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The Language of New Media Format Kindle
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On the media of today he notes: "One general effect of the digital revolution is that the avant-garde aesthetic strategies came to be embedded in the command and interface metaphors of the computer software. The contemporary computer media are actually the past avant-garde materialized!"
As is perhaps clear from the book's title, "The Language of New Media" is primarily about the communication 'languages' that the various media make available through their existence. A language, in the sense that Mr. Manovich uses the term, is a collection of methods[in a media-tool/medium context] and their effect on that which may be communicated by a particular work. A wide range of examples, from published or exhibited creations, are cited to help describe the fruits of using a particular method/context that he details.
The strongest recurring theme in the book is how it deals with the history of cinematic language. Cinema is the media which brings under it's umbrella the greatest range of production methodology, so comes the closest to tying the whole text together into a coherent narrative. Otherwise, the book would tend to be more a kind of dictionary of available media methodologies/effects/attributes, each with their own implication towards constructing a sensual or conceptual experience.
Marshall Mcluhan's point, that "The medium is the message", may well serve as the best description of the contents of this book. For those seeking an analysis on the "meaning of the messages", that the media artists convey, it is probably best to seek additional books as a supplement to this one.
The most important weakness of the book is that by comparing new media with cinema, much is left out. Manovich wrote his book before the social media revolution, so this is not covered and his understanding of the reference structure in interaction design seems to be limited. In fact new media seems to be so pluriform that his choice to describe "the" language of new media. In fact there seem to be many languages of new media, and Manovich succeeds in describing those who look at cinema most. Still, his account is a valuable starting point if you want to understand the many other languages of new media. So the book seems to deserve the paradigmatic status it has gained over the years.
This is a heavily condensed version of my original discussion of the book ([ ... ])
New media links content and interface, providing an unlimited number of ways of accessing a work. This is the norm of the digital age. Manovich argues "modern media is the new battlefield for the competition between database and narrative." (p. 234) But new media does not begin with the Web. In fact, there's no better place to begin than with the 1929 avant garde film classic, Dziga Vertov's "Man with a Movie Camera," which serves as a guide in an innovative prologue.
Later Manovich sums up the achievement of this classic film: "Vertov is able to achieve something that new media designers still have to learn -- how to merge database and narrative into a new form (p. 243).
The Language of New Media offers a rigorous theory of new media. The author discusses new media's reliance on traditions, such as the use of the rectangular frame. He also demonstrates how concepts from film theory and art history play a vital role in understanding where we stand today. This book is highly recommended.
For example, he speaks of the database as an expressive form, and as the key computer-mediated form of our time. So, why not explain how in the world a database is expressive, or how it makes meaning? He says it is naturally opposed to narrative--they are "natural enemies"--but how precisely does database accomplish anything for anyone without narrative (or interpretation, which is closely related)? What is a database without narrative? I just don't see how he has shown what he asserts. At the same time, i think much of the virtue of this book is through its suggestions rather than its water-tight argumentation. That can make it a fertile reading experience, but frustrating all the same. Books like this one get people talking, even if they are wrong on a lot of points. We need people to be speculative and a bit "loose" like much of this book is, but one must be prepared to read it critically and with some caution.
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