The Digital Plenitude
The Decline of Elite Culture and the Rise of New Media
232 pp., 6 x 9 in, 23 b&w photos
- Published: May 7, 2019
- Publisher: The MIT Press
- Published: April 12, 2019
- Publisher: The MIT Press
How the creative abundance of today's media culture was made possible by the decline of elitism in the arts and the rise of digital media.
Media culture today encompasses a universe of forms—websites, video games, blogs, books, films, television and radio programs, magazines, and more—and a multitude of practices that include making, remixing, sharing, and critiquing. This multiplicity is so vast that it cannot be comprehended as a whole. In this book, Jay David Bolter traces the roots of our media multiverse to two developments in the second half of the twentieth century: the decline of elite art and the rise of digital media. Bolter explains that we no longer have a collective belief in “Culture with a capital C.” The hierarchies that ranked, for example, classical music as more important than pop, literary novels as more worthy than comic books, and television and movies as unserious have broken down. The art formerly known as high takes its place in the media plenitude. The elite culture of the twentieth century has left its mark on our current media landscape in the form of what Bolter calls “popular modernism.” Meanwhile, new forms of digital media have emerged and magnified these changes, offering new platforms for communication and expression.
Bolter outlines a series of dichotomies that characterize our current media culture: catharsis and flow, the continuous rhythm of digital experience; remix (fueled by the internet's vast resources for sampling and mixing) and originality; history (not replayable) and simulation (endlessly replayable); and social media and coherent politics.
“The Digital Plenitude exposes the most troubling scarcities of our networked age: expertise, authority, credibility, and truth. Bolter offers a wise critique of an our age of unwisdom. Strongly recommended.”
Andrew Keen, author of How to Fix the Future
“Yet again, Jay David Bolter cogently explains our media-cultural situation. Bolter has been one of our foremost thinkers and scholars of new media, and with The Digital Plenitude, he retains that role while reaching beyond new media to the larger cultural situation. This book makes the relationship between digital media and the decline of elite culture its central story, and in an age when America's president is a former reality TV star, Bolter is here to remind us of the value of humanities research and, yes, elite expertise.”
Jessica Pressman, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University; author of Digital Modernism: Making It New in New Media
“Deft, thorough, and persuasive, Jay Bolter's The Digital Plenitude explores the historical and cultural environment that helped incubate and evolve the unprecedented variety, complexity, and multiplicity of digital technology that surrounds and penetrates our lives today, while interweaving astute observations of the current political landscape in America. Bolter astutely articulates the translation of modernism in the twentieth century into popular modernism, and how digital technology has flourished but failed to foster a strong democracy or community-based decisions. The Digital Plenitude, providing a much-needed context for and clarification of the mesh of our contemporary technical and political reality, is urgent and timely.”
Charles Henry, President of The Council on Library and Information Resources
The Digital Plenitude: The Decline of Elite Culture and the Rise of New Media by Jay David Bolter is a book about exactly that: the decline of one thing and the rise of another. The author attacks nor defends either, and it's not even a matter of cause and effect, in his view, the more useful point being that the present multiplicity of options when it comes to media/art/culture is not a problem to be solved, but rather a concept to understand so that we may better navigate the changed world we still need to live in....Clearly-written, well-focused.
New York Journal of Books
The most thought-provoking sections of The Digital Plenitude explore how digital technology is reinventing art itself, birthing new forms....Bolter suggests we are witnessing the inception of a new cultural paradigm comparable to the advent of modernism in the early 20th century.
Continues [Bolter's] deep thought about broad issues of millennial media. Starting with our current political moment, Bolter looks back at the megatrends that landed us here and ahead to where they're taking us next, including everything from McLuhan and modernism to sampling and remix.
The Digital Plenitude is a comprehensive description of contemporary digital culture and many readers will find it relevant and extremely useful, while the unanswered questions require future research.
Modern Times Magazine