The Language of New Media (Post # 1)

Lev Manovich’s book,  The Language of New Media does a complete dissection of the term “New Media”. It is undoubtedly a complex work with a highly detailed introduction section, and thoroughly researched chapters. Apart from reading the first two chapters I read some online reviews of the book, read about the author and searched for content online in relation to the book. I found Lev Manovich’s blog which can be a useful resource for anyone interested in New Media related Studies.

Chapter 1 – What is New Media?

I found a short video that had the definitions of the five important principles in Chapter 1. This video is worth a watch for clear definitions and explanations/examples given for each of the five terms.

The latter part of this chapter talks about all the misinformation related to the term “new media”. I agree with the author’s claim that New Media helps users to become authors of someone’s work. For example, in this blog post I am interpreting Lev Manovich’s work, adding further meaning to it, and presenting it. Thus, although the original written work belongs to Lev Manovich, New Media facilitates in bringing together different online resources so I can re-write my own interpretation of his work.

Chapter 2 – The Interface

“As distribution of all forms of culture becomes computer-based, we are increasingly “interfacing” to predominantly cultural data: texts, photographs,films, music, virtual environments. In short, we are no longer interfacing to a computer but to culture encoded in digital form” (80).

Lev Manovich - Representing the Mac culture

Lev Manovich author of "The Language of New Media"

Based off the image above, I have an my own illustrative example. If computers can be considered as cultural texts, I clearly see two emerging cultures, the PC and Mac culture. I have always been a PC user, and find myself at ease in this culture. However, in certain settings I am required to interface with the Mac culture as well. Thus, my illustration clearly shows how distribution of all forms of culture has become extensively technology-based.

Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001. 1-111. Print.

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7 comments on “The Language of New Media (Post # 1)

  1. I liked what you said about thinking of computers as cultural texts. I agree with you that in the computer world, the PC culture is clearly different from the Mac culture. While I would describe myself as more or less inter-culturally competent in the human world, I would not say for myself when it comes to the world of operating systems. I would definitely identify myself as being part of the PC culture.

    On occasions when there is no other choice for me but to sit down in front of a Mac OS, sometimes I honestly feel like I can barely perform basic functions such as minimizing and maximizing windows, opening blank documents, or retrieving files. I simply do not have the tools or skills required to function effectively in the context of that culture. That’s why I feel like your last line about the distribution of culture being technology-based was spot on. Throughout human history the common denominator one can find among the definitions of culture seems to be development and use of particular tools – why would digital cultures be any exception?

  2. “As distribution of all forms of culture becomes computer-based, we are increasingly “interfacing” to predominantly cultural data: texts, photographs,films, music, virtual environments. In short, we are no longer interfacing to a computer but to culture encoded in digital form” (80).

    I get stuck on this quote every time I read this post. The idea that we interface (as a verb!) not with technology, but with coded culture strikes me as a profound but bold statement. Some initial questions: What then is the role of the physical computer if it is just the tool used to interface with the culture itself? Can we reduce the importance of the computer in the discussion of interface? How else would we access the digitally coded culture if not for the computer? If we can, what does that mean for our humanity? If we can access digital culture without using the go-between of the machine, what does that make us?

    Questions aside, I think the quote is accurate. If we think of culture as works of art, it becomes clear. I mean, when was the last time you went to a museum? Or checked out a book from the library with prints? We experience art as digital code. Scale gets lost – all images a thumbnail. 3 dimensions impossible to show.

    It brings me back to the theme of human erosion that seems to happen in the digital world. On one hand we can see these things as advancements – access to art work where there was once none – but on the other hand, I feel this mediated culture as lacking something innately human. Something visceral.

    The power of a Shakespeare play watched live is intense; it can draw you in to a different world. The You Tube clip not so much. The live concert as the music is felt inside your chest, the bond felt with others experiencing the same singular moment and experience, is just not reproducible digitally.

    How do we determine the boundaries between the culture of first-hand experiences with the culture of digital experiences?

  3. Smitha,

    “I agree with the author’s claim that New Media helps users to become authors of someone’s work. For example, in this blog post I am interpreting Lev Manovich’s work, adding further meaning to it, and presenting it. Thus, although the original written work belongs to Lev Manovich, New Media facilitates in bringing together different online resources so I can re-write my own interpretation of his work.”

    It’s interesting to think about how new media creates ways for people to become authors of other people’s work. I am, of course, reminded of Barthes’s famous essay The Death of the Author. With or without the help of new media, readers author the texts they encounter through the acts of interpreting and creating meaning. Even without external acts of authoring (i.e., writing, creating a video, etc.), readers become authors just by virtue of encountering a text.

    What I understand from your post is that Manovich suggests that through the use of new media resources, the reader/author constructs/adds meaning to an “original” text in ways that extend beyond alphabetic or print-based methods. For example, the video you posted is a visual interpretation of Lev Manovich’s five principles of new media. That the author of the video emphasizes that all of the principles have been explained in under two and a half minutes also extends the way in which meaning of a considerably longer text has been (re)created. I wonder, then, if new media actually empower the author/reader to create meaning from existing texts? Being in a Baudrillard sort of mood (I have no real choice as I’m focusing on Baudrillard for canonical text assignment…), I wonder about the simulated nature of the video you posted as a representation of the “real” text that Manovich authored?

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  5. Excellent discussion here! Having read “Understanding Media,” I think you are all pointing to the fact that we cannot distinguish or divide the medium from the content. I’m struck by the ways Laura describes OS impacting her performance with computers. (hand raised) I’m a Mac. OSystems do shift how we perform and use computers. As a result of my Mac background, I expect software to interface nicely together and grow annoyed when/if it will not.

    I’m also struck by Suzanne’s comment that there’s something not human in computer mediation of culture. Something, not visceral. Visceral strikes me as such a telling term to use here, esp as it connotes embodiment of our contact with culture. McLuhan suggests that we’re extended by media, however, if we fail to recognize those extensions we can become numb to our bodies. I’m thinking that there can be different types of mediated experiences. Those that we’re aware of having that can also be visceral and those in which we succumb to the media.

    My question is, “What is human?” Is human necessarily linked to the body? What if that which defines humanity is spiritual or intellectual? Can those be represented in media?

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  7. I especially like that you found and read/viewed other materials to help you engage with the text. Please be sure to share those types of materials with folks in your blog and/or wiki entries.

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