new media

this course presents a view from the future, "when people will recognize that the true cultural innovators of the last decades of the twentieth century were interface designers, computer game designers, music video directors and DJs — rather than painters, filmmakers, or fiction writers, whose fields remained relatively stable during this historical period"

...&& yet u likely didn’t study any new media art in ur high school art class nor did u see much of it across the street @the Art Institute, which is understandable, “given that the logic of the art world and the logic of new media are exact opposites. The first is based [on] the romantic idea of authorship which assumes a single author, the notion a one-of-a-kind object, and the control over the distribution of such objects which takes place through a set of exclusive places: galleries, museums, auctions. The second privileges the existence of potentially numerous copies; infinitely many different states of the same work; author-user symbiosis (the user can change the work through interactivity); the collective; collaborative authorship; and network distribution (which bypasses the art system distribution channels).”1

...the term "new media" is a sign of our current confusion about where these efforts are leading and our breathlessness at the pace of change, particularly in the last [three] decades...

Janet H. Murray 2

defining new media

new media [noo, nyoo] [mee-dee-uh] noun
a deeply misunderstood set of technologies upon which we increasingly depend8

The ability to ‘read’ a medium means you can access materials and tools generated by others. The ability to ‘write’ in a medium means you can generate materials and tools for others. You must have both to be literate

Alan Kay 3

the goal of this crash course is to establish a foundational digital literacy; to be able to ‘read’ && ‘write’ new media; to establish a critical practice informed by new media historie[s], theories and techniques. we will be approaching this term from three perspectives: as a metamedium a fusion of already-existing + not-yet-invented media; as a cultural movement w/ parallel developments in modern art && in computing; as an ecology the relationships + interactions between people && their digital environment

new media as a metamedium

students at Xerox PARC programming in early object-oriented programming language "Smalltalk" on the first "desktop" metaphor GUI computer: the Alto

Although digital computers were originally designed to do arithmetic computation, the ability to simulate the details of any descriptive model means that the computer, viewed as a medium itself, can be all other media if the embedding and viewing methods are sufficiently well provided. Moreover, this new “metamedium” is active—it can respond to queries and experiments—so that the message may involve the learner in a two-way conversation. This property has never been available before except through the medium of an individual teacher. We think the implications are vast and compelling (...) a new kind of medium would have been created: a metamedium, whose content would be a wide range of already-existing and not-yet-invented media.

Alan Kay && Adele Goldberg ( 1977 ) 4

Adele Goldberg presents Smalltalk

taxonomies && properties…

from Software Studies5

Class Library
Computing Power
Data Visualization
Import / Export
Obfuscated Code
Sonic Algorithm
Source Code
System Event Sounds
Text Virus
Weird Languages

from The Language of New Media6

1. Numerical Representation: "All new media objects, whether created from scratch on computers or converted from analog media sources, are composed of digital code; they are numerical representations."

Hello World!
01001000 01100101 01101100 01101100 01101111 00100000 01010111 01101111 01110010 01101100 01100100 00100001

00001110 00000111 00001000 00000000 00010000 00101011 00000000 00100000 00011110 00000000 00101110 01010110

analog vs digital

analog *


2. Modularity: "Media elements, be they images, sounds, shapes, or behaviors, are represented as collections of discrete samples (pixels, polygons, voxels, characters, scripts). These elements are assembled into larger-scale objects but continue to maintain their separate identities. The objects themselves can be combined into even larger objects—again, without losing their independence."

ex: the World Wide Web → made up of websites → made up of folders && files ( html, css, js, jpg, mp4, etc. ) → a js file is made up of objects, variables && functions → functions are made up of statements ...

3. Automation: "The numerical coding of media (principle 1) and the modular structure of media objects (principle 2) allow for the automation of many operations involved in media creation, manipulation and access."

4. Variability: "A new media object is not something fixed once and for all, but something that can exist in different, potentially infinite versions. This is another sequence of the numerical coding of media (principle 1) and the modular structure of a media object (principle 2)."

PS "motion" workspace

PS "painting" workspace

"Google and Facebook update their code a few times a day; GitHub, the popular software hosting services, updates its code dozens of times a day."7


another ( less object-centric ) perspective...

a metamedium, whose content would be a wide range of already-existing and not-yet-invented media.

