Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 2 (Development 2)

Responding to the reading ‘The Language of New Media’ (2001)

I have never described a project as a form of ‘new media’, because I wasn’t able to distinguish it from what could be deemed ‘old media’. What made this content different? Is it just a collection of media that has been crafted more recently through the use of a computer? But what about the media that has been made recently but not mediated through modern technology?

This reading about the historical convergence of computer technology and media was interesting to me. According to Manovich (2001), “the popular understanding of new media identifies it with the use of a computer for distribution and exhibition rather than production,” (page 19). However, Manovich counters this “limiting” definition, for the sole reason that using a computer for creating and storing media is just as likely to have a cultural impact as using a computer to exhibit and distribute media. And thus the lines continue to blur for me.

However, new media, as opposed to old media, tends to be modular in structure. New media contains objects and consists of elements that have the ability to maintain their independence, and retain their ability to be individually changed. These “[media] elements are assembled into larger-scale objects but continue to maintain their separate identities, (page 30)”. For example, as an artefact of popular culture in modern society, vine compilations are made by collating 6-7 second videos together, and yet these individual videos maintain their original meaning and ‘independence’ – their… comedic value?

Manovich goes on to detail a well-known browser, “The Netomat browser by artist Maciej Wisnewski”, which exhibits media from different websites without “identifying the Web sites from which they are drawn” (page 31). One of the qualities we talked about being intrinsic to online screen productions in the first week of class, was a generally lighter censorship, and for the average internet user, the higher prospect of uploading a video without laws – governing what can and cannot go up on the internet – being enforced, as tends to occur in more content-saturated websites (Manovich, pp. 35-46). Vine videos are not public domain and are protected by copyright law. A huge number of popular vine compilations are monetised, whereby the user that puts it up generates ad revenue. Apparently posting Section 107 of the Copyright Act as a disclaimer lets you avoid copyright strikes. However, these compilation videos do not fall under fair use because they are not transformative – there is no originality in the editing, only cutting someone else’s videos together. And yet, there is still an audience for this content because “deleting parts of a new media object does not render it meaningless.”

“In fact, the modular structure of new media makes such deletion and substitution of parts particularly easy” (page 31). It is not a mashup, whereby a new meaning is extracted from the piece. These compilations may be entertaining, but they are not intended for educational use. Therefore, the presence of this kind of screen media content on YouTube demonstrates that in this moment, there is less restriction of ~illegal activity~ concerning video content online. If this were to occur on a television show on Channel 10, to upload someone else’s content without permission, nor without stating that it is not your own property, it would be a breach of copyright law and could lead to legal action being taken upon them. Far more serious that receiving a ‘strike’ on the good ol’ YT. That’s why major productions of a traditional television show tend to have full access to a legal team.

Additionally, Julia Alexander of Polygon believes that vine compilations should be considered a ‘communal experience’, as they bring together groups ‘of people who [seem] to have the exact same taste in comedy’. It is considered a site where an ‘audience of like-minded weirdos’ can indulge in some ‘subversive comedy’. This supports the notion that vine compilations, as online screen content, have the ability to construct a sense of community via shared interests, and thus promote interactivity. With the ability to leave likes and comments, these videos encourage communication between the creator and the viewers, and amongst the viewers themselves. If we consider this quality under the pretence of a film, there is often no physical/digital space for communication between the creators and the audience. It’s an undeniably useful quality in an environment where success is measured by the amount of online traffic on your content.