New Media is a 21st Century catchall term used to define all that is related to the internet and the interplay between technology, images and sound. New media evolves and morphs continuously.

Most technologies described as “new media” are digital, often having characteristics of being manipulated, networkable, dense, compressible, and interactive. Some examples may be the Internet, websites, computer multimedia, computer games.

Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, is an example, combining Internet accessible digital text, images and video with web-links, creative participation of contributors, interactive feedback of users and formation of a participant community of editors and donors for the benefit of non-community readers. Facebook is an example of the social media model, in which most users are also participants.

New media DOES NOT include television programs, feature films, magazines, books, or paper-based publications – unless they contain technologies that enable digital interactivity.“

Characteristics

New media can be characterized by the variegated use of images, words, and sounds. These networks of images, sounds, and text data are different from old media formats such as hardcopy newspapers because of the nesting characteristic.Nesting is a way of organizing of the presentation of information according to subjects while paying secondary attention to context. In the place of context, nesting (most commonly seen in text or image hyper-linking) is a format that fosters organization in a way in which elements interact with one another instead of simply following a straight order. This new organization of data does not require a “back story” and each interactive element of information stands alone.  New media requires a non-linear interpretation, since many sources are often oriented around the same subject-center, but are not always collated. At the end of the day all this means is that one of the primary characteristics of new media is that it is freed from the linear restrictions of older formats such as newspapers, books, and magazines.

Perhaps this conception of new media is only part of the whole picture and the skeletal outlines of a much more profound discussion. We recognize that many online interfaces enrich university and office experiences, making nested and comprehensible write-ups, drop-boxes, and support-based chat centers. The first thing that anyone using “new media” in the twenty first century realizes is that the technology and capability for innovation does not necessarily determine its usefulness or it’s potential. Of course, that all rests on the shoulders of the user, or does it? 

Perhaps the most interesting part of new media has to do with the restructuring of research, global economics, social interaction, and the currents of writing and dissemination of all information that have accompanied its emergence. Web and blog-writing in particular are not particularly revolutionary or ground-breaking because it changes the way people use language or construct basic sentences. It is ground breaking because it allows people to structure and nest information into documents differently. In today’s average web/blog post, news articles, op-eds etc. are not only entries in mixed media (photos, writing, video) format, but they are organized according to hyperlink organization.Hyperlink organization is one of the definitive features of new media, and its implications run deep as well as wide.. Nesting, which is frequently in the form of hyperlinking, requires extensive interpretation and research. This organization is beneficial since old media representation often asserts an artificial context into an article or media piece in order to provide continuity. In nested new media, hyperlinking fosters the ultimate citation resource-apparatus. In traditional reporting found in a print newspaper, scholarly research article, or encyclopedia, information and references are contained within the body of the text. There are certain citations and allusions, but for the most part, the sweeping or narrow nature of the text depends on the structural organization of the piece as well as the reader’s contextual understanding of a given subject.

Social dimensions

There is indeed something about new media that is defined by its capability to reach outside of stagnant information pools. Perhaps the term new media is more apt to describe the network of networks that overwrites traditional relationships in exchange for new ones. In many ways, traditional media outlets now rely on new media sources for data and information. One recent article from the French newspaper Le Monde charted the evolution of political blogs across Europe in order to assess emerging trends and opinions in the region. What this signals is twofold: not only does new media enable the average person to engage in political, cultural, social, and economic action, but it also suggests that old-style reporting and data outlets are secondary and not primary sources for many. New media is an enabler and the new primary source.

The exchange of ideas and images are is of primary importance in considering the potential for new media. Not only are political horizons widened but so too are artistic and educational ones. Today, there is a tremendous ability for individual users who write, paint, report, educate, etc. to make connections to one another in a way that might allow them to circumvent the conventions of institutional and closed opportunities.

One thing is very clear: New Media is experiencing the growing pains of “the Wild West.” New Media itself is neutral new technology evolving all the time. It is up to the user as to whether it is good or bad.

Rhetorical questions of potential

So much of what defines new media is subtle, unrestricted, and not standardized. But is that good or bad? Just what determines the information and communication traffic across mobile phones, fiber optic wires, and online encyclopedias? Where is new media really going, and are we, as users, constructing the destination or are we blindingly falling into its clutches through necessities and paradigms?

Perhaps the potential of new media is a function of its intermediate development and our social, political, and economic transition within and outside of it. Either way, it remains to be seen whether or not it really is up to us to define the digital frontier. Regardless, new media and new media communications is continually evolving and as a result, its definitions evolves as well.