Introduction to new media


Definitions, History
The New Media Industry
Uses of the Internet
Internet Restrictions
Future Implications
Things to do


You will be able to:

  • understand the basic historical development of the computer 
  • realize the importance and impact of computer technology and the Internet 
  • have a basic understanding of what the New Media Industry does 
  • realize the some of the possible future implications of technology 

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." 
                          --Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943-- 

"I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year." 
                          --The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957--

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." 
                          --Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977-- 

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."
                          --Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949--

When you hear the term new media, you automatically think of digital media - and the computer. Things like multimedia, CD ROM, DVD, the internet, electronic games, and special effects all relate to the computer.  Modern computers as we know them have only been around for a few decades, but man has used various forms of computers (such as the counting abacuss) for thousands of years. 

Compare this to your computer!  In the 1940's, a computer development spurred by the war was the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer or ENIAC. Consisting of 18,000 vacuum tubes, 70,000 resistors and 5 million soldered joints, the computer was such a massive piece of machinery that consumed 160 kilowatts of electrical power, and weighed over 3 tons!

Visit the PBS Online companion Web site for the PBS television special "Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires", hosted by Robert X. Cringely.  On the Internet (and TV), you can learn in vivid detail how youthful amateurs, hippies and self-proclaimed "nerds" accidentally changed the world. 

"Nerds" are not a recent phenomenon. It took many years and many nerds to get where we are today. Check out a brief timeline outlining the history of the personal computer and the people that shaped it. 

Computer technology has highly impacted the way we work, play, learn, shop and communicate. In this lesson, we will take a closer look at the Internet - the most significant computer development in relationship to mass media. 

The World Wide Web has impacted television and radio demographics, as people turn to the Internet more and more to get their news, information and entertainment. To illustrate the world-wide popularity of the Internet, check-out the Internet useage surveys at Network Wizards.

We can apply much of what we have learned about mass media to the Internet and the computer, as it can combine and present a variety of text, images, animation, sounds and video together in a multimedia format. This ability gives a whole new twist to conventional print, electrical and mass media.  Thanks to technology such as RealAudio, RealVideo and other codecs, there are over 2,000 radio and television sites on the Internet using streaming media technology. 
Visit the Real site and check-out some radio, television and video sites! Well over 60 million people use this media streaming product. You should already have the RealPlayer plugin installed on your computer.  If you don't, it is downloadable from the site as well. 

How would you compare what you have just seen and heard with conventional television and radio?  Think ahead 10 years into the future and and make a few notes on where you imagine the development of this type of technology will be.

  • education - e-learning, research and information gathering, sharing of ideas, resources 
  • information retrieval - news, weather, sports, personal interest 
  • entertainment - games, movies, music, reading, chatting 
  • finance - banking, investments, bill payments 
  • shopping - e-commerce, comparison shopping, mail order 
  • communication - email, chat lines, special interest groups and communities 
With this new technology, new media production skills are required to produce and provide the content in all of these areas.  Make a few notes about what you personally use the Internet for.

"Laws control the lesser man.  Right conduct controls the greater." 
                                --Chinese Proverb, Lao-Tzu (600 B.C.)--

The Internet has narrowed communication barriers between people from different countries around the world as they share information and ideas.  Some governments' that control traditional media content are finding control relating to the Internet much more difficult to implement. 

Some of the present restrictions on Internet use around the world include: 

  • China: requires users and ISPs to register with the police 
  • Germany: cuts off access to some newsgroups carried on Compuserve 
  • Saudi Arabia: confines Internet access to universities and hospitals 
  • Singapore: requires political and religious content providers to register with the state 
  • New Zealand: classifies computer disks as "publications" that can be censored and seized 
  • United Arab Emirates: limits access to certain sites through proxy 
--source: Human Rights Watch--


Many colleges and universities around the world are introducing a variety of New Media Programs to train people in this exciting new industry.  Multimedia producers, graphic arts designers, video producers, audio engineers, computer technicians and content experts can all find employment in new media. 

Check-out the links below.  Make notes on what new media production companies do, and what skills are being taught by some educational institutions for the multimedia  industry. 
The Bell Centre for Creative Communications in Toronto, Canada offers eight full-time programs and extensive part-time night school and weekend courses in new media. It houses a technology resource centre containing the world's largest single educational installation of Silicon Graphics workstations and one of Canada's most advanced ATM fibre optic network architectures.
Vicom Multimedia Inc. provides a full range of media production services focused on technology-enabled training and communications.  Products and services include: digital imaging, video, pre-press and multimedia. Delivery methods include: video-tape, CD-ROM, DVD, the Internet/intranet, broadcast and print. 

ôRapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man -- the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society, much as we have already extended our senses and our nerves by the various media." 
                             --Marshall McLuhan (Understanding Media, 1964)--
In the television series Star Trek the Next Generation, the Borg is a race of aliens that have assimilated themselves into one collective mind through technology.  They do not know compassion, and destroy entire worlds assimilating and controlling beings with their hi-tech transplants. 

This television drama illustrates our fears about the improper use of technology, which has been a recurring theme throughout history.  A multitude of books, films and other programs have been produced over the years warning us about the future use of technology. 

Courtesy Paramount Pictures

"We are the Borg... resistance is futile... we will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own" QT
"6 years ago they assimilated into their Collective... every trace of individuality erased. I was one of them" QT

Can you think of a technology today that is connecting more and more people together than ever before in our history?  Think about the future implications of this technology, and make a few notes on how it may adversely affect our world. 

Things to do:
  • be sure that you have read the articles and visited all of the sites indicated above. 
  • answer the questions in the self-quiz. 
  • summarize the notes you have taken and post them in the com-section under the appropriate section for this module. 

Michael Shaw, 1997