Thursday, June 12, 2008

Principles of New Media

I have a rather mundane, un-sexy and foundational point to make in this new thread. (Not much of a salesman, huh?) But I think it is important and I would be interested in what you (and Lev) would say to this contention.

Manovich's 5 principles of new media were the most insightful to me. His points on numeric representation, modularity, automation, and transcoding had their pulse on a shift in mediums and a wonderfully creative understanding of the differences from old to new media. The point that I do not buy is that of variability. I understand his point about new media's capabilities of flexibility and mutability, I believe Manovich has overlooked a serious philosophical point. For something to be variable there needs to be a sameness about it. There needs to be a link that combines the essence of a substance despite the outward changes taking place. Plato got around this by positing the notion of forms. Although a leaf changes colors it still remains a leave because it participates in the form of leaf. Descartes, too, was convinced that even though the wax that was solid and then turned to liquid was still wax despite its different form. Even though change is being observed it still is the same substance.

When we are talking about digital images whose foundation has already been established in mathematics doesn't this imply that when we see a different image on a screen a different numerical code has been issued to it? What I believe Manovich has discovered in new media is an improved speed in the changing of the foundational numerical code lying behind the changing images on the screens, which would, I believe negate his notion of variability because that term implies sameness/oneness. For example, if I were to draw a simple line in paint and move one point to different spots on the screen what we have is a variable difference in the image but underlying that is a different code which would make it a different image all together, I believe.

Now, it may seem that I am splitting hairs here but I think for a principle of new media where the prime purpose is to define, he has sorely stepped beyond himself in this matter. Have I misunderstood Manovich's definition of variability? Should this point I bring up even matter to the overall project? If you've followed me this far, let me know what you think. I'm a stickler for definitions. I'll admit, it's the German in me. :)

1 comment:

Lance Strate said...

Jawohl, mein herr! It is a fine distinction, but a fascinating one to make. The psychotherapist and communication theorist Paul Watzlawick made the point in his book Change that the pre-Socratic Greeks could not invent the concept of change until they first invented the concept of permanence. Perhaps then flux might be a better term for our Heraclitean new media. Probably could get a little mileage out of that idea.