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Posts Tagged ‘Media Theory’

Image By Hugh McCabe (2017)

In this post I consider the Introduction and first chapter of Lev Manovich’s influential 2001 book, The Language Of New Media 1. Manovich’s book is a comprehensive and wide-ranging attempt to provide what he calls a “theory of the present”: an analysis of new media as it emerges in the late 20th Century. Future posts will look at subsequent chapters of the book.

The Language Of New Media covers a lot of ground over the course of its six chapters but perhaps the most concise insight into where Manovich is coming from can be gleaned by means of an autobiographical anecdote he relates at the very start. Manovich studied computer science in Moscow in the mid-70s and he recalls how neither himself nor any of his classmates had access to computers in order to test the programs that they were learning to write. Everything was done on paper, as opposed to inputted into a machine, and the experienced professors would evaluate the work of students by mentally executing the hand-written programs that were submitted to them.

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Image by Hugh McCabe (2018)

What’s new about new media? Or in this case, what was new about new media way back in 1999 when Butler and Grusin’s Remediation 1 was first published? The book was one of the first full-length attempts to define and contextualise this emerging field, coming a year or two before Manovich’s influential Language Of New Media 2, and several years before the whole concept of new media came to be seen as not quite so new at all. Bolter and Grusin’s book anticipates this by challenging the notion that new media represents some sort of epistemic shift or radical break from established practices. They take aim at the techno-fantasists who are permanently plugged into VR headsets and feverishly declare the birth of new digital realities where the troubles of the past can be left behind. In fact, much of Remediation is concerned with how various forms of digital media (virtual reality, computer graphics, the World Wide Web etc.) are inspired by, have their roots in, or simply mimic, earlier forms. By stripping away what is not new about new media we can perhaps zero in on what is.

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