Monday, July 16, 2012

New Media = Digital Media = 'Social' Media?

Is 'New Media' always digital? Is it really 'social'?

Well, in contemporary times, probably yes. But then, wasn't print a new medium when it was invented?  And radio, and then television? With every 'new' medium, there have been social, political and economic changes, because we have been exposed to different thoughts, ideas and challenges with each of them. With every new medium, there have been changes in how we receive, use and disseminate information.

The difference between the 'older' new media and the newer ones is that the content is now stored in a binary form. It is now digital, rather than analogue. Instead of storing data on tapes and records, we now store data in microchips. Instead of data being 'fixed' it is now in a state of flux. This enables content to be converted from one form to another easily and equally easily distributed allowing trans-mediality.

Apart from the way content is stored, even the way in which it is produced has changed. Because the equipment required to produce content was expensive, only large organizations or people with deep pockets could even think of producing content. All that has changed with digitization of the processes. Today, one can produce a film on a shoe-string budget, make prints and distribute copies at very low costs, record an audio and play it without costly equipment. The audiences, once passive receivers of content have now become producers of content themselves.

The next few years are bound to be interesting. With cloud computing and crowd sourcing it is going to be easier than ever to produce content. The degree of convergence provided by the Internet and mobile phones are proportional to the degree of divergence they provide. The audiences are being increasingly redefined along with the producers.

The devices used for production are getting smaller and cheaper, with even the economically and socially backward marginalized members of the society becoming capable of producing as well as distributing content.

Is this phase going to bring about social and political changes? Will the centralized system of information dissemination going to be really challenged? Are these changes going to make the power centre answerable?

Is there going to be a 'New Media Revolution'?