Reflection: New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory

This reflection is focused on Old Media: A History and Theory –  Part V: Theorizing “New Media” – Modes of Digital Identification. Virtual Technologies and Webcam Culture by Ken Hillis: Web technologies.

From reading Hillis’ essay, I understood that the accelerating shift towards an image culture is greatly supported by visual technologies. These have significant implications for how subjectivity and self-identity are reconceptualised and practised. This is especially so in the field of Virtual Reality, which is Hillis’ speciality, where there is a cultural dismissal or blurring of distinctions between the real and the virtual parallels. Virtual reality then becomes a sense-making and physiological construction which is increasingly commodified, branded and mediated for the experience of the user.

NRC Handelsblad - Webwereld

Hillis also reflected on the telefetish trend of the early 2000s where people on the internet turned themselves into “24/7 stars.” This was interesting as in Joanne McNeil’s essay, Connected by Camera (which I reflected on for Interactive I), she also mentioned this phenomenon. Perhaps the mentioned “commodification” of the self-image provides the opportunity for multiple identities that one may portray on the internet – so as to attain celebrity status. This behaviour reflects that of society – mass-consumerism and commodification, and the accelerating value fo celebrity status. In this way, new media art can act as a certain zeitgeist. Hillis notes that the act of producing one’s digital self-image is the “first step in becoming a global kind of commodity fabricated (if not destined) for exchange”.

I thought it was interesting that multiple essays on new media and the development of technology and the web note on this telefetish phenomenon and the roots of “cam girls/boys”. Perhaps it is the narcissism and intrinsic voyeuristic desires that have allowed this to continue at such a significant rate.

Hui Kyong Chun, Wendy and Anna Watkins Fisher, eds. New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader. New York, NY: Routledge, 2015.

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