These days one hears phrases like “new media”, “digital media”, and different iterations of “____ media” bandied around a lot. Sometimes these seem to be merely more than catchy buzz-words for people who really mean “something on the Internet”, and social media has come to be a vague conglomeration of Facebook, Twitter, and good ol’ fashioned email.
The new generations of multimedia and digital platforms are so much more than some old-school advertiser’s idea of the Internet or “____ media.”
I recently registered for an experimental cyber-law class called “Digital Power, Digital Interpretation, Digital Making” which features a star-studded set of Harvard faculty. The topic is intriguing, yet it seems to me that the questions posed by the class situate a novel curriculum squarely within a rather tradition framework of academic inquiries, stating:
“Harvard is beginning a new initiative to explore the intersection of digital power, digital making and digital interpretation. This is a working seminar designed to explore these questions through a cluster of projects designed to cross theorizing with making. For example: What is the health of the internet and how could we construct ways to measure it? How do practices and should governing the digital shape access, privacy, and social norms? What might the next generation of digital humanities look like as it explores the crossover between digital and physical objects? How can digital filmmaking connect with new forms of interactive design and exhibition?”
There are many different possibilities that open up once the digital platform allow various forms of media to be dynamically combined. Indeed, digital media is eroding the strict delineations separating film, literature, music, and any type of digitizable art. The digital arts experiment with possibilities on the edge of technological innovation. Digital media is often interactive and collaborative, yet these terms are inherently vague – any experience of artwork or literature may be considered interactive to some extent, and the entire human experience is social / collaborative.
What IS digital media, what can it be, and what are the questions we should be asking?