New Media and Experience

I first encountered Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think” in a library context, where the focus was on the ways libraries can connect information to each other. Our discussions focused on the memex device, as a preconception of what Wikipedia would become. Hyperlinks upon hyperlinks would allow humans to travel from information to more information, expanding the boundaries of human knowledge.

Now, having training in historical methodologies, I see Bush quite differently. I see his vision of the future heavily influenced by his present. Cameras, though the size of a walnut, require material for photographs. The memex device still relies on some sort of physical writing implement. What would Bush think of Google glasses and iPads?

One aspect of “New Media” that I find difficult is differentiating between medium and experience. Different media offer different experience; books, radio, and television may offer the same information, though their delivery alerts different human senses. Digital media are a different animal altogether. It does not provide information through any different media than books (words), radio (audio), photography (images) or television (moving images). It does, however, provide a different experience, a new way to connect pieces of information. Digital media form an interface through which humans manipulate information to create new knowledge. They are, in many ways, the core for a library of human experience.

About j.d.grunert

Historian, Science and Technology Studier, Librarian, Academish
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One Response to New Media and Experience

  1. A. Nelson says:

    yes! Love the last sentence especially. I agree that digital media are different animals — ones that transform text, image, moving image, sound etc. in ways that amplify their impact and extend their resonance.

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