Benjamin Peters explores the potential to rework and emphasize the history of new media by merging new media studies and media history literature together. He argues that new media needs to be understood as media with uncertain uses rather than emerging media. Much of today’s ‘new media’ is already developed and integrated into society which makes it a part of history that can be used and studied to bring in a sounder future. He also that new media’s history needs to be longer than its future.
Studying new media is an ever-changing experience that resides between the past and present. As different technology is developed, our use and interaction with existing and advanced technology evolves as well. Finding a stable way to define the term ‘new media’ can be a difficult symptom of the term itself, which is where the debate begins.
Peters bases an argument on the principle that historians that devote their careers to studying the past take a circuitous route to understanding the present. He also claims that the answers historians come to are “uncertain answers to any question…at best”. While evaluating the past may not be the best way to make sense of the present, it’s value in understanding where we may be in the future seems to be misunderstood.
The “misplaced technical emphasis” of the term provides opportunity for the term to become undervalued. Peters observes that the term currently belongs in business while historians are seemingly content with the hand-me-downs. The statement provides ample opportunity to reflect on other terms that have potentially ended up with mistaken associations. While it can’t be fully said if ‘new media’ belongs to historians or in business, the speculation of any term in the same predicament is what’s valuable.
New media historians have argued that ‘new’ cannot be solely associated with ‘digital’. While technology is currently evolving at an incredible pace, digital technology is bound to become ordinary and old.
The debacle over the meaning and associations of new media reminded me of a conversation I had in my American Lit class earlier in the week. We had discussed the influence of time and popular social issues on which works were studied and taught in American Lit classes. For example, literature from women and people of color weren’t always a focus. As time went on and societal values and perspectives changed, what was considered important enough to integrate into a college-level course changed as well. While the works that are associated with American literature has evolved over time, I’m sure that the scope and definition of new media will continue to evolve and be debated as well.