January 2, 2004

History Month on empyre

by Andrew Stern · , 1:41 am

Each month on the empyre email discussion list — “an arena for the discussion of media arts practice” — a new set of people are invited to lead the discussion, and this month we have Jill Scott and two GTxA’ers, Nick and Noah. The topic: “Nova Media Storia: Histories and Characters”.

Is new media a field? Does it have a history? What history? And, how does it matter?

Those new to empyre may enjoy perusing the past guests and extensive archives.

2 Responses to “History Month on empyre”

  1. William Says:

    Since I don’t think I can do justice to another mailing list, I’ll post my comments here and see what happens.

    New media, I think, is an already-historical question: it’s that array of media practices for which the technologies are not yet fundamentally circumscribed by the institutions which thrive on them. With a new technology can occur an excess, which exceeds the demands of the institutions which produced it to begin with. In that surplus, the distance between the actual practice and the implicit possibilities, is the “shock of the new media.”

    So it can describe a contested epoch during which different constituents vie to place the meaning of that media in ways that serve them.

    Well, maybe that’s problematic. Videogames are as circumscribed by the game industry as much as cinema is by the film industry. Or, perhaps it’s not, at least in terms of its cultural capital – there’s still a great deal about engagement with videogames that’s unfixed, that’s up for grabs, in a way that isn’t the case with film, and it’s that unfixity that makes it “new.”

  2. noah Says:

    William, I’m afraid there’s not really a good way to include you in the discussion if you’re not on the list. However, in case they’re interesting, here are a couple of my posts so far.


    Dear empyreans,

    Thanks for the invitation to this softspace. I’m looking forward to our conversation this month.

    In creating The New Media Reader, Nick and I were guided by four strong assumptions. Since the NMR’s publication we’ve seen a variety of reactions to these assumptions, to what might be called the project’s “unstated arguments.” In brief, I would name our guiding assumptions as follows: (1) new media is a field, (2) new media has a history, (3) this history’s record [requires a] print and digital [publication], (4) this history matters. This month I’d be interested to talk with empyre people about these assumption/assertions, both in the context of The New Media Reader and more generally. For example, if this history matters, how does it matter, and in what context? Does work more than ten years old come to mind only when we construct our genealogies (e.g., for critical papers, when teaching), or does it also come into play in our daily construction and consideration of our current new media projects?



    empyre folks –

    Wow. I’m only checking email about once a day. There’s been quite a bit of discussion in the last 30 hours.

    I realize, reading over what’s been written here, that I mean two things by “new media.” Sometimes I mean “new media” objects and sometimes I mean a “new media” field.

    For me, new media objects use computation as an expressive medium. The parallel mentioned with film in an earlier post seems appropriate. Film can be used as an expressive medium, and it can also be used for other things (e.g., microfilm storage). Similarly, computation can be used as an expressive medium or it can be used for other things (e.g., calculating the position of an anti-aircraft gun). Also, to pick up the earlier mention of Final Cut Pro, to me that’s often an instance of computation being used in the creation of non-computational media (film, video, what Adrian Miles calls “video hard copy”) but QuickTime can also be a new media platform (what Miles calls “softvideo”).

    On the other hand, I think of the new media field in somewhat different terms. I see it as a field composed of three elements:

    – The development of media tools that use computation to enable interaction and display.

    – The development of media artifacts that employ (and inspire) these tools.

    – Critical and historical reflection on these developments.

    When I said that Nick and I saw new media as a field, when working on The New Media Reader, I meant it as something of a prerequisite. Just as no one would make a “Cultural Studies Reader” if they didn’t see cultural studies as a field. New media may turn out to be an evanescent field, it may change names, or it may change composition – but for now this is how I see it.

    I have to head off now – but I’ll try to write more later tonight or tomorrow.




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