Breaking it down with Manovich

I’m sitting here watching the wind blow as Irene sweeps through Vermont. The lights are flickering and these days my laptop battery yields a couple of hours of juice so I figured I may as well finish up this blog post while I still have all my new media tools available.



In the New Media Reader, Manovich takes on the extensive task of defining New Media through various technical, historical and social lenses. The most clarifying for me is his definitions of New Media as both the medium and the message by placing it in context with other artistically innovative historical periods.

The more compelling of Manovich’s assertions is that New Media “represents the new avant-garde, and its innovations are at least as radical as the innovations of the 1920s.”  However, rather than being a cultural shift toward a new art movement that looks at the world in a different way; New Media is instead about “accessing and manipulating information.”

He illustrates how artist and thinkers of the 1960s were preparing not just the technologies that would make new media possible but also the ideas that would make it probable as a cultural shift.

By running parallel with postmodernism, New Media provides the tools necessary for a culture who’s aesthetic is “more concerned with reworking already existing content rather than creating genially new ones.”  Is new media the chicken or the egg when it comes to postmodernism?  Would we be interested in recycling cultural content if we didn’t have the tools to do so?

The one definition of Manovich’s that I couldn’t agree with is his belief that New Media is somehow a separate field of research to cyberculture.  If we define New Media as both a tool and a platform with which to access information and communicate said information then the social phenomena of cyberculture would certainly dwell within that space.  Perhaps that’s the takeaway from the New Reader: That the lines between what  New Media can and cannot be are becoming thinner and thinner as it has become so fully integrated into our world.


About rmhooper

I am a student in Champlain College's MFA in Emergent Media Program.
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