new media: what it is continued

Saturday, November 15th, 2003

John over at Five Fingers has put together a great run down on new media definitions and concepts. Under new media common ground issues he lists these issues:

1. It is a digitally-based medium;
2. It has narrative structure;
3. It involves levels of interaction between “reader” and “author”;
4. It implies elements of communication.

Anyone who has perused Amazon.com knows that fundamentally that “system” is a book store. I go to Amazon to buy books. I “can go” to Amazon to buy books or I can go to the just-down-the-street Borders to do it. Anyone who has done both knows that “getting there” involves a different “route.” I must drive to Borders, find a space to park, and open the front door. Getting to Amazon is, we might say, a little harder, “depending.” Typically, to get to Amazon I must be hooked up to the network which involved an “industry” and an “infrastructure” that is different from the one everyone has been used to for years. I take my body to Borders; at Amazon, I send and receive digitized chunks of information. Amazon isn’t “there”; it is “translated” by my browser; Amazon is both on my machine and on a server all at the same time. One way of thinking about new media is how its manifestations are similar and different to another model of interaction and thus changes the way we think about that interaction.

Issue 2. Everyone who has perused Amazon knows that it is more than a book store, just as Borders is more than a retailer of copies of original works in text. Borders is the result of the tradition of print technology. But they also sell toys, DVDs, CDs, journals, soft porn, and coffee. Amazon, however, offers cutlery, camping equipment, and anything else one may want–even stuff for the garden. Amazon has a pretty good idea of who I am. My gold box waits for me, says my name, welcomes me, and simulates me by offering things I may want–steve as consumer is in the database–based on what I’ve ordered in the past, often to comedic results. For some reason I was offered the DVD of “Legally Blond” in my gold box. Maybe I do want that DVD? Maybe the machine has me all figured out. I have to remind myself–this is a number cruncher. Mythologically, I vest Amazon with “will” just as the Greeks vested the clouds with Zeus. This is the network marketplace, a digital octopus. But it is human made, designed from the ground up. I traverse it by reading and clicking and “searching.”

To quote the judge in MccCarthy’s Blood Meridian, “For whoever makes a shelter of reeds and hides has joined his spirit to the common destiny of creatures and he will subside back into the primal mud with scarcely a cry. But who builds in stone seeks to alter the universe and so it was with these masons however primitive their works may seem to us” (146).

And those who build in digital?


4 responses to “new media: what it is continued”

  1. john says:

    Nice start my brother.

  2. maureen says:

    I do agree that Amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com is more than just a bookstore… It is better than a bookstore because you can browse at your own pace. You are not interrupted by loud music or people coughing on you…

    Also, it’s bigger than the “physical” store… For instance, you can get Calendars there you can’t get at the “physical” store… The “physical” store is limited…

    You know what..I also check out amazone.co.uk, just to see if the Brits are getting better deals or more selections than the Yanks… There are movies, books, etc. that are only offered in the UK…[Too bad we are not connected to the U.K. as far as DVD’s and VHS…We are region 1, They are region 2…such a pain…]

    Anyway, I too am baffled by the “offers” I get… Sometimes Amazone picks books, movies, CDs that are not even close to my taste… But I guess it goes by genre… You know, if you buy a historical novel..then you might be offered a book based upon the selections of others who tend to buy in the historical genre…

    Oh yes, back to New Media..which is what this is all about…

    In a way, Amazon and other sites are new media…

    Do you notice that when you search there may be another’s top ten list or personal list to the right side of the page? Say you are perusing “Military History”..there might be “Joe’s Military History list” to the right side of the page… So, not only are you searching and buying books..you are interacting with others with a similar interest…

    That the new media is interactive suggests that maybe we are moving away from the “static” nature of books…

    We are so used to “Flash” and other “moving” images that perhaps the written word alone no longer moves us…

    “A cultural era is not defined by the content of the ideas it conveys but by its interpretive filter…the hidden threads that link ideas to the invisible will of time”-Ioan Couliano

    Perhaps New Media is the new “interpretive filter”…

    Most Graciously,

    Maureen
    *A Mayde in her own little woode…

  3. Christopher says:

    I’d like to comment on the subject of digital work and the issues with it.

    Yes it is an exciting new medium. The problem as I see it is the the lack of permanency. After all who hasn’t created something, a word document, a web page, even a powerpoint presentation that was a digital work and has now disappeared into the ether?

    Additionally all it can take is one hard drive failure and all of your work is gone. Even one bad sector on a hard drive can cause the work of a lifetime to become inaccessible.

    With print media, there is a feeling of permanence, that the work will continue to exist for hundreds of years on a shelf.

    With the digital medium the work exists as long as the delete key isn’t pressed.

    Those who build in digital do so I think always looking forward, rarely looking back upon the quicksand their foundation sits upon.

    I say this as someone who doesn’t have copies of the countless digital creations I have made over the years, going back to the 80’s in the time of the BBS.

  4. Christopher says:

    One other comment to make about this. The image of Steve sitting on his sofa at home watching Legally Blonde (on the special edition 2 disc DVD he bought from Amazon’s Gold Box) is just such a completely bizarre image it brings a smile to my face.