Some new media work frames new media in terms of computational technology. 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, looking to histories of other media forms provide a better sense of media technologies in their “new-ness.” Manovich argues that we can reread to the history of cinema in order to get a better sense of the ways in which new media take up the language of cinema and print, and Gitelman claims that media histories should look to media technologies in their moments of newness before they become sedimented and opaque. The media archaeological school of media theory strongly takes up this perspective, claiming that we can return to and recuperate the “newness” in dead media as a way of calling progressive, teleological histories of media into question (Ernst; Zielinski).
“New media,” then, might be best defined as media that challenge our conceptions of media and/or public life, even if the “new media” in question might in fact be old.