Alan Kay && Adele Goldberg ( 1977 ) 4

...'already-existing' media ...

Imagine that you live in the sixteenth century and you are told that you can order an image in a painting to travel by itself and appear in another painting in another country, or that a text in one book can lift itself and replace a text in another book? And yet this is exactly what many of us are doing every day without even thinking how magical this is.

Lev Manovich 7

when we experience new media we’re experiencing something part data && part algorithm, part object && part process. take for example the glitched image of a cat ( cat.jpg ) viewed below through three different applications:




in one sense the computer is a “remediation machine”, capable of simulating older media w/in it. but when u digitize older media it becomes something else entirely. a digitized text for example can be searched, copied, pasted, etc. once u turn traditional media into data u can algorithmically analyze it which, ”changes what it means to know something. (...) Algorithms and software applications that analyze images and video provide particularly striking examples of this capacity to generate additional information from the data years or even decades after it was recorded.”

(...)using data from different sources to create new knowledge that is not explicitly contained in any of them. For example, using the web sources, it is possible to create a comprehensive description of an individual by combining pieces of information from his/her various social media profiles and making deductions from them.

Lev Manovich 7

...'not-yet-invented' media ...

social media

google earth

second life

This means that the terms “digital media” and “new media” do not capture very well the uniqueness of the “digital revolution.” (...) Because all the new qualities of “digital media” are not situated “inside” the media objects. Rather, they all exist “outside”—as commands and techniques of media viewers, authoring software, animation, compositing, and editing software, game engine software, wiki software, and all other software “species”

“new media” is “new” because new properties (i.e., new software techniques) can be easily added to it.

Lev Manovich 7

New Media as a Cultural Movement

though “new” is a problematic prefix for an art historical movement because of it’s association w/ the ‘metamedium’ that has come to be known as “new media” the works && writings canonical of theorists, curators, engineers, programmers && artists often fall under the umbrella movement “new media art”

The terminology for technological art forms has always been extremely fluid and what is [...] known as digital art has undergone several name changes since it first emerged: once referred to as ‘computer art’ (since the 1970s) and then ‘multimedia art’, digital art now takes its place under the umbrella term ‘new media art’, which at the end of the twentieth century was used mostly for film and video, as well as sound art and other hybrid forms.

Christiane Paul 9

New Media art and older categorical names like "Digital art," "Computer art," "Multimedia art," and "Interactive art" are often used interchangeably, but for the purposes of this book class we use the term New Media art to describe projects that make use of emerging media technologies and are concerned with the cultural, political, and aesthetic possibilities of these tools. We locate New Media art as a subset of two broader categories: Art and Technology and Media art. Art and Technology refers to practices, such as Electronic art, Robotic art, and Genomic art, that involve technologies which are new but not necessarily mediarelated. Media art includes Video art, Transmission art, and Experimental Film art forms that incorporate media technologies which by the 1990s were no longer new. New Media art is thus the intersection of these two domains.

Mark Tribe && Reena Jana 10

new media art is not defined by the technologies discussed here: on the contrary by deploying these technologies for critical or experimental purposes, New Media artists redefine them as art media.

Mark Tribe && Reena Jana 10

New media as an ecology

We shape our tools, thereafter our tools shape us11

we shape our tools...

...Ideology is 'modeled' in software

Alexander Galloway 12

An iPhone is not technology, it's packaging and conventions. [...] Your software choices are like any addiction or religion, they want your loyalty and they want your money and they want you to think like them. [...] it's culture politics masquerading as technology.

Ted Nelson 13

technology is not neutral; any given technology’s characteristics aren’t simply determined by its utilitarian agenda, they are also ( consciously or not ) symptomatic of their producer’s worldview

The revealing that rules in modern technology is a challenging [Herausfordern], which puts to nature the unreasonable demand that it supply energy that can be extracted and stored as such. But does this not hold true for the old windmill as well? No. Its sails do indeed turn in the wind; they are left entirely to the wind's blowing. But the windmill does not unlock energy the air currents in order to store it. In contrast, a tract of land is challenged into the putting out of coal and ore. The earth now reveals itself as a coal mining district, the soil as a mineral deposit.

