State of the Arts

Victoria Ward

The old and new media

A recent blog by my colleague on new media should be read by everyone. Trout in Plaid’s perspective on what new media is and isn’t raises all sorts of interesting questions about technology and its role in our lives. The blog got me thinking…

My blog serves a purpose beyond the needs of its medium. As Walter in Breaking Bad says (again, I haven’t seen a minute of the show but know everything about the finale) “I do it for me”. But I am interested in making it something more. But what? As the world of the internet changes continually in a fluid almost moment to moment way, more like a sea as opposed to its old nickname, highway, the creation of good content is seeming more like a spiritual quest; you need a dose of magic, utter devotion and sparkling integrity.

New media, as defined by Wikipedia which in itself is an example of new media (talk about a meta reference) “refers to on-demand access to content anytime, anywhere, on any digital device, as well as interactive user feedback, creative participation. Another aspect of new media is the real-time generation of new, unregulated content.” Does my blog qualify to be part of this new media?

Blogging, even though it is generated through a digital medium, has unregulated content and invites participation through comments is generally seen as a form of dilettantism. My sister, whose site breathdreamgo.com is internationally renowned, was recently shunned during a press juggernaut by some journalists who believe that blogging isn’t writing, has no professional merit and is ruining their careers. What is ruining writer’s careers are editorial policies, media outlets offering thirty cents a word and a public thinking the internet should be free. Not people like my sister who in fact advocates daily for writers getting paid properly.

Kevin Spacey on a recent episode of the Colbert Report. Two middle aged guys defying new media's generational divide.
Kevin Spacey on a recent episode of the Colbert Report. Two middle aged guys defying new media’s generational divide.

In my community I face similar attitudes. An arts council officer once described what I did as “just an opinion”. I could have argued that I have over twenty years of professional experience in the arts (visual and theatre), work with several communities and have had over thirty exhibitions – at this point making me someone who can offer a little more than just an opinion. But I didn’t. Such condescension is so pervasive that I have grown numb to it.

I admit that not working with an editor makes my blog less a thing than it should be but I don’t fault myself or the internet for that. I think editors who are facing an uncertain future could find themselves heaps of work if they decided to come to us bloggers and offer their services.

My blog is a creative act not unlike the painting I do. Unlike painting though my blogging isn’t gestated privately, it’s very public in a much more immediate way. For this reason I believe it sits right at the heart of new media. What is the internet and all the various digital exchanges but a new way of dealing with the world publically and immediately. But I am not making a gif, a video, a meme, a film, or music, or a visual manifestation of electronic wizardry – I am writing.

Writing is the problem with people thinking that my blog doesn’t fit new media because for some reason new media isn’t supposed to include old media. And if new media includes old media then it should be for some highly academic reason or ironic – like the Remington typewriter which taps out Twitter messages. But I think what is really going on here with regard to our quandary over new media is generational.

My age group isn’t united on what new media is. Many believe it to be the greatest thing in the world and anyone who isn’t throwing out their paints and buying a MacPro is an idiot. A large part of the art world today is falling all over itself to fund artists who embrace technology with no standard idea of what that means. Others feel that it is a huge corporate takeover of our private lives laying waste to democratic principles. Some think it’s bull&%$t and only used by people who talk about what they had for lunch. And one guy told me websites are just billboards. A younger generation has grown up with it and can’t imagine a world without it.

This kind of divisive thinking is leading to a serious lack of critical observation and discussion on new media’s wider impact. The best example of a talk given by a high profile artist regarding what new media is and can be was a clip on youtube by the actor Kevin Spacey, referring to working with Netflix instead of a television network whose standard procedure isn’t taking handheld devices into account. He said that what people want and need are stories (or in terms of any other artistic medium good content), how they get them isn’t the point.

I know it will sound old fashioned but I think that making good art, writing well and creating something unique and authentic will always reign regardless of the software or digital platforms it is executed through. But then I guess I’m a bit like Walter White, I do it all for me.*

Picture from Business Insider.

*again, I really have no true understanding of that quote and if I misrepresent Breaking Bad I am sorry. The show’s legions of slavish fans scare me hence the disclaimer.

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