Y2S2 | Interactive 2 | Reading Assignment | New Media: A Critical Introduction


Initially, I wanted to do this reading assignment on another chapter of the book I did in Interactive Media 1 (A Companion to Digital Art) to see if I could do a continuation of my discussion. However, as I was browsing through the other books in the bibliography, I came across this book “New Media: A Critical Introduction”, which has a rather interesting Chapter 1, as compared to the other books. Other books dive deep into the topics straightaway, while New Media: A Critical Introduction started Chapter 1 as an introduction or rather, set a benchmark and definition on what new media is, before they begin their topics (i.e. virtual reality, network, cyberculture, etc.).

As such, I decided to do on Chapter 1, specifically sub-chapter 1.1 “New Media: Do we know what they are?” This topic stood out to me because the title literally rhetorically questioned me and I did ask myself, do I really know what new media is? Back in interactive media 1’s reading assignment, I started my OSS post defining what I determine new media is. I wrote: “New media art includes digital art, computer graphics, computer animation, virtual art, Internet art, and interactive art.” After reading up and researching this chapter, I realized that my definition isn’t wrong, there could be more to it. So before I move on, what is your definition of new media?



I’m pretty sure some of you would have in mind “communication media” as part of new media, such as print media, photography, advertising, broadcasting, publishing, so on and so forth. Yes, all these can be considered as new media. Cultural genres and material products like newspapers, films, tapes, and discs, could also be referred to as new media as well. Even my own definition as mentioned above is right, where I referred new media to a social institution that is purely reduced to technologies being involved.

So, why is this term new media applied unproblematically? It is because of these three answers: Firstly, new media are thought of as epochal, like the beginning of a distinctive period in history of media. Secondly, the word “new” in new media is a powerful utopian and positive ideological charge. Lastly, new media is a useful term which avoids technical and formal definition, as in “digital” or “electronic” media. It does not focus on just the contentious quality as in “interactive media” or controversial practices as in “computer-mediated communication”.



In short, new media can be seen as a part of a new technoculture. Hence, new media gained its currency as a frequent term because of its useful inclusiveness. While a person using the term new media could be thinking about the Internet, others may mean something else like the digital TV, a virtual environment, or even a computer – we all use the same term but we refer to different phenomena.

We then realize, we are all actually claiming the status of ‘medium’ (plural for media) for what we have in mind, and we borrow the glamorous connotations of ‘newness’. The term new media is then used by anyone, with a broad cultural resonance rather than a narrow technicist or specialist application. At this point, we might ask whether we could readily identify some kind of fundamental common ground which underpins all new media – something more tangible or more scientific than the motives and contexts we have discussed so far.



Here is a schema that breaks down the global term new media into five manageable constituent parts, and thereafter I’ll be showing some examples which I’ve researched on:

  1. New textual experiences


These experiences refer to new kinds of genre and textual form, entertainment, pleasure, and patterns of media consumption. They include computer games, simulations, or even special effects cinema.


“The Lapse Project”


Toggling between the physical and the imaginary, and responding to the accelerated digitization of our environment, The Lapse Project imagines a world that is constituted through interfaces where places of artistic and cultural identities become editable, and can just as easily be switched on or off. Through processes of digital manipulation, the multimedia installation “erases” familiar landmarks that now serve as spaces for the arts around Singapore’s Civic District – Singapore’s oldest building, The Arts House, National Gallery Singapore, National Museum of Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum.

The Lapse Project takes a multi-dimensional approach to question memory, space and legacy through simulations in structure, time, particle, text, and image. Visitors are invited to embody these lapses through special effects projection, contemplating the presence and absence of sights and sites.

Here’s the link to view the artwork: https://inter-mission.art/The-Lapse-Project-1


  1. New ways of representing the world


These are media which, in ways that are not always clearly defined, offer new representational possibilities and experiences. They include immersive virtual environments and screen-based interactive multimedia.


“Desert Rain”

By Blast Theory

Desert Rain is the war game, which is part of a performance in an extensive physical setting, including a Virtual Reality environment, which allowed up to six participants going through a scripted sequence of physical spaces. This theatrical multi-media installation is based on real-life sources that probe the relationship between the real and the virtual in response to the 1990-1991 Gulf War.

