Looking Deeper at New Media

Before knowing what is new media, it is important to understand what is new media. New media allows us to interconnect with technological devices that connect to the internet along with studying how these devices interact with one another. Almost everything today can be seen as new media. For example, I am using a blog hosting site called Medium to create this post opposed to getting this post printed on dead trees. Further, you, the reader, might be reading this post on a computer, mobile device, or any other device that supports web browsing. New media has been rapidly advancing and in the next few years, new media might become something completely different than today. Perhaps in the future, we will finally be able to have our cell phones connected to our brain. At the beginning of my study of new media, I discussed in a previous post, that new media is revolutionary. New media is changing our lives.

With new media having a profound impact on our lives, (Americans check their phone approximately 47 times a day) it raises the question, “Are we shaping new media or is new media shaping us?” Through my experience of studying new media, it is both. Each year new media advances and changes. The biggest technology to come out in the last few years has been virtual reality. A multitude of devices has come to the market such as Oculus Rift and Sony Playstation VR. Although all the virtual reality devices have in common are video games, virtual reality is expanding past the use of games. I mentioned previously during the 2016 election, virtual reality made it possible for people to participate in virtual viewing parties of the election. Now virtual reality has the capabilities of doing more and has several benefits. Maria Korolov, a technology journalist, writes, “ The biggest way [VR is changing the workplace] is training and simulations.” For instance, instead of training someone on expensive machinery, you would first train them in a simulator instead. Further, students looking at colleges do not have to leave their home to have a tour of college campuses. Virtual reality allows prospective students to have their own virtual tour of campuses. Similarly, the company ArchVirtual has created virtual reality applications to make buildings. These are only some of the many uses virtual reality has. It should be no surprise that virtual reality is quickly becoming the future. It is only a matter of time until this technology catches on to the majority of the population.

An Oculus Rift headset
“Virtual reality is creating the next evolution of the internet. What we are building with artificial reality is an internet of experiences.”

Virtual reality is not the only advancement in technology that is changing our lives. Cyborgs are connected to the discussion of new media. Cyborgs may seem as though they are from science fiction but, science fiction is becoming less of fiction and more of a reality. Donna Haraway in her A Cyborg Manifesto mentions that we are all cyborgs. Haraway wants us to consider our body figuration and think of it as a container that can be changed. Her piece was originally published over 20 years ago so back then she had been thinking about cyborgs advancing our bodies. In 2017 cyborgs have become less of science fiction. I wrote earlier, in the future, we could have our phones connected to our brain. This idea has started to be explored. Entrepreneur, Bryan Johnson, has created a company, Kernel, to do that. Thus far, his company has been creating a tiny chip to be placed inside someone’s brain that is suffering damage from strokes, Alzheimer's, and concussions to ease them with their suffering. Alternatively, by turning into cyborgs, it can be a means of expanding our own lives. Elysium Health has introduced a pill called Basis with the intended purpose of creating longer and healthier lives. They advertise that Basis will take care of your cells to do that. Instead of spending the last several years of your life suffering from Alzheimer’s, it no longer has to be an issue by taking Basis. People will be able to enjoy the most out of their lives. It is not necessarily “anti-aging” but more of life enhancing instead. Further, Chris Hables Gray argues in Cyborgology: Constructing the Knowledge of Cybernetic Organisms cyborgs are walking among us. Hables considers people with an artificial organ, limb, or anyone reprogrammed to resist disease as a cyborg. Jessie Sullivan, for instance, is considered one of the firsts with his bionic limb. Those that are missing limbs are the ones that are benefiting the most from cyborg technology. However, prosthetic limbs are not the only way people are becoming cyborgs. Kevin Warwick has implemented chips in his arm to control doors, lights, and heaters. Increasingly, people are starting to become more and more like cyborgs than ever before. In only a year’s time will technology advance than what it is today.

“A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.”

Virtual reality along with cyborgs are only two examples of how technology is changing new media, however, how we interact with these and other technology impacts new media as well. By taking music and wireless headphones, an entirely new experience can be created.

A silent disco taking place in Brooklyn

By combing these two, silent discos were created. Silent discos are a new way of experiencing concerts and music. To put simply, attendees wear a pair of wireless headphones and a DJ streams the music directly into the headphones. Daniel Gross writes on the topic, “ Musical experiences are inherently social, scientists tell us, even when they happen in private. When we listen alone, we feel together.” Although at silent discos you are technically listening to the music alone, you do not feel alone when you are surrounded by others who are doing the same thing as you. Silent discos have the added benefit of having the flexibility to take place almost anywhere. For example, at silent discos, you do not need to be concerned about noise as you would at a live concert. Overall, silent discos are an individual experience but a social one as well.

Additionally, cyberspace changes how we interact with each other. Cyberspace, unlike our real world, has no government authority in the virtual space. There are laws that do prohibit cyber crimes but how does cyberspace regulate people who harass others or do worse that is not considered illegal? A Rape In Cyberspace by Julian Dibbell focuses on that. A cyberrape was performed by the player character Mr. Bungle in the game LambdaMOO. His sexual actions on other players left them feeling upset. Despite there being no physical abuse happening, it can hurt as much as real abuse. Users of LambdaMOO were at a crossroads between real life and virtual reality and how to move forward from this incident. Ultimately, Mr. Bungle’s account was terminated from the game. Besides online games, a plethora of sites offers report features, as seen on YouTube and Facebook, because of abuse. People are being held accountable by the community. This report feature is a better alternative than having the government involved. I foresee the government’s involvement would make cyberspace a more restrictive place.

Expanding further, social media sites have changed how we interact similarly to online video games. On Facebook, there is a feature on the site that creates groups. These groups cater to all sorts of interests from hobbies, such as photography, to fan groups of a specific video game or TV show. It is easier than ever before to connect with a large volume of people. We do not have to limit ourselves to only people we see in real life. In addition to Facebook, the introduction of Twitter has changed the way we write. Limiting posts to only 140 characters, it should come to no surprise it has changed our writing. The changes Twitter and other social media have brought writing have its positives and negatives. For instance, if someone can write a profound and thought provoking tweet with only 140 characters, they should be praised for it. However, more and more people are being succumbed to using text speak in their writing. Furthermore, it has been argued traditionally writing such as writing an academic essay, is hurting our digital writing. With our everyday lives being affected by digital technologies, it is becoming more important for us to learn how to write in this digital era. Now schools and colleges are offering classes on writing for digital media.

Lastly, to reiterate all of the above, new media is changing our everyday lives. Each year new advancements are being made which can make keeping up with technology difficult. Every year Samsung and Apple are coming out with new phones, for instance. Although it is not necessary to keep track of all the latest technological trends, it is perhaps more important to maintain a sense of digital literacy. I cannot recall the last time I have observed someone that did not carry with them a smartphone.Even my parents have jumped on the smartphone train, however, they do not know how to use all the capabilities of their phones. As our world is becoming more digital each year, it has become more of a requirement to have an understanding how to use the internet. By next year, 2018, I expect there will be plenty of changes made to new media.