What is TV? What is New Media?

It’s getting harder to be a policy wonk in the cultural, entertainment and creative industries these days, and the difficulty is about words and definitions. I guess I’m not alone. Mathew Ingram poses a question: What exactly do we mean by TV?

Ingram and his copy editor had to have a conversation about words. Writers and editors in the newspaper biz have been establishing the common currency of language for a long time in our culture, so I took note of their conversation.

“What’s Internet television?� she said. “Is it on TV?� Well, no. “Then what makes it television?� Good question, I said. That’s kind of the point, in fact. So we agreed to call it Internet video — but I think it’s more than that. It’s short-form, episodic, character and plot driven narrative. How is that not television? But it’s not on TV.

I share Ingram’s frustration, Now try defining New Media usefully for research and analysis purposes, a continual source of hair-pulling frustration in the cultural policy world and in work sitting on my desk right now. Are we really in a bifurcated reality between people who “get it” and those that don’t? Without a common language, how are we supposed to have the conversations we need to have during a period of rapid change in media, industry, culture and society?

Is internet video a form of “new media”, or is it “television”? What is new media? Is something delivered on the internet automatically “new media” and something on a closed proprietary network automatically “old media”? Is new media always interactive, while television is a passive linear experience? And what about user-generated media? Is it new just because I put it on YouTube instead of passing it around a videotape?

I’m seeking a useful and generally accepted taxonomy of media and their related industries that is relevant today. To start, which perspective is the most relevant: that of a user, the industry or the general public? Are these separate but equally useful analytical lenses?

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7 thoughts on “What is TV? What is New Media?”

  1. Please do not make attempts to define new media. Amibiguity is our smokescreen!

    To be serious, I would say new media is best defined by:

    1. New means and methods of content distribution.
    2. Non-traditional productions (aka ‘user generated’ and/or ‘hegemonically apolitical’).
    2. Instant return path.

  2. Matt, can you expand on what you mean by “hegemonically apolitical”. Also, by “instant return path”, I assume you mean either the fact of technical possibility of interactivity.

  3. this is good and way relevant site because it asks the mostcutting questions.

    i;m in ‘content creation [or] production’, a phrase very much in question.

    here’s another? is is ironic

  4. Interesting post. I have thought the same thing about newspapers. When is a newspaper no longer a newspaper? Newspaper websites have video and audio. Is the NY Times a newspaper just because it comes on newsprint? More and more people get their news online anyway. So should we start weaning ourselves off a newspaper construct? Perhaps not yet. After all I still have to use a sink after thumbing through a paper to get the ink off!

  5. That is indeed an interesting question.

    Perhaps we can tackle the answer by changing the viewpoint to that of the impact of television.

    In particular, is TV a technology? Or a social mechanism, sharing values and communal identity? Or is it a means of propagating memes, that we freely use to construct our collective, yet individualized identities?

    And if it’s all of the above, what changes when that mechanism for disseminating, embedding and imbuing culture, shared concepts and ideas becomes de-centralized, and “tweakable”?

    Does anything change? What happens to the memes – do they become richer?

    Do we ourselves become richer through more personalization? Or, more diluted, perhaps?

    With TV 2.0, some means of aggregation of the collective impressions, consumption, and co-creation of the medium are likely to elevate it from a unidirectional source to… something different.

    In complex systems theory, small individual inputs can lead to large variations in the global system.

    When traditional “viewers” become co-creators – at first through free meta-data generation and aggregation, and then perhaps more broadly – the very nature of the medium is bound to change.

  6. I think Goran’s got an interesting hook here. In the case of YouTube, *some* viewers are also creators. In *some* cases, particular pieces of content are co-created with the viewers, as the audience might contribute funds, ideas or feedback to the creators of the content.

    In aggregate and when looked at a higher level, the content on YouTube can be seen as a joint project between many creators and many viewers. This is fundamentally different from Television production, which is produced by a few and consumed by many.

    All this argues that YouTube is not Television. What about Joost?

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