Newmedia on Sun, 12 Oct 2003 16:14:15 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> What *ARE* New Media?


As the fellow who "coined" the term NEW MEDIA (circa 1990, in preparation
for the America Online IPO, whereupon Steve Case awarded me this email
address), I have often been asked -- So what the HECK is (er, are) New
Media, anyway?

The answer then and now is the same -- New Media are the mediums which
will replace TELEVISION as the dominant *environment* in our lives and

Somewhat earlier, in the context of my work exploring these mediums in the
domain of VR, I had also "coined" the term THREESPACE -- which is a
"theological" term that helps to define the investigation of the ungoing
investigation of New Media.

I can now report that the New Media (which are also known as Threespace)
are in the process of becoming a commercial reality and, therefore, the
new ENVIRONMENT.  And, it is something which can be easily experienced --
THREE CHANNEL STEREO sound reproduction -- by simply playing back properly
recorded Left/Center/Right material on a system with three speakers.

Surround sound is already the medium that replaced television -- for the
obvious reason that "home theaters" now dominate the consumer electronics
business and, for all practical purposes, they are simply big television
sets with multi-channel sound added . . . replicating the experience of
multi-channel sound in movie theaters.

Based on the events of the past 24 hours at the Audio Engineering Society
(AES) convention in NYC (at the Javits through Monday), it is clear that
multi-channel sound has jumped from its "home theater" origin into the
mainstream of the production (and therefore reproduction) of MUSIC.  This
is crucial, because in the case of theatrical presentation, the various
channels are mostly employed for "special effects."  While some
multi-channel audio is also effects oriented, more and more of it is
intended to present the music -- as it was recorded and as it was intended
to be experienced.

As the Bob Dylan catalog is released in multi-channel SACD over the next
few months, all this will become even clearer.  There are already
hundred's of multi-channel SACD releases available, in nearly all
categories of performances.  Philips and Sony are fully committed to
multi-channel SACD and Panasonic is equally committed to an alternative
format called multi-channel DVD-A.  Can Frank Zappa -- who brought on his
capacity to HEAR in multi-channels from his home on the fringes of the
L.A. movie industry and who used this talent to knock Dylan off his high
horse in 1967 in NYC -- be far behind?

All of this makes a good deal of sense -- that "acoustic space" as
surround sound would replace the "tactility" of television -- as those of
you who have studied your McLuhan will quickly appreciate.  Remember that
ALL media are ultimately a matter of sensory balances and sensory biases.  
An EYE for an EAR!!

As the Internet fell out of favor and the "chamber of commerce" which I
founded in NYC -- the New York New Media Association -- was sold off, I
was offered back my original "ownership" of the term New Media . . .
which, of course, I accepted since I had only loaned in the first place.

Noticing that this term has once again begun to echo in the
house-of-mirrors that is nettime, I thought that it might be of some
interest for me to give you all an update.

New Media are the various implementations and the profound implications of
the shift by acoustic space from the ground of our lives under the
conditions of the electric media environment (i.e. television) to becoming
the figures of expression in our increasingly post-electric world -- in
particular, as reflected in three-channel stereo (3CS.)

Reprising the question which I asked when I first met the original nettime
crowd in late 1996 (back when "retired" Wall Street bankers and CIA agents
still did such things), "What are we; What are we becoming?"

The answer then and now is the same -- New Media.


Mark Stahlman
New York City

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