A note from the editorMe•di•a
noun: media; plural noun: media; noun: the media
- The main means of mass communication (broadcasting, publishing, and the Internet) regarded collectively.
- An intermediate layer in the wall of a blood vessel or lymphatic vessel.
- Late 19th century: shortening of modern Latin tunica (or membrana ) media ‘middle sheath (or layer)’.
As I reflect on what New Media means to me and what it has meant in the past few decades for this journal specifically, I keep returning to the meaning of its name. “Media” as a means of communication, as an intermediate space, as a necessary layer for either protection, evasion, or somehow the creation of truth; the last definition my own, and exemplified by the contributors in this issue. Each work explores, creates, and disassembles the many faces we wear, the secrets we keep, and the places we put each as we navigate our interactions and emotions with others, and with ourselves.
To me, electronic literature offers at its best the self-aware criticism of experience mediated through technology and the admission that sometimes technology is the only way we can express such experiences. The work is often choreographed chaos, full of images, words, sound, and movement that opens into a (more) understandable whole, which is similar to the way we take in and experience the world. Each work in this issue offers a multi-layered consideration of how we exist with others, with technology, and with what’s underneath our own masks.
Alan Sondheim’s “Beside Themself” is a short video set in the unwritten space of a digital plane. It is a world not yet made, or as yet unmade, and to my viewing explores the preemptory motions of action. It echoes an about-to-happen through its repetition and halting movements. The text running across the screen reminds one of thoughts running around and around in their head, the sort of mental planning done before a confrontation or a confession. The hesitancy in the shapes, the blurring of possible bodies and possible conversation, the monotonous urgency of the voiceover all coalesce into an unsettlement of what it means to get or say something “right.”
Alan Bigelow’s “How to Rob a Bank” could be considered the world made and making that eludes us in Sondheim’s work, but it also offers a purely mediated experience of that world. This selection includes parts 1-3, Research, Escape, and Romance, respectively, which details the lives of Ted and Elizabeth through their online presence. What the reader knows of each character is found only through their social media posturing and intimate digital interactions. We witness in virtual time their bank robbing, their date nights, even how they deal with hostages through their Google searches. The comedy of their reliance on the internet also comes with a tinge of pity though, for as a reader I’m left to wonder who they could have been if they weren’t experiencing their own lives through the lens of their devices.
Mez Breeze’s “The Thing Tableau” can operate as an automated video, as a click-through narrative, and as a virtual reality experience. Each provides a different layer of immersion, which is fitting for a work focused on the immersion and inescapability of the self. This piece is short and to the point on first viewing, but the detail and texture of the body-as-world will grab the imagination and keep a reader plumbing its, or their own, depths. The reader can view a 360° whole as well as every nook and gap of its parts. The piece encourages this exploration as it demands a certain level of vulnerability on the part of the reader; the reader has to fill in the blanks with their own experience, and each new discovery of place can enact a new discovery in the reader. I found myself questioning my own memory and what I still held on to as I moved through the spaces. I would recommend viewing this well before sleep to avoid any late-night introspection.
Will Luers’ “Tales of Automation” is a collection of vignettes that explore the effects of digital automation on embodied experience. They are never-ending, and often mimic the constant scrolling and rabbit holes of feed-based sites. “Tale 6” is different from other tales in that it makes the reader stay in one place and the text shift, rather than the reader following and falling down a page. The reader can choose to pause or scramble the text at their leisure. What they cannot do is recapture what they have left behind. Each re-entry to the tale brings a new image and new story with text that reads at times like philosophy, like internal anxiety, like a romance novel, and sometimes like a mundane to-do list. The tale will always give the reader a story. It will also ask the reader to make their own sense of meaning.
What I find most enjoyable about this issue are the varied forms among the work and how each asks the reader to engage. No piece presents itself the same way, but the reader is wholly absorbed all the same. Each contributor has made their own definition of ‘new’ and through their work have expanded the possibilities of New Media—which, really, just brings us back to the meaning of its name. Please enjoy these works.
adjective: new; comparative adjective: newer; superlative adjective: newest
- Not existing before; made, introduced, or discovered recently or now for the first time.
- Already existing but seen, experienced, or acquired recently or now for the first time.
- Just beginning or beginning anew and regarded as better than what went before.