Against New Media

I'm immersed in construction these days. It's a twist for me. Since the early 1990s, I've been interested in the theoretical aspects of architecture: the role of networks in cities, the impact of changes in capital on the profession, and other topics that my readers will find familiar. It's been fascinating, but also stressful (the stakes are high since the financial implications are real!) to get my hands dirty like this. As I do so, I can't escape how new media and networked mobile devices are omnipresent throughout the process: contractors text me and send me photos of the work they have done via e-mail from their smart phones, plumbing supply representatives tell me to look on the net for products, I watch instructions on how to power wash a deck on youtube, my wife (an environmental engineer) looks up the toxicity of products, and so on. 

As I was running back and forth to the lumber yard today, I was driving my twenty year old Saab 900 and since the radio is broken, for distraction, I plugged my iphone into the a cable hooked to the auxiliary jack and turned on the Sirius radio app to listen to MSNBC. The stories they described may not stand the test of time—a congressman who flashed his public on Twitter, a mother on trial for murdering her daughter who was caught partying afterwards in photographs on social media sites, a couple photographed kissing during a riot and later identified via the Web, the arrest of a nineteen year old in a massive passwork hack, the death of a minor celebrity in a car wreck after he had tweeted an image of himself drinking—but each one involved "new media."

Or rather each one didn't. For their was nothing new about networked mobile devices and the Web. To continue thinking of them as new media has itself become an anachronism. Rather, they are simply the media of our own modernity, network culture. Just as the first modernity destroyed the traces of the world that existed before industrialization, network culture destroys the old (postmodern) unconnected world. But we've gone past a point of no return: new media are the media of our time, with all of their goods and all of their bads. It's still an ongoing process, but new media have nevertheless long since stopped occuping a discrete niche or a ghetto. They form our world. It's on those terms we need to investigate them.   

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