Thursday, December 14, 2006

"New Media" Should Be Banned. Yeah, I Said It.

You know what I hate about "new media"?

The name.

Remember how someone coined the name, 'modern' art? Or worse, 'postmodern' music?

Yeah. Lame. Because decades later, those names feel as 'modern' as THX 1138. What comes after post-new? Post-newer?

Recently, a bunch of top-flight journalists flew the coop for newspaper/website ThePolitico. "We live in an entreprenurial age, not an institutional one," said Washington Post political editor John Harris, one of the first to go,
on Jay Rosen's PressThink.

"The moves ... mark another step by traditional 'old media' journalists toward a 'new media' venture that is largely online," according to Times reporting.

Now it's true that media's changing. And I'm completely interested in where ThePolitico is going. But let's not skim over a basic fact:

"New Media" is a dumb name.

I'm not trying to be whiny. I'm striving for precision in an industry that thrives on it. Let's think about this, shall we? "New Media" is:

-and about as useful and meaningful as a college course title like "Quantitative Reasoning." (Reasoning what? Should I buy a weekly or a monthly Metrocard? Should I reason between a donut or a bagel? Should I consider my quantitative options among a sea of cell phone plans? [Hint: none of the above])

As opposed to the term "blog," which is a specific term that applies to a general group of things, "new media" seems to be a general term that (I think) applies to a specific group of things.

The definition, according to the all-knowing Wikipedia:

New Media loosely describes those forms of communication and art enabled by digital technology. We currently use "New Media" to provide a broadly accurate (but also somewhat imprecise) sense of those communications, technologies, and artworks made possible or actual by advances in digital computing. "New Media" communication environments are readily interactive, which opens new possibilities for conversation and feedback.

Ok, so that got us nowhere. Apparently new media can cover Photoshopping, YouTube-ing, and blogging. Let's look to a more journalistic source, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, which has an M.S. concentration in "New Media":

New media alumni are editors, producers and reporters at the multimedia departments of major news organizations as well as founders of niche Web sites. They put to work the varied skills we teach, incorporating the best of traditional journalism with online tools that tell stories better.

Ok, so now we've got a face to the people who practice it, but still no definition. With a Google search, we've got the following:

-a general term covering non-traditional ways of delivering advertising or promotion messages, anything from text messaging to the Internet

-All electronic communications that have appeared or will appear since the original text-and-static picture forms of online communication.

-New Media is a relatively new field that includes all forms of computer-enhanced communication. In addition to digital video, examples of New Media communication are web sites, emails, CD-ROMs, DVDs, streaming audio and video, interactive multimedia presentations, and computer animation. New Media is a convergence of the older styles of communicating with the new, computer-enhanced styles. ...

-New media usually refers to a group of relatively recent mass media based on new information technology. Most frequently the label would be understood to include the Internet and World Wide Web, video games and interactive media, CD-ROM and other forms of multimedia popular from the 1990s on. The phrase came to prominence in the 1990s, and is often used by technology writers like those at Wired magazine and by scholars in media studies.

Ah, damn you Wired people for starting this debacle!

But really, it's clear that there's no consensus on even the very core of "new media." (CD-ROMs? Boy, aren't they old! I bet typewriters were new media at one point, too! And man, that Rolodex in the picture is the next generation of cool!)

What is "new media" to us today? Tomorrow? Is it just a term that will forever live, it's examples constantly changing but it's definition clearly only just "new" developments in "media"?

I call for a gathering of journalists to discuss this (really), at least at Columbia or NYU or another journalism school. After all, if we can have a graduate concentration in the subject, and we can use the word so frequently in the very examples of the term, shouldn't we be able to actually agree on a core definition of it?

Until then, this contextless word should be banned from use. Like "unique."

What do you think?

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