Review of Lev Manovich’s: The Language of New Media Chapter One

Lev Manovich’s  defines new media as “graphics, moving images, sounds, shapes, spaces, and texts that have become computable” in his book The Language of New Media.  In the first chapter of his book he attempts to define what new media is and what it is not.  He also believes that any media requiring a computer is too limiting of a definition to classify it as new on the preceding page. To me this sounds somewhat contradictory and possibly overreaching a bit.

Once I got passed the rambling of the first few pages in the chapter one I came across Manovich’s  five principles of new media. Ok, great I say to myself maybe this part will help me understand his definition and reasoning behind the term new media.

The first principle was numerical representation.  He goes on to say that a new media object can be described as a “mathematical function and is subject to algorithmic manipulation. In short media becomes programmable”.  This makes sense to me new media is digitalized.

His next principle is modularity and is defined by media created from small samples and reproduced. I am still following so far, this is good.

The third principle is automation. This he says is using templates to save time. I understand and agree with this principle. One could argue though that since newspapers were automated in a sense would this make printed newspapers new media?

The fourth principle of new media according to Manovich is variability meaning differing versions can exist and be created by computer.

His final principle of whether something can be labeled as new media is the presence of transcoding. This principle did not make sense to me at all. To be honest it could’ve been written in sanscrit and I would have gotten a better picture of what he was getting at.

My overall review of this book is that while its intention is great and he makes some valid points on the subject of what new media is, the author seems to ramble on about a reasoning that could probably be more simplified in its language and easier for the reader to get into.


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