Here is a brief video of the artwork:

Desert Rain reconstruct the virtual and physical environment through immersion, aiming to make the intersections and gaps between both worlds more concrete by means of interaction, to allow participants to experience them alongside the usage of hypermedia in specific stages.

Here’s the link to view the artwork: https://www.blasttheory.co.uk/projects/desert-rain/


  1. New relationships between subjects (users and consumers) and media technologies


These relationships refer to the changes in the use and reception of image and communication media in everyday life and in the meanings that are invested in media.


“Take A Bullet For This CIty”

By R.  Luke DuBois

Take a Bullet for This City is a piece of artwork that serves New Orleans, or actually any country plagued by gun violence. The mechanics is simple, a computer-driven machine would pull the trigger of a gun that is loaded with blanks in response to a real shooting in the city. The Gun is placed inside a transparent acrylic box, and visitors would be able to see the gun ejecting empty cartridges every time a real shooting occurs. One might say that the shootings are rare and as such, not all visitors would have the chance to hear and see the occurrence of the gun triggering off. It almost sounds like an oxymoron to say that any visitors would be ‘lucky’ if they were to catch the rare moment of the gun being triggered off.

Here is a brief video of the artwork:

This work of art depicts how art is not just a product, for purely entertainment and enjoyment purposes. Art has changed its uses and reception of what they want the audience to experience, to spread a message, to influence the society, or even show underlying communication to the world just like how Take a Bullet for This City brings about an awareness that gun violence is something to be worried and concerned about. This piece is hard data in both senses of the word: it is based on facts; facts that are, by their very nature, intended to hurt us.

Here’s the link to view the artwork: http://www.digiart21.org/art/take-a-bullet-for-the-city


  1. New experiences of the relationship between embodiment, identity, and community


The experience here shifts in the personal and social experience of time, space, and place (on both local and global scales) which have implications for the ways in which we experience ourselves and our place in the world.


“Sharing Faces”

By Kyle MacDonald

This artwork allows the audience to experience time, space, and place on a global scale, showing their significance in the world. The artist, Kyle MacDonald, has a way of doing up works of art that uses technology to connect people in unexpected ways. In Sharing Faces, MacDonald placed mirror-like screens in two locations, the first one being Anyang, Korea, and the second one being Yamaguchi, Japan.

When a visitor from Anyang looks into it, they would see someone else’s face from Yamaguchi – posed just like their own, vice versa. While moving, the screen would cycle through images that it has captured throughout the process and find a matching one to match the new pose, creating a sense of shadow, like a morphing person following your every move. Your every movement would be then captured as a material for future visitors to see.

Here’s the link to view the artwork: http://www.digital-projects-index.julien-drochon.net/portfolio/sharing-faces/


  1. New conceptions of the biological body’s relationship to technological media


This challenges the distinctions between the human and the artificial, nature and technology – the real and the virtual.



By Ken Feingold

Ken Feingold takes art into the virtual realm through both software and hardware. In this work If/Then, two electronic silicone heads face each other on top of a box filled with foam. The faces are identical and the only parts moving are the eyes and the mouths. Both portraits are activated to speak to each other as though they are real-life human beings. The conversations between these two figures are neither scripted or random – the software gives each a “personality”, like a vocabulary, associative habits, obsessions, or other peculiarities, which make their conversations quirky, surprising, and hilarious.

Here is a brief video of the artwork:

This lifelike interaction between the two digital heads takes the audience into an interpersonal encounter, which sparks them into questioning themselves the complexity and unpredictability that language and mind create between people and computers. This presents new concepts of the portrait, pointing to issues of artificial intelligence and biological engineering.

Here’s the link to view the artwork: https://artelectronicmedia.com/artwork/if-then/



Looking into those subjects that I have mentioned above, these allow us to identify what new media is. It is obvious that there is a whole range of production that revolves around technology. These can be considered as new ways of distributing and consuming media, like using computer-mediated commutations and virtual realities through simulated environments, etc.

Therefore, it is still a grey area within what new media really is. However, if the work of art being investigated entails any of those subjects that are listed above, then we can consider it to be, new media.

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