New (and Newer) Media – Alan Liu

Alan Liu – Imagining the New Media Encounter (available here).

“Today, “digital” is the great new medium, and … The star today is “media” in a larger and more promiscuous sense that intermixes literature (when it includes it at all) with music, film, TV, animation, journalism, and so on…” – Alan Liu

This post is not so much a response to the article, just some thoughts on some of the issues raised. This article may be a little difficult to get to grips with at first, but I did a class called Philosophy of the Mass Media last year which gave me a good foundation of Luhmann and McLuhan.

What the article did was make me think about was what we can actually define as ‘new’ media. Luhmann says that something can only be new once, and that once it has been put out into the world (through television, magazines, radio etc.) it is no longer news. Today, people queue for hours to get the latest phones, games, iPods, iPads and more. The novelty comes from the item being newer and more advanced than the last. However, by the end of that day, it is no longer new, and people start to look for the ‘next big thing’. For Luhmann there are many different selectors which help the mass media decide what is news for the people of the society. This can be on a local, nation or international level. The selectors include; local relevance, surprise, conflict and violation of norms. These selectors help to narrow down the information from the non-information.

We live in a highly technological age where we must be able to use this technology to get things done. While some people may see this as ‘laziness’, my point of view is that each new piece of technology allows us to do more and more, and this in turn allows us to create more and more. Humans create things to makes our lives easier. This has been happening for thousands of years. A media-related example is that hand-produced leaflets were replaced with the creation of the printing press. For more information on the printing press, its development and the impact it has had on the mass production of books visit this site: History of the Printing Press.


The more we become familiar with the technology, the more productive we can be within our society. This ties in to what McLuhan says regarding the medium as the message. It isn’t what we can say, but how we can say it, and what methods of the media are available to us. In this way, the media is becoming more democratized. The media is allowing more and more people to get involved and comment on society through blogs, websites and social networking. We don’t need a postgraduate degree to set up a blog, or write on Facebook. McLuhan believes there is no excuse to not get involved, it is our duty to become an active social agent within our society.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that at one point or another, everything is new. Not only that, but there are thousands of new inventions every week. These new creations lead to more and more new things. There is no way that anybody can be expected to keep up with it all. We just have to learn how to cope the best we can with the new technology of today! However hard this is, we must find our own ways to best communicate with the outside world.



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