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Dan Harries, The New Media Book

The New Media Book, under the direction of Dan Harries, London: British Film Institute, 2002
The new media book. - Under the direction of Dan Harries. - London: British Film Institute, 2002. - 262 p. - Includes an index. - Includes a bibliography. - ISBN 0851709249.

This anthology brings together essays that represent a sampling of the contemporary approaches for studying new media and moving images.

The book is divided into five thematic sections. The first section, "Technologies," defines issues being raised by the recent communication supports, software and tools grouped together under the term "new media." With regard to the phenomenon of media convergence, Michele Hilmes reports on the development of cablevision technologies since the seventies in North America and Europe. Sean Cubitt focuses on the rhetoric surrounding the special effects seen in Hollywood action and sci-fi movies. Annie Friedberg comments on the phenomenon of obsolescence and substitution arising when new supports like CD-ROMs and DVDs are launched. Jeremy G. Butler takes stock of such Internet components as hypermedia and describes the status this new platform gives to the old media it encompasses.

The second section, "Production," tries to define the impact that new media have on the practices of cultural producers, both institutional and independent. John Cadwell outlines the production context and characteristics specific to the new media market after the end of the economic manna enjoyed by this sector. Drawing on the concept of intertextuality as a tool for analysis, P. David Marshall explores a change in the means of consumption of video games and Web sites that promote children's movies and that are often more commercially successful than the films themselves. Douglas Thomas challenges the notions of intellectual property and published content by addressing the phenomenon of virtual communities formed around the piracy of information on the Internet. Tom O'Regan and Ben Goldsmith analyze the impact of the large-scale marketing of tools (such as video editing software) that provide access to production methods once reserved for professional audiovisual settings.

The third section, "Texts," looks at the aesthetic dimensions of new media through analyses and case studies focused primarily on the evolution of film vocabulary in the digital age. Michael Allen discusses the specificity of the film space generated by special effects as well as the way these effects are incorporated into the aesthetic vocabulary and making of classic Hollywood films. Marsha Kinder attempts to bring together the concepts of game and narration, which are generally perceived as antinomies in filmmaking. She then applies a database model to the analysis of certain French films from the fifties and sixties in which the narrative framework constitutes one occurrence in a repertoire of possible narratives. Scott Bukatman examines the forms that on-line comics adopt. Peter Lunefeld develops a typology of the attempts made by artists to design interactive films that enable audiences to access several narrative levels and to alter the course of the narrative. He suggests that relaunching the film space is less about developing sophisticated equipment to present these works and more about refining the aesthetic strategies the works mobilize.

The contributions in the fourth section, "Consumption," spotlight the types of users (or viewers) of media texts. Henry Jenkins comments on the networks for exchanging information on the Internet within virtual communities of fans of products of popular culture (television series and stars). Dan Harries lists and describes the types of reading practices encouraged by the presentation of audiovisual content on-line. Tara McPherson critiques the presuppositions of a certain discourse on the mutability of the subject in computer networks, a discourse that, according to the author, too often reproduces mechanisms for eclipsing ethnic and sexual difference. Janet Wasko looks into issues raised by new means of marketing films.

Finally, the last section, "Contexts," includes texts that re-examine certain problems outlined in the previous sections and addresses the theoretical issues triggered by the possible convergence of media. Lev Manovich proposes a typology of the manifestations of digital technologies in cinema. At the same time, he identifies the survival of old media structures (vocabulary of film editing in its early days, real time of the surveillance camera) within new apparatuses (Webcam, databases of moving images). To relativize the premise of a linear history of media, William Uricchio uses television as an example of an initially complex medium that hasn't found contexts favourable to its development. Jan Simon deconstructs such notions as "new media" and "multimedia" now being applied to the phenomenon of digital cinema. William Boddy measures the political and economic impact that the recent appearance of digital television will have on the telecommunications market.

Vincent Bonin © 2003 FDL