In the short space of a current college student’s lifetime, the internet has gone from a specialized, futuristic system to the network that most significantly structures how we engage daily with the world at large. It is now obvious to anyone who uses a computer that intellectual exercises as basic as reading the newspaper or doing research have become fundamentally different activities largely because of the internet. So too have our views of communication in general; the very notion of globalization, so consuming in today’s world, is predicated on the possibilities engendered by a technology barely twenty years old. Such is the nature of “new media.” Computers, and the digital systems and products for which they are currently a shorthand, are what most of us think of when we hear the words new media. And why not? The world of computer hardware, software, email, and ebusiness is for most of us the latest communication and information frontier. Part of our experience of digital media is the experience of their novelty.Yet if we were asked to think of other “new media,” we might have a harder time coming up with obvious examples. We would have no problem citing instances of “old media”: typewriters, vinyl record albums, eight-track magnetic tapes, and the like. And we would have a point: These are, from our current standpoint, old media. But they were not always old, and studying them in terms that allow us to understand what it meant for them to be new is a timely and culturally important task, an exercise that in this volume we hope profitably to apply to media much older than we are.
Read What’s New About New Media? (the introductory essay to the New Media Journal – published in 2003) online at MIT’s website.