Thursday, March 10, 2011

New Media

Upon reading the aptly titled chapter "New Media" in Baehr & Schaller's book, Writing For The Internet, a somewhat stark realization came to my attention: the 'new media' phenomenon that has rapidly accelerated over the last decade or so is part of a narrative that is not quite so new, but is rather both 'traditional' and (paradoxically) contemporary. The reason I say this 'new media' trend is paradoxical is that, notwithstanding that modernity does break from the mold of tradition many times over, in this particular case I think it doesn't.

The chapter I have cited above supports the claim that 'new media' is new in the sense of actual technologies that are constantly evolving, but can still be 'defined' or as Baehr and Schaller put it "logically tied" to "previous or existing (mass communication) theory". However, 'new media theory' is still very much in its infancy.

 There is, most definitely an aspect of "demassification" to 'new media' that caters to a more personal yet interactive "micromedia experience" (or a niche culture, if you will) and because it is also asynchronous new media technologies (such as the Internet) are largely assumed to be 'groundbreaking'. But in the case of some major corporations that didn't altogether embrace these new technologies (such as file sharing) it resulted in their demise (Tower records is a prime example).

The main justification for the traditional aspect of new media stems from the observation B & S made about new media theory not being a linear progression, so essentially one can surmise it can regress in some ways, or further entrench certain values in our society that maintain the status quo. A clear example of this is how most of the information presented to us is still controlled by government agencies, big business corporations and mainstream media websites. B & S cite the New York Times, the Washington Post and USA Today as examples of media outlets which are garnering a plethora of hits online even as printed media is rapidly declining which ultimately still grants them a substantial amount of influence if not profit.

In addition to the mainstream media, the Internet itself can be used as a prime example of something once thought of as the idealistic medium that would spark a sort of virtual enlightenment and with its birth would finally put an end to the age of blasphemy and slander. Finally, the spread of democracy and "great truths" would now reign supreme.
         Sadly, this has not been the case. Feel free to start pouting, though on the other hand, some of you cynics might proudly be sporting a huge "I told you so" grin because, well, those sentiments seems like something taken out of a fairytale, or to be more accurate a Disney version of a fairytale. For those of you who are not familiar with the original "Sleeping Beauty" and "Snow White" stories, you are in for a rude awakening. But alas, I digress. If, however I have now irreversibly peaked your curiosity, my friend Google can surely clarify things for you. Or can he?


Because of potential mass audiences, the internet has in many ways become a playground for major corporations and their propaganda, evidenced by the adds that incessantly 'pop-up' at every corner of the world wide web. Take Facebook, which is free of charge yet still has adds for big brands, blockbuster movies and the like tepidly (yet permanently) displayed on the right side of every "wall". Or Youtube which, thanks to Vevo has as many commercials in between songs as any basic cable television station. Or You Name It (which to my knowledge is not in existence, but it's only a matter of time now).

Twitter is probably the best example of a new media 'device' that instead of giving your average Joe (or Jane) a voice has given further clout to celebrities and celebrity culture. Just this week we learned that Charlie Sheen was fired from the sitcom Two-and-a-Half Men. That same day he gained 200,000 followers on Twitter. A man obviously known for his self-less dedication to his craft and charitable deeds for humanity, one wonders if this "celebrity culture" is not some renaissance of the "old aristocracy" only without or outside of any and all ethical or lawful boundaries and 'glass ceilings' in place that apply to the rest of society.

Edit: Charlie Sheen quote: I am on a drug. It's called Charlie Sheen.

Read more:

So you see, just because something is new in the technical sense, theoretically it can be viewed as an apple falling from an over-arching tree, because while the technology may be different, the person behind the large or small screen still adheres to a system that perpetuates traditions within society. In other words, it may take two seconds to communicate with someone on the other side of the world instead of two hours, two days or two weeks, but the themes common to societal standards of power still prevail. This is not to say we should sit back and re-hash the same antiquated theories to explain emerging technologies, but this situation still begs me to ask the question of whether this hyper-subjective yet controlled medium we are communicating through, of which blogging is a prime example, is really all that different from the letter-writing days of old. Well, until we catch up to technology, or until there is really a unique engagement with these platforms that alter the way (western) society is structured and the little engines that could (i.e. true entrepreneurs) aren't consumed by massive corporations (i.e. Google) that are only looking to satiate their financial needs I am hesitant to say this media is all that "new". Or at least not new, new. Just semi-new.

I encourage you to keenly watch the video I have posted as a supplement to what I just outlined and post your thoughts below.

1 comment:

  1. i dont know wat new media is but i do know technology. of course technology will be tied up with old mass communications theories because technology is in essence a tool to simplify life. in this specific situation, technology just becomes a new medium to advertise or propagate information. i agree that there is a de-massification but thats just basic data sniffing and specific audience targeting commonly referred to as data mining; Google does it all the time. take a look next time u run a query on google. the advertisements on the side will be selling you something related to your query. not random advertising but something specific to ones needs based on information gathered. based solely on efficiency this medium is good for the enterprise since they don't waste resources advertising to a broad uninterested audience and the consumer wins because they get ads that matter to them. on the other hand tho, data mining for this cause is sometimes considered breach of privacy and unethical. but it's debatable.