived lack of creative limits for humans, but also embodies our determination to further expand our creativity.
A last point to keep in mind, however, is that new media not only enables humans to expand their creative processes, yet also reminds one of the dangers of creativity and offers insight on how to avoid them.
Chalkley, T., et al. (2012). Communication, new media, and everyday life. South Melbourne: Oxford.
Murray, J. (2012). Inventing the Medium. Cambridge: MIT Press.