chapter  8
New media histories
Pages 24

A history of new media will have to include a number of different strands of the historical development of art and media, their technologies, institutions and cultural forms. Initially such a history will involve something of the development of computing, electronics, robotics, optics, telecommunications, broadcasting, theatre, art, photography, film, literature, music and popular cultural pastimes. Such a list is daunting since it threatens to involve a history of every cultural means of expression and communication. The overriding reason why new media needs such a multi-layered history is because of the hybrid nature of both the technologies and cultural practices gathered under the umbrella title. There is not as yet a single technological apparatus that lines up with a developed cultural form; rather, the practices of new media currently use a combination of different media in both digital and analogue forms across a range of cultural forms. Equally there is no single, or unified, idea of what new media is, what knowledge and experience it deals with or the contexts in which it is applied. At present any history of new media will have to account for all of the diverse developments that are constituted as new media. A new media history is better understood as a provisional and relational process because, while a unified and linear history can provide compelling stories of technological advancement, it also reduces and narrows our conceptual understanding of the current possibilities and purposes of new mediums. Linear histories typically construct a chronological sequence of selectively significant events in order to argue that the present outcomes and configurations of technology and their uses are the logical and essential outcome of that history. An important cautionary point to remember is that any history, including this outline, is authored by individuals and groups working out of subjects, institutions, theories and perspectives, which will organise what is thought to be valuable to include, or stress. One should expect any new media history to be able to claim an authority that is based in, and reflective of, acknowledged and specific scholarship or practices. We have noted in the introduction how accounts of new media are cast and shaped within other disciplines and practices, which is only to be expected and should not be dismissed, since there is no absolute position of objectivity in operation here. Any new media history will, by definition, be an initial one, given the recent emergence of new media practice, but it will also have roots in other disciplines and

then, better thought of in the plural as historical strands.