Janet H. Murray, Lev Manovich and Tony Chalkley offer some enlightening perspectives on what new media is and how it both creates and serves.
Personally, I was most enamored by Murray as she enlightens readers to the wonders of new media.
Unlike old media, new media involves spatial properties, or occupies space and has depth, both more so than a mere book.
Murray’s (2012) most important contribution to the definition of new media is defining the four main qualities of a computer: procedural, it both records and executes procedures; participatory, it receives input and allows manipulation of its processes and data; encyclopedic, it stores a wide range of knowledge; and its possession of spatial properties, or that it has dimensions and navigation capabilities (p. 6).
Perhaps the most important quality is spatial properties, which allows a user to enter a figurative dimension or virtual environment, one which they become so immersed in that they perhaps do not wish to exit. Internet addiction is given a whole new meaning when we see the internet as a distinct virtual realm where we can express ourselves in ways we can’t always do physically.
As a means for self-expression, a computer becomes much more than merely a creative tool, but a place where a person can choose how they represent themselves and can also redefine themselves entirely.
It takes a great deal of imagination to immerse oneself in forms of old media such as reading a book or listening to a radio program, but with new media one need not rely so heavily on imagination.
The Cold War and the Web
Manovich’s most important point is his relation of the similarities between the end of the Cold War and the design of the web, beyond both merely occurring at the same time.
The author sees the design of the web specifically as a “perfect metaphor for a new post-Cold-War sensibility,” where there was simply no other system that could dominate either of the two (Manovich, 2003, p. 25).
Just as both during and after the Cold War both respective countries, the U.S. and Russia, believed they were in the right, during the two early stages of the web’s development, there was simply no way to contradict said development. It could not be argued with, hindered or stopped, perhaps because there was simply nothing else in development like it. The web had become a force of its own, indisputable and racing forward into the future.
The Role of the Media
The point best taken away from Chalkley is the concept of the fourth estate, which represents the positive impact media can have on a democratic society, specifically by supporting freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
While old media has and in some ways still does aid those who relate the news, considering newspapers and their sensational headlines, as well as television and radio broadcasts, it is new media that has truly revolutionized old media to further aid our tenets of free speech and press. News can not only spread faster throughout a country than ever before, but also elicits varied responses that are just as quick.
Chalkley (2012) makes an excellent point that the “role of the news media is to act as a channel for information, ideas and opinions, with the aim of assisting good governance in society; to act as a check on the powerful” (p. 24).
Media not only serves as creative entertainment and a way in which to gain knowledge, but also aids the government by informing the general public of important political, economic and health issues. The public is also able to use media itself as both shield and sword to protect themselves from ignorance and exploitation by the government and/or others.
The most important common ground between the three authors is their view that new media is an entirely immersive experience that allows one to represent themselves.
Chalkley (2012) broadly states that “images from the media help us make sense of the world around us and are active in the ideologies… we have as a result” (p. 22).
Media, therefore, has a direct effect on our lives and our values. We take away much of what we read, see and hear online, and often unknowingly form opinions based on new media exploiting our senses in such a way to elicit responses. We embrace new media because we want lightning fast information and news, yet we also desire a sense of belonging with the world, more than we can achieve in our daily lives.
Perhaps first and foremost, we need to be able to interpret the world around us, to hone in down in a way that we can make sense of. New media allows us the means through which to accomplish this, handing us the reins to steer it in the direction we wish it to go in.
Manovich (2003) expands on Murray’s concept of spatial properties and how they create a virtual environment for users by stating that as a user alters anything on their computer screen, they are also “changing the internal state of a computer or even commanding reality outside of it” (p. 15).
Through the above quote, Manovich is able to imply both the creative and destructive aspects of new media, primarily the computer and the internet. While tweaking a computer program allows one to transform that specific computer, the internet’s purpose to connect the world also poses dangers; for example, one could send a message that relates a life-altering decision for more than just the user, or a message that even sends a country into war.
The authors do differ on the most important characteristic of new media. Manovich, for example, focuses solely on the creative aspect without referring to gaining intelligence through utilizing forms of new media.
Murray (2012) contribution to the definition of new media is her focus on its literary aspects and how it increases both our intelligence and creativity (p. 4).
In contrast, Chalkley associates new media with gaining a necessary intelligence through mainly political and cultural means, with media serving as an aid both to the government and the public.
Considering these sources, new media seems to relay both creativity and intelligence by providing us the means through which to acquire both.
Chalkley, T., et al. (2012). Communication, new media, and everyday life. South Melbourne: Oxford.
Manovich, L. (2003). New Media from Borges to HTML. In N. Wadrip-Fruin & N. Montfort (Eds.), The New Media Reader (13–25). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Murray, J. (2012). Inventing the Medium. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.