What is New Media?

Lev Manovich discusses the evolution of old media into new media. It was interesting to read that the history of mass media and data processing as complementary technologies. It was also interesting to see the reflections of our previous article “Pedagogy of Multiliteracies” on how the changes of media effect the society.

In a postindustrial society, every citizen can construct her own custom lifestyle and “select” her ideology from a large (but not infinite) number of choices. Rather than pushing the same objects/ information to a mass audience, marketing now tries to target each individual separately.

After Manovich introduces the history of new media, he states five principles which explain how new media differentiates from the old one. That does not mean, however, each new media material obeys all the principles.

In the following, I want to analyze if web pages obey aforementioned principles while summarizing them.

  1. Numerical Representation:

New media can be described by using a mathematical function and becomes programmable. As we know, we use HTML language to create website. For instance, if we want to create a button on a web page, we need to write a code for that function. Also, we can easily change the appearance and the content of the website by adding or deleting some codes on the html file. In addition, every image that we use on the web page is described mathematically as a combination of pixels.

2. Modularity:

“New media elements are assembled into larger-scale objects but continue to maintain their separate identities.” We use many different elements while creating a web page such as text, pictures, videos, and hyperlinks etc. Although all the elements that are used on the website shape the website and give a whole meaning to the content, they can also be used separately and they still hold their uniqueness and individual meaning. For example, suppose there is a web page about information for a new bicycle model. Any bicycle image on the web page can also be used in a different platform. Also, any video material can be viewed by everyone instead of being a part of the website. Also, even if one deletes those elements, other elements of the website still hold their completeness.

3. Automation:

“Many Web sites automatically generate Web pages on the fly when the user reaches the site. They assemble the information from databases and format it using generic templates and scripts.”

This principle is closely related with the “Variability”, especially in the example of web pages. Basically, your previous internet experiences such as websites you visit frequently, the time you spend on the internet, and the words you searched with search engines play an important role on and affects the materials you see on websites.


“A new media element can exist different, potentially infinite versions.”

There are several different web pages that you can access even on a particular single subject. The colors, placement of the elements, the fonts, and the pictures can vary on websites. Let’s think our blogs: we all have a unique web page.  On websites, we can see the branching-type interactivity which means that the user can visit all the possible elements from a branching tree structure. The common usage of this structure is the menu options. Every time the user clicks a button, a different part of the page is accessed. The creation of options for users to choose based on their needs provides flexibility.  Also, on websites, hyperlinks are the commonly used elements which help user to access related materials easily. Websites are also updated periodically. The updates can be done manually or automatically based on the newly available information. For instance, news websites are usually updated regularly, even sometimes every minute manually.  The date, time or visitor counter can be the examples of automatically updated elements.

The ads on websites also confirm variability principle. The ads are shown according to the previous internet experiences. Thus, many ad companies track users and store the information in their database (automation principle),  to understand the interests of users. As a result, every user experiences the website differently than each other. If you like traveling and spending time on a travel related website, while you are exposed to flight tickets ad, another person may see shopping related ads.  Another similar case happens in the Youtube example. This website always recommends you the songs related with your previous choices, so most likely your Youtube web page is different than another one.

5. Transcoding:

The last principle explains the relation between the cultural and the computer layer of new media. I have doubts about how I can apply this principle to only one media such as websites because I believe that all new media elements have combined effect on the cultural changes.



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