What really ISN’T new media?

(CRAP! I had this sitting as a draft since Tuesday.)

My response to Zappen’s “Digital Rhetoric: Toward an Integrated Theory” was lukewarm. Maybe I’ve completely missed the point – and perhaps, I can be forgiven this because the point seems so buried – but it seems to me the take-away is that new digital forms of expression and rhetoric are only superficially different from the traditional notions. Assuming I’m on target, I’ll proceed.

Well, duh. I don’t really see how this manner of communication could be any different based on the medium. The point, the essence, is the exchange. Be it 140 characters at a time and tapped out on the subway or at length in peer-reviewed journals, discourse is discourse is discourse. Legitimacy bestowed may make it more professional or suitable for specific application, but it is still discourse and it is still valuable.

It seems a point being made is that one of the aspects of so-called “New Media” is a scientific reproduction or affectation of traditional media – a mathematical breakdown of something like a video or image. That strikes me as odd. In reality, EVERYTHING we’ve ever done could potentially fall under this definition if the parameters remain this loose and computing power continues its unabated expansion. Just like a mathematical equation can reproduce the display of an image by orienting millions of small bits and dots of color, so too could the more physical characteristics be included. A painting is not just the colors used and their relative orientation – it’s the way light plays off the inconsistencies in the pigment, or how different canvases interact with different paints. There are mathematical ways to describe all of this. So, given the time, wouldn’t a)processing power needed to three-dimensionally render a digital expression for how all of this data is presented and constructed, and b)continuing advances in physical reproductions (such as 3-D printers) eventually produce something that is a 100% flawless reproduction of an analog original? No doubt reaching this level of sophistication would take time, but since it couldn’t be achieved by a human hand, wouldn’t this also be New Media?

Furthermore, there is reference to Alan Turing, but nothing to say of the infamous Turing test. For those who may not know, the Turing test asserts that a sufficiently complex and well programmed computer could carry on a conversation with a human as another human could. No one can claim that honor yet, but this, too, must be only a matter of time. Then media will be capable of expanding into yet another realm it has been shut out of thus far: human-like/human-to-human communication.


One thought on “What really ISN’T new media?”

  1. I see your point, but backing up to the beginning, I don't think that new digital forms of rhetoric are only superficially different from traditional notions. Digital rhetoric is a conversation–a dialogue–like what we are doing now. You write a post, we respond. Maybe within minutes or days you know how other people in the class think or feel about what you posted. The conversation is fast compared to traditional rhetoric. I could say something that changes your mind about something you wrote yesterday. In traditional rhetoric, where you'd write something in, let's say, a journal and it's published, you might wait months or years for someone to respond to what you've written. The conversation is slow, and developing collective ideas is slower. At least that's what I got out of the article 🙂 I could be wrong, but that's how I interpreted it.

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