New Media and Technology Key Concepts
Changing Times • The last 15 or so years has seen the massive expansion of digital technologies and broadband internet connections, both of which have drastically impacted upon the traditional models of media production, distribution, consumption and exchange. • It is important to understand how these changes have effected the relationship between the stages of production in general media production, how each stage has been altered in itself with regards the film industry and finally how it dominates your own media consumption.
Key Concepts • For most of you, what is deemed ‘New Media’ is not new at all. It is therefore always useful, when considering the following key terms, to consider how the media used to be before evaluating the way they are now. The key concepts/terms you need to understand are: • Digitisation • Democratisation • Proliferation • Convergence (cross-media and technological) • Interactivity
Digitisation Analogue into Binary...
Digitisation • Digitisation or digitalisation, is the process of converting analogue signals or tape into digital binary information, the type of which may then be used on computers or transmitted over the internet. Binary Information has numerous advantages over analogue: • Much less physical space occupied- This is useful especially in reducing distribution costs as if there is physical object, it doesn’t need to be transported. • Digital Data is Non-Linear: This means data can be accessed at any point with the same speed, regardless of the actual linearity of the finished media text: E.g. Track access, scene access on DVD’s/Blu Rays
Digitisation • Digital technology does not lose quality with repeated use. Tape media would often degrade slightly with every use and therefore could not relied upon for permanent storage • Digital Technology is easier to store and transmit with High-Speed Internet connections • Digital Technology can be interactive. • Digital media and equipment is cheaper! • Digital data is infinitely reproducible at minmal cost providing for highly efficient economies of scale
Democratisation Access to the stages of production afforded by cheaper digital technologies. Lowered barriers of entry
Democratisation • Democratisation is the situation in which cheaper digital technologies has allowed more people access to the stages of media production. What was once very expensive to do, like make a short film or produce an album, is now relatively affordable, and the Internet has created a platform on which all media can be distributed and consumed. Most crucially, however, is the fact that due to the reduced costs of production, the producer need not demonstrate much profit potential, therefore allowing for more daring, original and diverse output. If the product doesn’t need to prove it might make money, its producer has more freedom.
Democratisation • This phenomenon has resulted in many DIY artists entering the mainstream through virtue of something they have made themselves at home. This is particularly true in the music industry with a host of MySpace sensations having achieved success. • Democratisation has lowered the barriers of entry to the media
Proliferation The rapid expansion of media devices, platforms and outlets
Proliferation • Proliferation is the rapid growth or increase in numbers of the media devices, outlets and platforms. Ways of consuming the media, whether it be through portable devices, online or on TV to name but just a few, have increased massively over recent years. The devices on which the media can be consumed are now available at all times, encroaching on every available moment of our leisure time. Digital TV and Radio have a huge number of channels from which to choose, and with On Demand streaming of films, music, games and radio, the consumer can access media they do not own at any time. In other words, digital technologies have allowed media industries to make their products available everywhere and all the time, and are constantly devising new ways in which this process can be developed further.
Proliferation • Proliferation is a constant and incessant process, even in a media-saturated society. • Things to consider: • More ways to consume does not mean more media to consume. It has become a way for media industries to re-package older media texts for consumption. In most instances, the consumer now has more ways to consume the same amount of material they had before proliferation really took hold. • More ways to consume means more ways to advertise! • Distribution, still dominated by the cost of marketing and expensive distribution networks, has not become any more open for small producers, who therefore can not get their products into many of these new devices.
Convergence The coming together of several media devices into one device and several media into one experience.
Technological Convergence • Convergence is the coming together of several strands into one point. With regards the media there are two type: Technological and Cross-Media • Technological Convergence describes the process by which different media devices are coming together into on all-in-one device. Whereas there used to be one device for each media form, there are now sovereign providers: one device with which all media forms can be consumed. The Iphone is a portable example and the PS3 or Ipad are domestic ones. Media Institutions love the fact that there are fewer barriers to the consumption of their texts.
Cross-Media Convergence • The availability of the all-in-one device has only served to encourage the seeking out of synergistic opportunities by massive media conglomerates. • As we have already discussed, Media Conglomerates are vertically and horizontally integrated across many different strands at the levels of production, distribution and consumption. In order to streamline revenue streams, they therefore seek out production opportunities that will allow one media text to launch others, and thus encourage their sales. These are known as Synergies. The all-in-one device is the perfect conduit for such synergies to be consumed.
Cross-Media Convergence • A consumer can now watch the film, listen to the song and play the game on the same device; all media products devised around one focal point and from the same company. • A key factor to consider is how this affects the media itself. Many have argued that the proliferation of CGI in Blockbuster films for example, has made them more amenable to Video Game crossovers. Adaptations of previously successful source material like a comic book, the rights of which are owned by a conglomerate, allows for the recycling of the old material as a springboard for new synergistic opportunities.
Interactivity The ability for the consumer to play a part in the creation of a media text.
Interactivity • Interactivity is the ability for the consumer to play a part in the creation of a media text. Video Games do not play themselves. They do not exist unless a user interacts with them. The same can be said about Web 2.0 sites that are dependant upon user-generated content. Films, on the other hand, require no interactivity and will play themselves once started. Some Reality TV shows like the X Factor allow a form of Interactivity in the form of home user participation in terms of votes. The audience can now determine the shape and narrative of the media text, albeit within very controlled parameters. There have been experiments with online soaps in which web users determine the plot of the next episode every week.
Interactivity • Many argue that Interactivity allows for a more immersive and active media experience. The Red Button available to digital TV users for example, allows for more choice and options. Others condemn it as window-dressing, accuing it as a more sinister method by which to keep users hooked on the media.
Exercise • Think about your typical media consumption. How does it intersect with these Concepts? • List all the ways in which you might: • Watch a movie • Listen to a song or album • Watch a TV show • Play a Video Game • Are the options afforded by New Technologies improving your media Experience?