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Digital Material

Digital Material: Tracing New Media in Everyday Life and Technology

Marianne van den Boomen
Sybille Lammes
Ann-Sophie Lehmann
Joost Raessens
Mirko Tobias Schäfer
Series: MediaMatters
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Digital Material
    Book Description:

    Three decades of societal and cultural alignment of new media have yielded a host of innovations, trials, and problems, accompanied by versatile popular and academic discourse. New Media Studies crystallized internationally into an established academic discipline, and this begs the question: where do we stand now? Which new questions are emerging now that new media are being taken for granted, and which riddles are still unsolved? Is contemporary digital culture indeed all about 'you', the participating user, or do we still not really understand the digital machinery and how this constitutes us as 'you'? The contributors to the present book, all employed in teaching and researching new media and digital culture, assembled their 'digital material' into an anthology, covering issues ranging from desktop metaphors to Web 2.0 ecosystems, from touch screens to blogging and e-learning, from role-playing games and cybergothic music to wireless dreams. Together the contributions provide a showcase of current research in the field, from what may be called a 'digital-materialist' perspective. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0666-8
    Subjects: Film Studies, Sociology, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Introduction: From the virtual to matters of fact and concern
    (pp. 7-18)

    The 1982 Time magazine’s ‘Man of the Year’ election was a special one. For the first time in the history of this traditional annual event, a non-human was celebrated: the computer was declared ‘Machine of the Year 1982’. The cover displayed a table with a personal computer on it, and a man sitting passively next to it and looking rather puzzled. On the 2006 Time’s election cover once again a computer was shown, now basically a screen reflecting the ‘Person of the Year’: ‘YOU. Yes, you. You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world.’

    Within 24 years the computer...

  4. Processor

    • Serious games from an apparatus perspective
      (pp. 21-34)
      Joost Raessens

      According to the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, concepts are meaningless unless they are helpful to the understanding and solution of significant contemporary problems (Deleuze and Parnet 1996).¹ In line with Deleuze, I will introduce the concept of the ‘gaming apparatus’ as a heuristic tool for the study of the political-ideological coloring of so-called serious games. These games have ‘an explicit and carefully thought-out educational purpose and are not intended to be played primarily for amusement’ (Michael and Chen 2006, 21). Such a tool is important because, to date, much of the debate on serious games has merely been framed in...

    • Empower yourself, defend freedom! Playing games during times of war
      (pp. 35-48)
      David B. Nieborg

      The January 2008 edition of the popular Dutch game magazinePower Unlimitedfeatured a two-page advertisement by the Koninklijke Landmacht (Royal Dutch Army). The full color advertisement on pages two and three carried the tagline: ‘Fine leadership comes naturally.’ The left page shows soldiers pointing at a map and discussing strategy, the right page packed a lot of reading. Interestingly, the ad shows no weaponry at all and is, compared to the showy marketing material for war games, quite considerate. The underlying recruiting motive here is professionalism – accepting a ranking job in the Royal Dutch Army primarily asks for...

    • Formatted spaces of participation: Interactive television and the changing relationship between production and consumption
      (pp. 49-64)
      Eggo Müller

      As has occurred before within the history of emerging media, the advent of digital media and the World Wide Web generated two opposing discourses on the social and cultural effects of the new media: one utopian and one dystopian. The more prevalent utopian discourse proclaims the revolutionary transformation of mass media into a truly democratic mediascape: one in which old and new media converge; where users do not merely consume pre-fabricated media content passively, but themselves become interactive producers and distributors of media content; and a location where creative ideas and knowledge are mutually shared online by ordinary people: ‘[T]he...

    • Digital objects in e-learning environments: The case of WebCT
      (pp. 65-78)
      Erna Kotkamp

      Higher education in the 21st century is challenged by changes, many of them instigated by the promising potential of new technologies in teaching, especially the Internet and web-based tools. These web-based tools are often clustered in so-called e-learning environments, or Learning Management Systems, that aim to support and even improve learning. In these environments different components and tools like bulletin boards and online syllabi are put together into one application, usually set up so that these tools can be used in separate courses. Well-known and heavily used environments in higher education are WebCT, Blackboard, Moodle, FirstClass, N@tschool and Claroline. In...

