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Real Time

"How to Speak New Media," interview by Daniel Palmer.
Real Time, Issue 44, August-September, 2001, p25.


Daniel Palmer: What are the advantages of a formal analysis of media, as against, say, empirical studies or philosophical speculation?

Lev Manovich: New media artists, designers as well as museums and critics need terms to talk about new media work. We can talk about a painting using such terms as “composition,” “flatness,” “color scheme’ etc.; and we can talk about a film using such terms as “plot,” ‘cinematography,” “editing,” “camera movements.” With new media, the discourse so far focuses on two extremes: either purely industrial terms such as “Flash animation” or “JPEG image” or “VRML scene” (which all describe software used and don’t tell you much about the work’s poetics and the user’s experience of it), or rather abstract theoretical terms which were all created during the previous historical period (between 1968 and 1989, i.e. between student revolution of 1968 and the Fall of Berlin Wall and the end Soviet Communism) such as “rhizome,” “panopticum,” “simulation.” I would like to help develop a vocabulary, which will fill the gap in between these two extremes.

The focus on my work is on trying to come up with new terms, which can be used to talk about the works – both their formal construction and also the interaction between the work and the user. So, to be more precise, my analysis is not strictly formal as it also concerns with what literary theory has called “reader’s response.” In other words, I am also interested to have terms to talk about user’s experience of new media.

2001  Interview