a dollar’s worth of words

Update: 10:09 I’m at home now. Not really happy with the way this entry turned out. I’ll work on it some more tomorrow, perhaps, with alterations clearly visible. I thought it would be fun to play with the conventions of posting by drawing attention to the place from which I was writing and the time limit that was imposed upon me. And class had just ended when I began my entry. Eh. More later. If you read this before I update the entry again, feel free to make comments.

I have a bit more than 7 minutes to write this entry. Tonight my graduate seminar met at local coffeehouse Muddy’s (the one on 39th Street) to discuss the section of Lev Manovich‘s The Language of New Media entitled “What is New Media?” Muddy’s has a computer in the back: 8 minutes for $1. I was inspired to provide them with this selection as a result of the earlier conversation with Matt, Chuck, and Jason in which Manovich’s name came up.

In general, my students seemed to disagree with most of Manovich’s claims for the nature of new media. I don’t have time to outline them all (5:40), but they were particularly troubled by his assertion that the only aspect of “cultural communication” that print affected was “distribution,” while “the computer media revolution affects all stages of communication, including acquisition, manipulation, storage and distribution” (39). Many of these stages, they argued, were significantly affected by print.

Students also questioned Manovich’s assertion of the “numerical representation” of new media. What about Morse code, one student asked. Isn’t this numerical? It’s binary.

Automation: What about the Jacquard looms? Weren’t they automated? Perhaps their product is not really a communicative medium.


Perhaps it’s the combination of all of these elements that Manovich wants to emphasize with new media. Well, the general consensus of my students seems to be that

  • He doesn’t place enough emphasis upon print.
  • He is not critical enough of the shortcomings and potential threats of new technology.

30 seconds! Must post!

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3 thoughts on “a dollar’s worth of words

  1. This is where I delurk. (Didn’t take that long: found your blog recently through Matt’s.)
    I ranted a bit about Manovich at the beginning of the semester, here <http://www.livejournal.com/users/hyperlit/608.html&gt;. (And here <http://www.livejournal.com/users/hyperlit/1035.html&gt;, and <http://www.livejournal.com/users/hyperlit/1468.html&gt; here too.) It’s too bad that the seminar this blog is a part of turned out to be weak, and we didn’t come back to the rest of the book. But, much as I knock what he says, it’s an interesting work, if nothing else then for its inconsistencies.

  2. Thanks for the links, Vika. I revised your original comment so the individual links are visible. I have some additional thoughts regarding our selection from Manovich, but I haven’t had time to write them up, yet.
    The essence of what I want to say, though, is that on the one hand, Manovich argues against certain “myths” of new media by citing examples from “old media” that fulfill some potentially defining characteristics of the new. But when he lists what he considers to be 5 defining characteristics, he ignores particular examples from “old media” that could undermine his definitions.
    It *is* an interesting work, I agree, but it is problematic.

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