Martin Heidegger 14

...our tools shape us

All media work us over completely. They are so persuasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered. The medium is the massage. Any understanding of social and cultural change is impossible without a knowledge of the way media work as environments. All media are extensions of some human faculty – psychic or physical.”

Marshall McLuhan 15

I'd like to think that computers are neutral, a tool like any other, a hammer that can build a house or smash a skull. But there is something in the system itself, in the formal logic of programs and data, that recreates the world in its own image. (...) We think we are creating the system for our own purposes. We believe we are making it in our own image. We call the microprocessor the "brain"; we say the machine has "memory." But the comptuer is not really like us. It is a projection of a very slim part of ourselves: that portion devoted to logic, order, rule, and clarity. It is as if we took the game of chess and declared it the highest order of human existence.

We place this small projection of ourselves all around us, and we make ourselves reliant on it. To keep information, buy gas, save money, write a letter—we can't live without it any longer. The only problem is this: the more we surround ourselves with a narrowd notion of existenc, the more narrow existence becomes. We conform to the range of motion the system allows. We must be more orderly, more logical. Answer the question, Yes or NO, OK or Cancel.

Our accommodations begin simply, with small workaround, just to avoid the bugs:"We just don't put in those dates!" sad the very sinsible users of the Jerry system. Then, slowly, we incorporate the whole notion of systems: we'll link registration data to surveillance, to contract compliance, thought the director. Finally, we arrive at tautology: the data prove the need for more data! We think we are creating the system, but th esystem is also creating us. We build the system, we live in its midst, and we are changed.

Ellen Ullman 16


download Sublime Text, Firefox, Unity3D, MAMP ( download the free one, it'll try to get you to download the paid one more than once throughout the installation process, so watch out ),node.js. Then the following non-free software is available via self service: Photoshop, Max/MSP, and Fetch.

Imagine u have an artist friend, they have a macbook, they use it for chilling && watching Netflix, occasionally they also edit a photo on photoshop for posting to their instagram. they've heard the term new media around SAIC but don’t know much about it. one day u’re chatting w/them on facebook, u tell them u’re taking this class and they ask u, “what exactly is new media anyway?”, how do u respond?

then read (or listen to) "The Persistence of the Word (There Is No Dictionary in the Mind)" from The Information by James Gleick and do the very difficult thing of trying to understand what it was like to exist pre-literacy. be ready to discuss next week what it means to internalize a technology ( as we have the written word ).


  1. 'Murray, Janet H."Inventing the Medium" The New Media Reader. Ed. Noah Wardrip-Fruin & Nick Montfort. MIT Press, 2003.
  2. Manovich, Lev. "New Media From Borges to HTML." The New Media Reader. Ed. Noah Wardrip-Fruin & Nick Montfort. MIT Press. 2003.
  3. Kay, Alan. "User Interface: A Personal View" 1989
  4. Kay, Alan & Adele Goldberg. "Personal Dynamic Computer" Computer 10(3):31-41. March 1977
  5. Fuller, Matthew. Software Studies: a lexicon. The MIT Press. 2008.
  6. Manovich, Lev. the Language of New Media. The MIT Press. 2001.
  7. Manovich, Lev. Software Takes Command. Bloomsbury Publishing. 2013.
  8. Critical Exploits - Julian Oliver & Danja Vasiliev
  9. Paul, Christiane. Digital Art. Thames & Hudson. 2003.
  10. Tribe, Mark && Reena Jana. New Media Art. Taschen. 2006.
  11. McLuhan, Marshall. "the Medium is the Message". Understanding Media: The Extentions of Man. McGraw Hill. 1964.
  12. Galloway, Alexander. The Interface Effect. Wiley. 2012.
  13. Ted Nelson, The Myth of Technology/Computers for Cynics (2012)
  14. Heidegger, Martin. The Question Concerning Technology. Garland Publishing. 1977.
  15. McLuhan, Marshall. The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. Gingko Press. 1967.
  16. Ullman, Ellen. Close to the Machine: Technophillia and Its Discontents. Macmillan. 1997.