  5. Memory

    • The vanishing points of mobile communication
      (pp. 81-94)
      Imar de Vries

      At the beginning of the 21st century, mobile communication devices are virtually ubiquitous. The attraction of their ability to potentially connect anywhere, anytime, to anyone or anything in the informational network, combined with an ongoing emphasis of the individual as the nexus of communication and entertainment, has sculptured the apparatuses into vital cultural artefacts. Their pervasiveness has rendered them ordinary and, in a sense, invisible; they seamlessly blend into almost every social activity imaginable. As such, they represent the strangest breed of new media we have come to study in the past ten years: instead of being subject to initial...

    • The work of art in the age of digital recombination
      (pp. 95-106)
      Jos de Mul

      Artists, from the prehistoric painters who engraved and painted figures on cave walls to new media artists whose work depends on computer technologies, have always used media. Media, used here in the broad sense as ‘means for presenting information’¹, are not innocent instruments. Ever since Kant’s Copernican revolution, we know that experience is constituted and structured by the forms of sensibility and the categories of human understanding, and after the so-called linguistic and mediatic turns in philosophy, it is generally assumed that media play a crucial role in the configuration of the human mind and experience. Media are interfaces that...

    • The design of world citizenship: A historical comparison between world exhibitions and the web
      (pp. 107-120)
      Berteke Waaldijk

      In this article I propose to compare the web, and especially Web 2.0, with world exhibitions organised in the second half of the 19th century.¹ Such a historical and intermedia comparison may raise new questions that analyse processes of inclusion and exclusion and the role of the medium in these processes, especially regarding the way in which political and commercial aims are purposefully combined in both instances.

      The Internet and world exhibitions both provide assemblages of information, entertainment, commerce, social cohesion and possibilities for political participation. At the world exhibitions, political objectives (popularisation of imperialism, educating inhabitants into national citizens),...

    • ‘And machine created music’: Cybergothic music and the phantom voices of the technological uncanny
      (pp. 121-132)
      Isabella van Elferen

      As many of the chapters in this book show, technology and culture cannot be separated from one another in early 21st-century daily life. New media technologies shape the way we perceive and interact with the world around us: since they guide our perception and have acquired their own agency, they are also actors in the networked structure of our day-to-day activities. Digital music is an interesting example of these two aspects of technological mediation: not only do we hear this music through the digital media of keyboards, samplers and MIDI – and we might download it in mp3 format via...

  6. Network

    • Moving beyond the artefact: Lessons from participatory culture
      (pp. 135-146)
      William Uricchio

      I can’t seem to shake adéjà vufeeling when considering the current moment of media change as if, knowing what I do now, I was present during cinema’s first decade. How, I often wonder, did that new medium’s contemporaries fail to preserve films, key texts, and audience experiences? But when I consider the lax and, with a few notable exceptions, unsystematic efforts that are being made to preserve our latest ‘new’ media, it should come as no surprise. In the pages that follow, I will speak as a cultural historian who makes extensive use of archives and has an...

    • Participation inside? User activities between design and appropriation
      (pp. 147-158)
      Mirko Tobias Schäfer

      In the summer of 1999, a little cat awakened the monolithic music industry that was sleeping its way into the digital age. The cat wore headphones and was the logo of a small application calledNapstercrawling over the Internet. Millions of people used the application to search for music files and download them on their computer. Developed by a 19-year-old university student, the Napster software did nothing more than index music files stored on a user’s computer and share this information with other users in the network.

      Napster changed the logic for the distribution of digitized artefacts for good...

    • Challenging the magic circle: How online role-playing games are negotiated by everyday life
      (pp. 159-172)
      Marinka Copier

      In massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) such asWorld of Warcraft(WoW, Blizzard Entertainment 2004), large numbers of players come together in a complex online environment not only to defeat monsters and each other in return for virtual gold and armour, but also to turn their avatars into colourful characters by roleplaying them. The above is an excerpt of my auto-ethnographic account of the gnome warrior and photographer Speckles Snapwiggle, one of the characters I played during my two-year participatory ethnographic study of role play in WoW (Copier 2007).

      According to the game studies concept of the ‘magic circle’,...

    • Renaissance now! The gamers’ perspective
      (pp. 173-184)
      Douglas Rushkoff

      The frightening news is that we are living in a story. The reassuring part is that it is a story we are writing ourselves. Alas, though, most of us do not even know it – or are afraid to accept it. Never before did we have so much access to the tools of storytelling – yet few of us are willing to participate in their creation.¹ Gamers might be today’s most likely candidates to helm what I hope will be a renaissance in our relationship to stories as well as the reality they mean to describe and influence.

      We are...

