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New Media

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Our encounters with websites, avatars, videos, mobile apps, discussion forums, GIFs, and nonhuman intelligent agents allow us to experience sensations of connectivity, interest, desire, and attachment—as well as detachment, boredom, fear, and shame. Some affective online encounters may arouse complex, contradictory feelings that resist dualistic distinctions. In this book, leading scholars examine the fluctuating and altering dynamics of affect that give shape to online connections and disconnections. Doing so, they tie issues of circulation and connectivity to theorizations of networked affect. Their diverse investigations—considering subjects that range from online sexual dynamics to the liveliness of computer code—demonstrate the value of affect theories for Internet studies.

The contributors investigate networked affect in terms of intensity, sensation, and value. They explore online intensities that range from Tumblr practices in LGBTQ communities to visceral reactions to animated avatars; examine the affective materiality of software in such platforms as steampunk culture and nonprofit altporn; and analyze the ascription of value to online activities including the GTD (“getting things done”) movement and the accumulation of personal digital materials.

Contributors
James Ash, Alex Cho, Jodi Dean, Melissa Gregg, Ken Hillis, Kylie Jarrett, Tero Karppi, Stephen Maddison, Susanna Paasonen, Jussi Parikka, Michael Petit, Jennifer Pybus, Jenny Sundén, Veronika Tzankova

Mediation as a Vital Process

In Life after New Media, Sarah Kember and Joanna Zylinska make a case for a significant shift in our understanding of new media. They argue that we should move beyond our fascination with objects--computers, smart phones, iPods, Kindles--to an examination of the interlocking technical, social, and biological processes of mediation. Doing so, they say, reveals that life itself can be understood as mediated--subject to the same processes of reproduction, transformation, flattening, and patenting undergone by other media forms.

By Kember and Zylinska’s account, the dispersal of media and technology into our biological and social lives intensifies our entanglement with nonhuman entities. Mediation--all-encompassing and indivisible--becomes for them a key trope for understanding our being in the technological world. Drawing on the work of Bergson and Derrida while displaying a rigorous playfulness toward philosophy, Kember and Zylinska examine the multiple flows of mediation. Importantly, they also consider the ethical necessity of making a “cut” to any media processes in order to contain them. Considering topics that range from media-enacted cosmic events to the intelligent home, they propose a new way of “doing” media studies that is simultaneously critical and creative, and that performs an encounter between theory and practice.

Sound, Sense, Economy, and Ecology

In this wide-ranging book, Frances Dyson examines the role of sound in the development of economic and ecological systems that are today in crisis. Connecting early theories of harmony, cosmology, and theological doctrine to contemporary media and governance, Dyson uses sound, tone, music, voice, and noise as forms of sonority through which the crises of “eco” can be read. The sonic environment, Dyson argues, is fundamental to both sense and sensibility, and its delimitation has contributed to the “senselessness” of a world now caught between spiraling debt and environmental degradation.

Dyson draws on scenes, historical moments, artworks, and artistic and theoretical practice to situate the reverberative atmosphere that surrounds and sustains us. From Pythagoras’s hammer and the transmutation of music into mathematics, to John Cage’s famous experience in the anechoic chamber, to the relocation of the stock market from the street to the computer screen, to Occupy Wall Street’s “people’s microphone”: Dyson finds policies and practices of exclusion. The sound of Pythagoras’s forge and the rabble of the market have been muted, rearticulated, and transformed, Dyson argues, through the monotones of media, the racket of financialization, and the gibberish of political speech.

Informed by contemporary sound art, philosophy, media and sociopolitical theory, The Tone of Our Times offers insights into present crises that are relevant to a broader understanding of how space, the aural, and listening have shaped and continue to shape the world we live in.

