Course description New Media Theories

Course: New Media Theories
Instructor: Jan Simons
Period: Semester 1
Course catalogue: New Media Theories

New media theories generally try do one of two things: either they try to formulate the possibilities and purposes of new media, or they try to formulate the positive and negative effects of new media. Very often theories of already existing media serve as a guide or search light (“remediation” is a good example), and these can be illuminating as well as obscuring the functions, uses, and practices of new media. Students will learn to critically investigate the provenance of the claims of new media theories, as well as to confront the claims made by new media theorists with the practices and uses of new media.

New media are gradually leaving the desktop and laptop computers and have started to pervade our everyday urban environments. Cyberspace is no longer a parallel world separate from material reality and physical space, but both virtual reality and physical reality are becoming intimately intertwined. CCTV camera’s are everywhere, RFID tags make it possible to track the movements of goods, children, and pets, your mobile phone or your car navigation device keep track of the whereabouts of their owners, “urban screens” that display dynamic and customizable information are popping up everywhere, buildings and sites are being tagged with information that can be retrieved with mobile phones, PDA’s or other portable networked devices.. According to some, “locative media” will be the next “big thing” in the development of new media. However, since locative media are also embedded in global communication networks, the very term “local” seems to have lost its self-evidence and innocence. Locative media also resuscitate older artistic and political movements like the International Situationists of Guy Deborde, or the American group EAT (Experiments in Art and Technology) of Billy Klüver and Robert Rauschenberg. So the question arises: locative media may be new, but are our ways of thinking, speaking and writing about them also? Where do the discourses that currently surround locative media actually come from, and do they help us to better understand these new media or do they rather obscure important aspects of these?