What is New About New Media?

A roll of camera film.

Rick Wysocki

November 16, 2021

Does new media mean computers? It’s easy to think so. Lev Manovich, for example, claimed in The Language of New Media that numerical representation, modularity, variability, automation, and transcoding are central to the affordances of new media.

At the same time, other historical technologies can offer a better sense of media in their “newness.” Manovich also argued that cinema history can help explain the supposed “new” medium of the computer interface. Lisa Gitelman similarly wrote that historians can examine media in their moments of novelty before they become familiar and well-known. The media archaeological school takes this perspective, asserting that we can study “dead” media as a way of calling progressive, teleological histories of media into question (Ernst; Zielinski).

New media are better defined as media that challenge our existing conceptions of technology… even if the new media in question might be old.