Mobile apps promise to deliver (h)appiness to our devices at the touch of a finger or two. Apps offer gratifyingly immediate access to connection and entertainment. The array of apps downloadable from the app store may come from the cloud, but they attach themselves firmly to our individual movement from location to location on earth. In The Imaginary App, writers, theorists, and artists--including Stephen Wolfram (in conversation with Paul Miller) and Lev Manovich--explore the cultural and technological shifts that have accompanied the emergence of the mobile app. These contributors and interviewees see apps variously as “a machine of transcendence,” “a hulking wound in our nervous system,” or “a promise of new possibilities.” They ask whether the app is an object or a relation, and if it could be a “metamedium” that supersedes all other artistic media. They consider the control and power exercised by software architecture; the app’s prosthetic ability to enhance certain human capacities, in reality or in imagination; the app economy, and the divergent possibilities it offers of making a living or making a fortune; and the app as medium and remediator of reality.

Also included (and documented in color) are selected projects by artists asked to design truly imaginary apps, “icons of the impossible.” These include a female sexual arousal graph using Doppler images; “The Ultimate App,” which accepts a payment and then closes, without providing information or functionality; and “iLuck,” which uses GPS technology and four-leaf-clover icons to mark places where luck might be found.

Contributors
Christian Ulrik Andersen, Thierry Bardini, Nandita Biswas Mellamphy, Benjamin H. Bratton, Drew S. Burk, Patricia Ticineto Clough, Robbie Cormier, Dock Currie, Dal Yong Jin, Nick Dyer-Witheford, Ryan and Hays Holladay, Atle Mikkola Kjøsen, Eric Kluitenberg, Lev Manovich, Vincent Manzerolle, Svitlana Matviyenko, Dan Mellamphy, Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid, Steven Millward, Anna Munster, Søren Bro Pold, Chris Richards, Scott Snibbe, Nick Srnicek, Stephen Wolfram

This book takes a single line of code--the extremely concise BASIC program for the Commodore 64 inscribed in the title--and uses it as a lens through which to consider the phenomenon of creative computing and the way computer programs exist in culture. The authors of this collaboratively written book treat code not as merely functional but as a text--in the case of 10 PRINT, a text that appeared in many different printed sources--that yields a story about its making, its purpose, its assumptions, and more. They consider randomness and regularity in computing and art, the maze in culture, the popular BASIC programming language, and the highly influential Commodore 64 computer.

Image, Power, and the Neoliberal Brain

In Biopolitical Screens, Pasi Väliaho charts and conceptualizes the imagery that composes our affective and conceptual reality under twenty-first-century capitalism. Väliaho investigates the role screen media play in the networks that today harness human minds and bodies—the ways that images animated on console game platforms, virtual reality technologies, and computer screens capture human potential by plugging it into arrangements of finance, war, and the consumption of entertainment. Drawing on current neuroscience and political and economic thought, Väliaho argues that these images work to shape the atomistic individuals who populate the neoliberal world of accumulation and war.

Väliaho bases his argument on a broad notion of the image as something both visible and sayable, detectable in various screen platforms but also in scientific perception and theoretical ideas. After laying out the conceptual foundations of the book, Väliaho offers focused and detailed investigations of the current visual economy. He considers the imagery of first-person shooter video games as tools of “neuropower”; explores the design and construction of virtual reality technologies to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan; and examines three instances of video installation art that have the power to disrupt the dominant regime of sensibility rather than reinforce it.

Art, Media, and the Sonic

The sonic has come to occupy center stage in the arts and humanities. In the age of computational media, sound and its subcultures can offer more dynamic ways of accounting for bodies, movements, and events. In The Rhythmic Event, Eleni Ikoniadou explores traces and potentialities prompted by the sonic but leading to contingent and unknowable forces outside the periphery of sound. She investigates the ways in which recent digital art experiments that mostly engage with the virtual dimensions of sound suggest alternate modes of perception, temporality, and experience. Ikoniadou draws on media theory, digital art, and philosophical and technoscientific ideas to work toward the articulation of a media philosophy that rethinks the media event as abstract and affective.

