Question: When is the new media not the new media?
Answer: When it is the new new media.
That’s both good news and bad news: It’s good if you’re media-savvy and eager to push the envelope; it’s bad if you are still are having trouble grasping the basics of e-mail and Microsoft Office.
Either way, we don’t have much time to dawdle if we want to keep up with the changes.
But does doubling the adjective of new media mean we’re just dealing in doubletalk? My friend Chuck who teaches at Boston’s Northeastern University, would say no. Last August, he expressed a frustration to me when he asked, “Why do people insist on calling computers and the Net ‘new’ media? I mean, they’ve been around for a couple decades now.”
Chuck isn’t alone in his thinking. A Fordham professor and author, Paul Levinson, has just written a new book called, New New Media (http://blogcritics.org/books/article/book-review-new-new-media-by/) to try and distinguish between the second layer of media that the Web 2.0 age has thrust upon us. Here’s how he distinguishes between the different media categories:
“One of the defining characteristics of new media – clear since they arose over a decade ago in the mid-1990s – is that people can use, enjoy and benefit from them on the user’s rather than the medium’s timetable, once the content has been posted online
“… New new media give its users the same control of when and where to get text, sound, and audio-visual content as provided by the new media. Indeed, new new media package all the advantages that new media provide over old media. But new new media do more … the true or fully empowered new new media user has the option of producing content and consuming content produced by hundreds of millions of other new new media consumer-producers.”
Many people refer to these new new media simply as the social media that include blogs, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and the like. Levinson agrees the new new media are intrinsically social because of the way individuals use them to meet, greet, and communicate with each other.
But he notes, “The social aspect of new new media, though crucial, is not unique enough to new new media to warrant our use of the terms interchangeably … other primary elements of new new media – such as the consumer becoming a producer – can be easily practiced individually, not socially, as in writing a blog post or recording a podcast.”
Among Levinson’s categories of new new media are the following:
Print, Audio, Audio-Visual, Photographic. These elements play a role in all new new media
News. Says Levinson, “News pertains to the purpose, not the media form, of the new new medium … Wikipedia, Digg, and blogging in general would be the leading examples of new new media whose primary purpose is to inform.”
Social Media. Again, while all new media are “social” to some extent, media like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter are meant primarily to connect people to each other. So they become leading examples of the social media.
General vs. Specific Systems. Specific media systems devote themselves to just one application such as videos (YouTube), information (Wiki), or news headlines and links (Digg). General media systems have more than one application such as podcasting, blogging, vidcasting, and connecting people.
Politics and Entertainment. President Barack Obama became the first presidential candidate to understand fully the power of the new media, and the way his campaign staff used his website, e-mails, Facebook, and Twitter to connect with young voters set the standard for future candidates. Entertainers can and do accomplish the same thing to further their own promotion and careers.
Blogging and Microblogging. Blogs have become an important part of the new new media, and Levinson distinguishes between the short-burst blogs (microblogs) of Twitter and Facebook status updates, as opposed to the longer, more fully developed blogs – like the one you are reading now. He notes that the microblogs are more alluring to individuals engaging in personal chat on the Web than the longer blogs.
There are other categories (such as those designated by the hardware or software bringing us these media such as smart phones vs. laptops), but this sampling gives you an idea of the range of purposes, applications, and uses that the newer media are providing us today. It will be interesting to see how these and other media forms develop in the year 2010.