  7. Screen

    • What you get is what you see: Digital images and the claim on the real
      (pp. 187-198)
      Frank Kessler

      In 1898 Boleslas Matuszewski, a photographer and former court cinematographer of Tsar Nikolas II, published a booklet in France entitledUne nouvelle source de l’histoirein which he pleads for the creation of a repository for actuality films so that they can serve as historical documents for future generations. Animated photography, he argues, is unrivalled in its capacity to faithfully record historical events and thus should be collected and stored in an official archive. Matuszewski claims that cinematographic images in particular can resist attempts to manipulate them and thus are the most valuable witnesses of the past:

      Perhaps the cinematograph...

    • The pervasive interface: Tracing the magic circle
      (pp. 199-208)
      Eva Nieuwdorp

      Imagine you and your colleagues are invited to participate in a game to enhance team-building. You are divided into teams, each of which receives a lunchbox containing a city map, a digital camera and a web-enabled mobile phone. You are then sent out into the street, to wait for instructions. The mobile phone signals that you have received a message. On the screen it reads: ‘Sometime today you will be approached by the Speaker. The Speaker could be anyone, anywhere… all we know is that the Speaker will say something to you. It could be anything, and you’ll only know...

    • Grasping the screen: Towards a conceptualization of touch, mobility and multiplicity
      (pp. 209-222)
      Nanna Verhoeff

      In 2004 Nintendo released the DS. With this new handheld console Nintendo updated and expanded the commercially successful Gameboy (1989) and its successors, the Game Boy Color (1998) and the Game Boy Advance (2001). The DS is marketed as a revolutionary console, because it allegedly offers radically new possibilities for game play. The new ‘specs’ or technological features of the DS are, indeed, various: voice-control options, WiFi connectivity, touch-screen technology, and last but not least, multiple screens.

      I chose this handheld game console as the object for my inquiry into the status of the mobile screen to answer historical as...

    • Terra incognita: Computer games, cartography and spatial stories
      (pp. 223-236)
      Sybille Lammes

      In this chapter I will examine computer games in which both mapping and spatial progress are important organizing principles. Games such asAge of Empires(1997-2005),Rise of Nations(2003), andCivilization(1991-2005) invite the player to go on an imaginary expedition, where traveling through landscapes creates a story. During this process maps and landscapes are mutable instead of fixed, changing appearances according to where the player travels and what is being altered in environments (e.g. mining, founding trading posts or towns, expanding borders). Right through this explorative journey, the player develops a spatial story with herself or himself as...

  8. Keyboard

    • Conceptualizing forums and blogs as public sphere
      (pp. 239-252)
      Thomas Poell

      On the morning of 2 November 2004, immediately after the assassination of the controversial Dutch film director Theo van Gogh by the young Dutch Moroccan Mohammed B., large numbers of people rushed to the Internet to share their grief, anger, insights, and opinions. OnFOK!forum!, one of the largest web forums in the Netherlands, every minute several posts appeared. Most of them said little more than: ‘Goddammit!!!’, ‘jesus!!!!!!!!!!!!!’, ‘No! Fucking hell!’, and ‘let’s hope he’s still alive’. Later during the day, when the news spread that the assassin was Moroccan, the posts became more reflexive, but also more aggressive. For...

    • Interfacing by material metaphors: How your mailbox may fool you
      (pp. 253-266)
      Marianne van den Boomen

      Operating a computer is quite easy nowadays. We all click our way through ourdesktops; wesend mail; we savedocumentsinfolders. We barely realize how these actions are framed by metaphors. Our first association with ‘cleaning a desktop’ has probably more to do with deleting unused icons and files on our PC than with polishing our material desk. We have no problem with the dominant office metaphors, even when they blend with metaphors from other settings, such as home, menu, or window.

      Operating these metaphors usually goes smoothly. But, as we all know, sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes...

    • Hidden practice: Artists’ working spaces, tools, and materials in the digital domain
      (pp. 267-282)
      Ann-Sophie Lehmann

      The construction of digital artworks demands a wide range of expertise. Conception, production and technology are closely intertwined; existing technologies have to be adapted to new artistic concepts, and new technologies inspire and create new meanings and contexts. In order to realise a work of art – be it an installation in a gallery or museum, or an online work – an artist has to be engineer, programmer, graphic designer, and hardware constructor all at once or has to have access to others who are able to shape technologies and materials as required. In the case of Daniel Rozin’sWooden...

  9. About the authors
    (pp. 283-284)
  10. Index
    (pp. 285-303)