Language of New Media

With regard to the reading in Lev Manovich’s Language of New Media, (MIT Press, 2001), I am surprised to not see an analysis of the negative side of technology. On page 233, Manovich brings up the Greeks, and the long narratives of Homer, and some early fragments. This set me to wondering what the world would be like if all the information from Greece was saved, as it is today in web format, (see DeRuyver, Digital Junction, American Quarterly 58:3). Would historians have spent as many years speculating about Greek history and the various civilizations? Is it providential to not know every tidbit of historic data?

When will “new media” stop being called new media? Was it being called new media in 1833 when the first instruments of data were being invented? How is it that the precepts of the computer were being invented in 1833 and there are still people without one?

Manovich’s book reads part memoir, part swirling philosophy. He numerously quotes secondary sources, while presenting a pretext of authority. His opening sentences, (chapter one) while convincing and nostalgic, are taken from a secondary source. On page 107, the author starts the paragraph, “Towards the end of the nineteenth century …” The next sentence references the 1936 essay by Walter Benjamin, “Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” a time distant from the one he was first describing. He is writing about the late nineteenth century, but uses a quote from 1936? This demonstrates a lack of continuity in thought and clarity. Further, Manovich cites as the source a 1969 edition of Illuminations, which Hannah Arendt is the editor. Why didn’t he quote the original source? Might this be too difficult? Manovich also leaves out Benjamin’s closing sentiment from the essay, “Communism responds by politicizing art.”  One can find a quickly transcribed copy of the essay on Marxist.org, courtesy of the UCLA School of Theater and Art. (http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/benjamin.htm) Is this in part a Marxist agenda Manovich is wishing to purport?

In chapter two, the author analyzes Marx’s views of the future and corrects him, by portraying a world much like our own. I challenge the author to reconsider that perhaps Marx had envisioned a world like ours with wild technology and faces stuck to screens, our bodies seemingly irrelevant or needed, for we need only be eye and fingers, and mind, all of which can be condensed to mind, as Hawking shows us. Perhaps Marx saw this world and assumed some people would reject the technology and revert back to traditional methods of chopping wood and being in nature, free of the clutter inter-world on the net.

Part memoir, page 214, the author loses me once again with his nostalgic reflections of shopping for an orange and blue wallet, one seemingly symbolic.

Further, the book is highly outdated. Even at eight years old, most of the information would have been sourced one to two years prior. Sources are generated from the early eighties or older. I also would have preferred a text to correlate with this, like “How to Use the Internet,” (will add link), a text that has pictures and comprehensive language to discuss interface, media, and much more practical, applicable functions. Much of what the author discusses doesn’t seem anything I can use without learning other functions prior to discussing his philosophy; his historical data is from secondary sources and questionable, as stated above.

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~ by disembodiedspirit on September 12, 2008.

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