New media, digital media, interactive media and online media
Terms like new media, digital media, online media, mobile media and so on have nowadays become common enough. I will further refer to each of these notions, as they are basic terms which are often misused not only in ‘profane’ environments, but also in academic circles.
It is somehow normal for any beginning or change – may it be more or less significant – to bring certain incoherence and lack of synchronization between those who do the research or discuss the process, primarily in regards to the vocabulary employed. The exact same thing has been happening ever since computers appeared and computer networks were used for information transfer.
Why have I chosen these particular terms? It’s because I believe in the importance of using clear, precise terms in online communication. And how would it be possible to attain this when not even the basic terminology, the name of this segment of communication is sufficiently clear, coherent and world-wide recognized and validated?
All these denominations (new media, digital media interactive media and online media) are correct. However, each of them has a different meaning and it would be advised – especially in scientific research – to try and use the terms with a certain responsibility.
This term is not at all new – it has been used in media history before and will most certainly be used for future technological progress giving rise to new communication instruments. So it is partially improper to use this denomination when referring to digital media or online media. Improper because at the moment, all media we refer to are indeed new. But if this term is used in a scientific treaty or article which may be quoted 20 years from now, no doubt that ‘new media’ will have a totally different meaning at that particular moment in time. So it is highly recommended to avoid this small terminology trap. What seems yet hard to believe – for me at least – is that this term has already been accepted and promoted in the academic environment, although many have criticized its use as such.
Despite everything, we can find Masters Programmes specialized in ‘New Media’ at the University of Amsterdam, Holland, Masters in Fine Arts in New Media at the Danube University of Krems, Austria, Masters in Arts in New Media Photojournalism at the Corcoran College of Art & Design, Washington, USA etc.
As Lev Manovich stated in ‘What is new media’, new media is a historically redundant term used to describe the most recent media available. From this perspective, the term is correctly used at a certain moment only, when it is fit to correctly transfer information from the author to the reader. From a chronological perspective, this term will affect communication risking to transmit false information. There are the reasons for which we will avoid as much as possible using this term. Instead, we will focus more on the more explicit term ‘online media’.
By digital media we define those media which use, process and transfer information towards the audience in digital format. Digitalizing information means transforming it and transporting it in long strings of 0 and 11. We may include here digital television (or now HD TV), digital radios, web pages or electronic newspapers available on e-readers, but also DVD, blue-ray disks and so on.
The term indicated the media which allows both the transmitter and the receptor to enter bidirectional or multidirectional communication – depending on the number of participants. It should not be confused with online media which allows at its turn in numerous cases an interactive communication, but can also be designed as to deny interactivity. As interactive media we can also identify the Interactive Television (iTV) or game boxes like playstation, xbox, wii, etc. For these reasons, we consider fit to clearly differentiate between these two terms (interactive media and online media). We do not know and cannot anticipate further evolution, but we are sure that such classification and dichotomy of terms will allow an easier classification of several different media.
Online media refers to all the communication tools that use computer networks to deliver information. Just as the authors of the book ‘New media: a critical information’ consider, the evermore rapid evolution of technology pushes us to seeing and discussing upon these media as a whole, for if we try to consider each part separately, there are real chances that when really new media using computer networks appear – our scaffolds will no longer be valid.
Online media characteristics:
B. digitization of information;
C. hyper-linking capabilities;
All these characteristics/capacities of online media gave birth – by using one or all of them – to different channels of communication. It’s no point enumerating all of them, because they would not make the purpose of this approach (especially as others are to appear), but a systematic construction which would allow a coherent and correct approach of mass communication in general and online mass communication in particular.
These characteristics have naturally lead to the appearance of new manifestations in the existent communication field.
Among these manifestations we identify (without trying to approach them exhaustively):
i) participatory media (known also as user generated content)
ii) user developed media receiver (users have the possibility to develop a media receiver mixing different parts of media transmitters – for instance: feed readers).
iii) indexing of media content (for instance: search engines)
iv) citizen journalism
v) social media
x,y are elements of [1,n], where n is the total number of computers connected to the Internet
The message is encoded/decoded in strings of 0 and 1 („on or off, current or no current, zero or one” – New media: a critical introduction, page 16) and it has a numerical representation (Lev Manovich – What is new media?, page 10, The New Media Theory Reader). The numerical strings are sent, split in packets of 0 and 1, through a channel from E to R until the message is sent completely.
The numerical representation made possible the processing of the message through computers and allows the creation of new messages.
Hyper-linking capabilities – represent the ability to insert references to other message/messages allowing the user to be able to build their own received message trough covering his own selection of the existing references (accessing hyper-links).
The message sent from E arrives at R in real time. There are online systems that were not designed for real time communication. But, as I previously mentioned, we will only describe here the framework of the communicational processes over the Internet at their maximal extent.
The online media allows an entire mix of media: text, images, audio, video. This mix of media that we can see online is called multimediality.
1Martin Listner & all, New media: a critical introduction, pag. 13
2Exploring Electronic Media, Peter B. Orlik, Steven D. Anderson, Louis A. Day. W. Lawrence Patrick, 2007, Blackwell Printing, Oxford, pg. 20