A Reflection on New Media
Boy, it’s been quite some time, hasn’t it? Roughly 3 months have passed in nearly the blink of an eye. I remember those first few days in my New Media class, when I sat down thinking “Golly, this class is either going to be the easiest thing I’ve done in a long time” or “Oh sweet jeebus this class is going to be like shoving my face into a wood chipper”. They were young times. They were perhaps, some rather naive times, thinking back on it all. When we think about the term “new media”, what word really springs to mind? Facebook? Netflix? How’s this for a switch up: Container.
New Media is the study of containers and how they’re utilized in our new, modern and digital age. When this semester first started, we talked a lot about how computers are used, and how media is used. One of the topics that came up, of course, was censorship. New Media is a form of media unlike anything the world’s ever seen before; It’s a two-way street. A container through which information can be sent both from the producer to the consumer, and from the consumer to the producers.
Naturally, the most popular form of New Media has to be the internet. And of course, why wouldn’t it? It’s easily accessible, it’s vast and sprawling, and it can serve to revolutionize the diplomatic process without ever leaving your chair. But there’s so much more to New Media than just the media it contains; It marks a revolution in our thinking as humans. For hundreds of years, humanity as a whole has relied upon a single medium with which to host our media: Atoms.
Atoms make up our paper. They make up our ink and quills, our dead trees, our records and our filing cabinets. They’re pretty important in the grand scheme of things, atoms; Without them we’d simply cease to exist. But in the age of New Media, we’ve transitioned to a new medium: Bits. Those little electrical impulses which designate ones and zeroes now make up most of our media these days. Bits hold interesting advantages over atoms: They can’t deteriorate like physical objects do, they can be spread literally anywhere in the entire world in mere moments at the speed of light, and unlike atoms, they can absolutely be duplicated perfectly, allowing for rapid sharing and dissemination of a single idea or object. The internet now serves as our medium to hold the various media made out of these electrical impulses, and boy is it good at it, but in an age where everyone can share everything and stealing a song or a video is as easy as a few clicks, there’s bound to be a lot of hassle about copyright.
The digital age of New Media has allowed for a unique, participatory culture to develop from the masses as a result. People are, more than ever, shaping what the content producers create and put out, not just with their wallets, but with their voices. Social media such as Facebook and Tumblr have served as outlets for fans to express their ardent joy or vehement hatred of popular shows and films, and these messages tell the producers how to shape their content to please the masses. Content is starting to blur. No longer is it strictly one medium or another that conveys a story, now a single story seems to expand across as many mediums as possible: comic books are made into films which are made into cartoons which are then re-distributed as a TV series on the internet, for example.
This blending of individual containers is what lies at the core of New Media: The idea of doing the impossible and telling stories in ways we’d never even thought of. New media lets us embed moving pictures and videos into simple text documents. It lets us carry the library of Alexandria in our pockets. Listen to what we want, when we want, and shape it how we want. It lets us tell stories by allowing the users to shape the narrative as participants. It’s one of the most important revolutions in the 20th century, and these last few months have given me quite the insight into just how important and expansive the whole study of New Media truly is. It’s the future. It’s the impossible given tangible form. It’s an immortal, unbreakable, viral-like information structure that is making us as a species into more than human; We’re becoming digital demigods of an endlessly expanding digital world and our capacity to take in information has accelerated rapidly because of it.