Manovich and the New Media Course

To get started with linking Manovich’s text back to the New Media course, I am going to define the term multimedia against the idea of media hybridityFor Manovich, there is a distinction between multimedia and media hybridity (though he admits they overlap): “In multimedia documents and interactive applications, content types in multiple media appear next to each other. In a web page, images and video appear next to text; a blog post may similarly show text, followed by images and more text; a 3D world may contain a flat screen object used to display video” (Kindle Locations 3012-3014) versus “In contrast, in media hybrids, interfaces, techniques, and ultimately the most fundamental assumptions of different media forms and traditions, are brought together resulting in new media gestalts. That is, they merge together to offer a coherent new experience different from experiencing all the elements separately” (Kindle Locations 3015-3017).

“Media hybridity is a more fundamental reconfiguration of media universe than multimedia. In both cases we see a ‘coming together’ of multiple media types. However, multimedia does not threaten the autonomy of different media. They retain their own languages, i.e. ways of organizing media data and accessing and modifying this data”  (Kindle Locations 3054-3057).

To highlight these differences, Manovich uses the example of sexual reproduction as compared to “mechanical assemblages of parents’ physical parts (which would be analogous to multimedia)” (Kindle Location 3020).

A person's genome is a hybrid of two people's genomes, acting as an analogy for media hybrids. Image hosted on How Stuff Works.

A person’s genome is a hybrid of two people’s genomes, acting as an analogy for media hybrids. Image hosted on How Stuff Works.

Frankenstein will be our physical representation of "multimedia" as assemblages. Image hosted on the site PB Works.

Frankenstein’s monster will be our physical representation of “multimedia” as assemblages. Image hosted on the site PB Works.

As this seems to be my favorite example for this report, think of a blog. The software allows for different media (text, images, videos, audio files) to share the same space and function without interrupting one another, but these media are not combined to create a completely new experience as the blog is still innately a word processor (most of the functions for the blog software are centered on the production of a written text, with other media as supplemental). WordPress is a software aimed at multimedia, but other software becomes hybrid media, with Manovich’s main example being Google Earth where maps are mixed with text and images seamlessly so that it creates a new experience.

However, the software of both multimedia and hyrbid media is buried under users’ interactions with interfaces, especially those of us who have very little experience with the backend of sites and applications. Software may be what allows everything to run, but interfaces are what allow for that software to be used by people on a daily basis: “Perhaps the most important quality of interfaces is that they navigate boundaries between different objects and systems, and in the process not only enable networks to operate but also to extend into new terrain, and thereby grow…Even a cursory glance around public and private spaces reveals the range of interfaces that are today woven into our everyday lives, including the interfaces of mobile phones, laptops, personal digital assistants, MP3 players and so on” (Beer and Gane 54). The interface is an important aspect when dealing with Cultural Software as different interfaces are necessary for the different types of software as people interact with wikis, move through gamespaces, use mobile apps like Amazon Kindle, and creating and watching YouTube videos.

Mobile phones with their own interfaces. Image hosted on

Mobile phones with their own interfaces. Image hosted on the site for Athgo International.

Manovich’s work is heavily dominated by the idea of Kay’s universal media machine, focusing on simulation“Accordingly, Kay and Goldberg write: ‘In a very real sense, simulation is the central notion of the Dynabook.’ When we use computers to simulate some process in the real world— the behavior of a weather system, the processing of information in the brain, the deformation of a car in a crash—our concern is to correctly model the necessary features of this process or system. We want to be able to test how our model would behave in different conditions with different data, and the last thing we want to do is for computers to introduce some new properties into the model that we ourselves did not specify. In short, when we use computers as a general-purpose medium for simulation, we want this medium to be completely ‘transparent'” (Kindle Locations 1291-1296).


Brooke, Collin Gifford. Lingua Fracta: Towards a Rhetoric of New Media. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Pres, 2009. Print.

Gane, Nicholas and David Beer. New Media: The Key Concepts. Oxford, UK: Berg, 2008. Kindle.

Manovich, Lev. Software Takes Command. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. Kindle Edition.

Music to Add to the Day

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s