New Media

The phrase “new media” refers to a wide range of digital communications made possible by advancements in computer technology. In contrast to newspapers, magazines, books, television, and other non-interactive media, the term “new” media includes websites, online video/audio streams, email, online social platforms, online communities, online forums, blogs, Internet telephony, Web advertisements, online education, and many other forms of interactive media.

New media, like any other technology, is always evolving. What is considered new changes when new technology in communication is developed and becomes popular. Remember the days when DVDs and CDs were the most recent ways to watch movies and listen to music ? Today, however, streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify have all but replaced them.

Therefore it is difficult to refer to any specific mode of communication as “new media”. Another aspect to consider is that some modes of communication can be both new and old. Take the newspaper; it could be classified as “new media” as an online newspaper, as well as “old media” as a traditional printed newspaper. While there are other forms of new media, such as a podcast or smartphone app, that are entirely new concepts.

For now we can say that new media is best understood as media that uses digital technology and the internet.

This includes (but is not restricted to):

• Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and others.
• Video and audio file streaming, including user-generated media material (i.e. Youtube, Soundcloud).
• Digital/satellite and “smart” television
• Computer games, especially online gaming.
• Apps for smartphones and tablets
• Blogs
• Websites
• Virtual and augmented reality
• Email

Six Main Characteristics of New Media

Don’t hate the media, become the media.

Jello Biafra

The book “New Media – A Critical Introduction – Second Edition” by Martin Lister, Jon Dovey, Seth Giddings, Iain Grant, and Kier Kelly contains six fundamental features of new media. We may define new media as media that makes use of digital technologies and the internet.

As media continues to grow and evolve, it is important to be able to understand the characteristics as they change and develop over time. In the book that we studied the main characteristics include the following:

  1. Digital
  2. Interactivity
  3. Hypertextual
  4. Virtual
  5. Networked
  6. Simulated
  7. Digital

Media data is transformed into binary codes. Binary code allows people to access data in a way that is easier and faster. Everything digital is made up of Binary Code – or zeros and ones. The data can be found as an output. As an output form it can be seen as online sources, digital disks, or memory drives. These outputs are to be decoded and received as screen displays. The opposite of digital is analogue. Analogue refers to the process of storing physical properties in another physical form – like old newspaper archives. Analogue media is fixed – it does not change. Whereas, digital media is in a constant state of flux. It is constantly flowing, changing, and improving. Wireless connections between computers, servers, and networks are becoming more common. Despite this, many connections still depend on cables and telephone lines. These connects have to be physically dug into the Earth. The growth of computerised technology in the 1990s led to what is known as digitalisation – the vast majority of information is now converted, stored and transmitted as binary code (a series of 1s and 0s). Sociologists such as Raymond Boyle (2005) observed that digitalisation has also resulted in technological convergence, i.e. merging different forms of information (text, audio and visual) into one single but entirely new converged system.

New Media is Digital

With the growth of digital technology in the 1990s, the vast majority of information is now converted, stored and transmitted as binary code (a series of 1s and 0s.). Qualitative information has today become ‘digitalised’. Digitalisation allows so much information to be stored and transmission transmitted of via cable and satellite. It has also resulted in ‘technological convergence’, or the convergence of different forms of information (text, audio and visual) into one single ‘system’ – most web sites today offer a fusion of text and audio-visual information, and our mobile devices allow us to perform a variety of functions – not only reading text and watching/ listening to videos, but also searching for information, sending messages, shopping and using GPS functions.

New Media is Interactive

In comparison to ‘old media,’ which was typically a one-way communication channel, new media is a much more interactive form of communication. People are no longer merely recipients. As active audiences, they can engage with and interact with media, customize it, and create their own content. Many websites, including YouTube, now rely almost entirely on user-generated content. Interactivity is an effective way to represent user engagement with media content. It is also a more autonomous relationship with knowledge sources, individualized media use, and greater choice. Hypertextual navigation, immersive navigation, registrational interactivity, interactive communications, and interactivity and textual interpretation problems are examples of interactivity.

New Media is Digital Hypertextual

It is a reference to non-sequential connections between all kinds of data facilitated by the computer. For example the hyperlinks that you’ve seen me use in previous posts. It is also an important part of the history of computing, especially in the way that hypertexts address ideas about the relation of computer operation systems, software, and databases to the operations of the human mind. Hypertext, otherwise known as ‘links’, is a common feature of the internet that allows users more ease and freedom over how they browse different sources of information. This contrasts with old media, which is much more inflexible.

New Media is globally networked

New media has facilitated cultural globalisation by allowing us to interact with others globally and form connections virtually rather than locally. These larger networks enable ‘collective intelligence,’ which allows people to share and combine resources, data, skills, and information for any purpose. As the poster child for globalization, Facebook not only enabled people to communicate and globalize, but it also enabled businesses to promote themselves on a global scale.
Most records have been broken due to the success of social media globalization and many companies grew bigger as a result of their successful use of social media on a global scale.

New Media is Virtual

A virtual environment constructed with computer graphics and digital video, new media presents a very different reality than our everyday, face-to-face reality. Users have control over their online experience, but they are also exposed to a wide range of information, opinions, interactions, and products that they would not encounter in real life. Video games, for example, provide people with a virtual stage on which they can interact and control their virtual lives to some extent.

New Media is Simulation

You could link this to previous points in regards to video games. Simulation games manage to immerse people in a “virtual life” that is represented or simulated through digital technology. The definition of simulation is any synthetic or counterfeit creation. It is the creation of an artificial world that represents a real one. This is done through a mathematical model, combined with a set of initial conditions, that allows predictions and visualizations as time unfolds. It takes the place of more established concepts. Simulations can be sued as an imitation or representation of things that are more complex. Today we have flight simulations, driving simulations, and even ship steering simulations – one can be found at the AAST Abu Qir campus in the Maritime department. Simulations surpass the virtual nature of new media and create an immersive, artificial life. This is most obvious in computer games, which provide opportunities for users to experience a ‘virtual life’ that is simulated through digital technology.
Examples include online role-playing games, but also driving, flight and ship-steering simulations.

Different types of new media?

You’ve probably run across examples of new media many times. In fact, the blog you’re reading right now is an example of new media.

New media technologies might be social media, virtual worlds or other web-based offerings, including:

• Podcasts
• Websites
• Internet ads
• YouTube videos

The main difference between traditional media and new media is new media’s capacity to be stored, presented and distributed over telecommunications networks.

Not all new media is the same, of course, but commonalities exist, such as:

  1. Communication
    New media technologies attempt to communicate with an audience, whether it be general or specific. Example: An internet ad tries to convey the benefits of a new product.
  2. Collaboration
    New media can allow users to comment, contribute and otherwise interact with pieces of media. Example: A public encyclopedia that can be edited by users.
  3. Creativity
    New media allows individuals to use the technology in their own specific ways. Example: A YouTube creator can devote hours to develop eye-popping graphics for their videos.
  4. Community
    New media technologies let people connect with each other around common interests. Example: A social-networking site that brings likeminded individuals together.
  5. Convergence
    New media represents the coming together of several different technologies. Example: A smartphone combines a variety of digital media into one device, including newspapers, music, TV, radio, cameras and computers.

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