New Media

New Media is a label that refers to primarily digital forms of communication that may serve mass-communications functions, such as interactive applications for the world-wide web, video blogs, streaming internet video and audio, and viral marketing via weblogs. Apart from the employment of the Internet, many forms of new media have reduced entry barriers and lower production costs. Furthermore, new media forms are shared among Internet users by means not available to traditional mass media there is no television-age equivalent to sending an email with a link to an online video clip. Consequently, participation in new media is open to a broader sector of society, and new forces are brought to bear on the forms and uses of new media. These changes have given rise to new genres of communication, such as the video weblog and the Internet animation, while demand for new media creates pressure for platforms promoting new consumption modes (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/) and even new industries. This dynamic environment provides many opportunities to examine evolving relationships among technologies, social processes and institutions.

Amateur Multimedia

Amateur Multimedia (AM) refers to multimedia forms that are created by amateurs rather than professionals. Amateur multimedia has existed for as long as there has been multimedia, but until relatively recently there have not always been the means to share it. However, with the rise of the World-Wide Web, users have developed many different methods of sharing multimedia artifacts, and this has led to changes in the production and consumption of multimedia.

One of the more widespread forms of AM is the Internet Flash video. These are generally anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes in length, and may make be on any topic. A few genre forms predominate, such as the music video and the video-game narrative. Use of interactive features (as in games) is less common than straightforward animated story-telling. Because Flash and similar authoring tools make it possible, many AM pieces use appropriated graphics, video footage or audio, typically to make some kind of commentary on traditional, commercial media forms.

Research I have conducted on AM looks especially at the evolution of new genre forms and the relation of genre emergence to the social milieu in which it originates.

Internet Memes

The so-called "Internet Meme" usually refers to a video or other multimedia object, or more abstractly, a feature or representation in several related videos or multimedia objects, which are shared on a large scale by Internet users. The typical pattern involves a sudden burst of people emailing, posting, or blogging either copies of or references to some multimedia object. Eventually, enough "buzz" may be created over the object that it is noticed by media watchers in mainstream media outlets and featured there. As time goes by, further objects may be created, making some kind of commentary on the original, and possibly re-starting the cycle of communications, or continuing the interest in the original object.

Internet memes pose both a small-world problem as well as an information flow problem. On the small-world side, there is the rapid explosion (and usually a quick fading) of interest in the meme object. It may also remain in the user network as an endemic "infection", which continually reaches new people at some consistent rate. On the information flow side, memes such as the Numa Numa Dance illustrate how AM plays a role in propagating information flows from unexpected sources — in this case from Romania and Japan — which then become permanent parts of the information environment in their destinations.

Internet memes are also media objects and their reception is conditioned by the media context in which they are received. For example, the Numa Numa dance originated on a website for AM Flash authors, but its main points of reference for most of its audience were American Idol and the Star Wars Kid. Hence, it was interpreted in that context, and its author was later coerced through all the media attention into making a "new numa" that fit more with the American Idol interpretation than with the intention of the original work. Similarly, the marketing campaign carried out in Boston and nine other cities for the Cartoon Network's Aqua Teen Hunger Force originally followed closely the form of the Graffiti Research Lab's LED Throwies public art project, which itself built on themes from Sony's Internet-fed viral marketing campaign for its Bravia line of monitors. In spite of these precedents, a different form of media sensation was created by city authorities around the unauthorized status of the devices, and their supposed resemblance to terrorist hoax devices.

My past research on Internet memes focuses primarily on the Numa Numa phenomenon and the social and media context in which that arose. I am currently interested in the phenomenon of viral marketing, and the questionable ethical framework it relies upon, as well as its continuing dialectic with tech-savvy movements for critique of commercial and public discourses, as represented by the Graffiti Research Lab.

Internet Video

The production and consumption of video on the Internet, both by commercial media producers and amateurs is changing the media environment, for reasons like those above. In past research, I have looked at classification of video on the Internet via tagging on social bookmarking services like http://del.icio.us/ . Currently, I am beginning a project to examine similar issues on YouTube, comparing the user-based classifications to the network of users on the service.

Blogging

Weblogs have emerged as an important new communicaiton form, with many interpersonal, political and mass-communication uses. All of my work on this area has been conducted in connection with BROG, the Blog Research on Genre project led by Susan Herring. Please see that site for more information.


Categories: NewMedia, Memes, Video, Blogging