Historical Perspectives on New Media

Before we can analyse the historical perspectives on new media we must first understand it. So what is new media? Is new media a simple and effective means of entertainment and social interaction in this modern era? Or is the concept of new media something far more complex? It is impossible to date the emergence of new media. Some link the birth of new media to advancement in technology i.e. the printing press. But new media has been a strong controlling factor in society since its emergence.

In the 18th century the concept of the self emerged. People now had a public self and a private self. Ones public self would be a façade or a show case to the public in order to gain respect and social standing where as ones private self would be the real person behind that façade. It has been argued that this concept was a direct result of the internet and the anonymous nature of it. But it is clear that this concept had reared its head long before the invention of the internet.

New media provides us with a form of interactivity and virtual reality. One of the biggest claims from new media is that it is interactive. We as the consumers of new media now have a greater say and influence over the media. New media platforms have allowed people to interact on various levels. For example a person could vote for their favourite contestant on a reality television show. Also people could share opinions about certain aspects of the mass media in online blogs. This may seem like a break through but is the media really interactive? Do we, the consumers really have a choice and a means of interaction? New media only offers soft interactivity in which we only have a limited choice which in most cases is already decided for us. True virtual reality wont be experienced until interactivity becomes hard where we would have unlimited choice.

New media has also changed how we view and analyse art. Art now is delivered much faster and in many new formats. New media has given rise to a post modern society because of the faster delivery of art. In the post modern school of thought everything and anything can be art. Also in this mindset we must view all works of art with an equal standing and value. Old media art work required us to mentally engage with the piece where as new media prioritizes physical engagement over mental engagement. In my opinion this has given complex art an elitist standing in society as people shy away from something that requires mental engagement and class it as belonging to a higher layer of society.

The printing press is viewed as one the first and most important advancements in new media. Guttenberg’s invention allowed the quick spread of views and ideas. The printing press lead to the dissemination of information on a very wide level. An example of this would be how the printing press removed power from the Catholic Church as it was no longer the sole arbitrator of the bible. The printing press gave rise to many new ideals and was also used to lead revolutions.
Aristotle was very aware of the emotive nature of people. He saw that the public desires could be satisfied through drama. This was his solution to control the populous and keep order in society. People could relate and respond to the issues raised through drama and so were less likely to carry out their desires in the public domain. It can be argued that the internet follows this Aristotle template as they too can quash the revolutionary thoughts of the public. People are able to experiment in a virtual reality and are less likely to experiment in reality.

It is clear that the internet and new media have strong control and influence over society. New media sets out a template for society to live by. New media has taken the concept of the individual and transformed it into the community of the individual. In following this, a capitalist consumer society has been created where the media takes a central role in influencing the public using many mediums but especially advertisements.

To conclude, new media has always featured in society. But only recently it has been glamorized and repackaged as a new product to be used for greater purposes such as the control and influence of the public.

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