Lev Manovich - five principles of New media

Communications
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Explain the difference between analogue and digital media by using Lev Manovich " Five principles of New Media"

May 12th, 2015

Lev Manovich (2001) posits that the new media operate under five basic principles: numerical representation, modularity, automation, variability, and transcoding involved in creating new media texts, principles that make these texts quite different to produce than was the case with print, drawing, or analogue texts. The following is a summary of these five principles:

Numerical representation. Because they are based on digital codes, new media texts are numerical:

Converting continuous data into a numerical representation is called digitalization. Digitalization consists of two steps: sampling and quantization. First, data is sampled, most often at regular intervals, such as the grid of pixels used to represent a digital image. The frequency of sampling is referred to as resolution. Sampling turns continuous data into discrete data, that is, data occurring in discrete units: people, the pages of a book, pixels. Second, each sample is quantified, that is, it is assigned a numerical value drawn from a defined range (such as 0-255 in the case of an 8-bit greyscale image). (p. 28)

This means that the components of new media texts (Websites, video clips, images, etc.) consists of bits of data that can be readily be stored as named files for use in combining with other data bits.

Modularity. These different media samples or data bits - stills, QuickTime video clips, sounds, etc. - can function as separate objects or modules that can be combined together in different ways without losing their independence. A website consists of different objects that can be stored independently on a site or network as independent parts that are then combined in different ways. They can then be readily added, deleted, or revised without having to totally redo the overall website. All of this makes production of digital texts different than production of traditional texts, for example, a painting.

Automation. The production and combination of the modular parts is often completed through the use of highly automated systems. Digital photos can be automatically edited to improve their quality through editing programs. Hollywood filmmakers can employ computer graphic or 3-D systems to create animation images, such as the use of thousands of soldiers in the Lord of the Rings film series. A "smart camera" has been developed at the MIT Media lab that automatically takes pictures according to a script. http://www-white.media.mit.edu/vismod/demos/smartcam/ Websites automatically adjust to specific users, providing them with information based on their previous visits.

Variability. The same new media texts can also be automatically be created in different versions to suit individual users' needs. Again, due to the modularity principle, the different components of the same texts can be varied to create new texts. For example, hypermedia texts, which are created through linking together disparate texts, can be varied according to the different combination of links or pathways, resulting in different texts. Texts are also continually updated, creating new, more recent versions of texts. The size or scale of a text can be varied using zoom/close-up features on Mapquest maps or images. And, different versions of the same media content can be varied as when films are made into computer games or games such as Tomb Raider are made into films.

Transcoding. Transcoding refers to translating something into another format. Manovich notes that new media exists on two different layers-a "cultural layer" and a "computer layer." The "cultural layer" includes categories associated with types of literary texts, genres, encyclopedia topics, narrative patterns, etc. The "computer layer" are the processes by which the computer organizes data into packets or databases. The ways in which the "computer layer" organizes data is now influencing how the "cultural layer" is organized. The cultural categories are now being transcoded into computer categories so that media content or cultural texts is being redefined in new ways as evident in the ways in which Websites, DVD's, or computer games employ new ways of organizing experience and engaging users.


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