The Language of New Media

A few reflections on Lev Manovich’s The Language of New Media.

Page 272: “From the 1980s concept of cyberspace to 1990s software such as Netscape Navigator, interacting with computerized data and media has been consistently framed in spatial terms.”
^Spatial terms, yes, but only in two dimensions. Is this a way to narrow the focus of my study–restrict myself to only 3D spaces? Might follow an argument that goes something like:

These spaces (Navigator, etc.) are not like those developed in cyberpunk; they are like manuscripts or television. The only really interesting virtual spaces are the ones that follow cyberpunk notions, largely built to utilize the third dimension.

I think that Manovich is right to look to cinema in order to describe the aesthetic of most “new media.” Most people interact with and experience their computer data in a way that is similar to how we generally experience film and TV–as a flat space that is generally linear: tabs and windows are more like channels. We don’t move though our desktops in three dimensions, or in the first person (unless we consider ourselves to be small arrows, or pointing hands); we’re largely removed from those virtual spaces. A cross between TV and print? scrolling is like using a scroll. We don’t really turn pages on the Web but flip between discrete channels.

Is this the fault of the desktop metaphor (and the attendant files, folders, etc.)? Why doesn’t Manovich talk about these metaphors? They are the simplest examples of the “language” of new media. And, disappointingly, they don’t look anything like cyberpunk. More like an accountant’s desk.


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