The Rhythmic Event seeks to define the digital media artwork as an assemblage of sensations that outlive the space, time, and bodies that constitute and experience it. Ikoniadou proposes that the notion of rhythm--detached, however, from the idea of counting and regularity—can unlock the imperceptible, aesthetic potential enveloping the artwork. She speculates that addressing the event on the level of rhythm affords us a glimpse into the nonhuman modalities of thought proper to the digital and hidden in the gaps between strict definitions (e.g., human/sonic/digital) and false dichotomies (e.g., virtual/real). Operating at the margins of perception, the rhythmic artwork summons an obscure zone of sonic thought, which considers the event according to its power to become.

In this book, Branden Hookway considers the interface not as technology but as a form of relationship with technology. The interface, Hookway proposes, is at once ubiquitous and hidden from view. It is both the bottleneck through which our relationship to technology must pass and a productive encounter embedded within the use of technology. It is a site of contestation—between human and machine, between the material and the social, between the political and the technological—that both defines and elides differences.

A virtuoso in multiple disciplines, Hookway offers a theory of the interface that draws on cultural theory, political theory, philosophy, art, architecture, new media, and the history of science and technology. He argues that the theoretical mechanism of the interface offers a powerful approach to questions of the human relationship to technology. Hookway finds the origin of the term interface in nineteenth-century fluid dynamics and traces its migration to thermodynamics, information theory, and cybernetics. He discusses issues of subject formation, agency, power, and control, within contexts that include technology, politics, and the social role of games. He considers the technological augmentation of humans and the human-machine system, discussing notions of embodied intelligence.

Hookway views the figure of the subject as both receiver and active producer in processes of subjectification. The interface, he argues, stands in a relation both alien and intimate, vertiginous and orienting to those who cross its threshold.

A Cultural Study of Video Game Afterlife

We purchase video games to play them, not to save them. What happens to video games when they are out of date, broken, nonfunctional, or obsolete? Should a game be considered an “ex-game” if it exists only as emulation, as an artifact in museum displays, in an archival box, or at the bottom of a landfill? In Game After, Raiford Guins focuses on video games not as hermetically sealed within time capsules of the past but on their material remains: how and where video games persist in the present. Guins meticulously investigates the complex life cycles of video games, to show how their meanings, uses, and values shift in an afterlife of disposal, ruins and remains, museums, archives, and private collections.

Guins looks closely at video games as museum objects, discussing the recontextualization of the Pong and Brown Box prototypes and engaging with curatorial and archival practices across a range of cultural institutions; aging coin-op arcade cabinets; the documentation role of game cartridge artwork and packaging; the journey of a game from flawed product to trash to memorialized relic, as seen in the history of Atari’s infamous E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial; and conservation, restoration, and re-creation stories told by experts including Van Burnham, Gene Lewin, and Peter Takacs.

The afterlife of video games—whether behind glass in display cases or recreated as an iPad app—offers a new way to explore the diverse topography of game history.

Production, Consumption, and Design Interventions

With many new forms of digital media–including such popular social media as Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr—the people formerly known as the audience no longer only consume but also produce and even design media. Jonas Löwgren and Bo Reimer term this phenomenon collaborative media, and in this book they investigate the qualities and characteristics of these forms of media in terms of what they enable people to do. They do so through an interdisciplinary research approach that combines the social sciences and humanities traditions of empirical and theoretical work with practice-based, design-oriented interventions.

Löwgren and Reimer offer analysis and a series of illuminating case studies—examples of projects in collaborative media that range from small multidisciplinary research experiments to commercial projects used by millions of people. Löwgren and Reimer discuss the case studies at three levels of analysis: society and the role of collaborative media in societal change; institutions and the relationship of collaborative media with established media structures; and tribes, the nurturing of small communities within a large technical infrastructure. They conclude by advocating an interventionist turn within social analysis and media design.

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