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"Attack of the EMAC" is Kevin Sharpe's class blog for EMAC 6300: Introduction to the Study of Emerging Media and Communications at the University of Texas, Dallas. He is an educational marketing manager and runs the Newspaper in Education program at The Dallas Morning News.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Modern Media vs. New Media in a Post-Industrial Age

The impact of Industrial Revolution principles on Modern Media is explored by Lev Manovich in his 2001 book, The Language of New Media. Manovich illustrates how Modern Media “follows the logic of the factory” that was first developed in the nineteenth century when a new organization of production – the factory system – replaced artisan labor. He then contends that as New Media emerges, industrial standardation is reverting back to customization that was common prior to the launch of the Industrial Revolution.

Artisan Laborers versus Factory Workers

The advent of the assembly line introduced two key concepts of industrialization: First, the standardization of parts; and two, a breakdown of the production process based on simple repetition and sequential activities.

Artisans who possessed a holistic vision and ownership of a product were replaced by assembly line workers who could be easily replaced since they were not required to master an entire process in order to produce.

Manovich explains how Modern Media – particularly movie, television and animation production studios – remediated industrial concepts. He then states, “New Media… follows a quite different logic of post-industrial society – that of industrial customization rather than mass standardization.”

Customization versus Standardization

His vision of New Media evolved into a post-industrial culture where artisan labor returns and replaces factory workers and assembly line production. However; as far as production is concerned – some significant “standardization” – rather than “customization” has emerged. As a matter of fact, this standardization of New Media production elements actually emboldens the return of holistic artisian workers who are replacing simplistic factory workers.

The emergence of standard production tools such as hardware (laptops versus netbooks versus smart phones), software (Microsoft Office versus Google Docs) and applications (WordPress versus Blogger) – as well as platforms (YouTube versus Flickr, Facebook versus Twitter) -- are now universal. These competitive brands and devices share standard interfaces in order to make the user experience intuitive and familiar.

Workers in an industrial environment –like Modern Media – are expected to be specialists. To succeed in New Media, these artisan laborers must be generalists familiar with multiple processes, phases and tools. For example, traditional print journalists from Modern Media transitioning into the world of New Media must be able to conceptualize and produce the visual elements – as well as the verbal. They become their own typesetters and press operators – let alone editors, graphic designers and camera operators – who can independently upload text and images plus digitally publish, market and promote their packages.

Consumers versus Producers

The “mass” transition from Modern Media to New Media would not be as dynamic if it were not for the standardization of New Media applications – from interfaces to coding language and user tools. As the standardization of digital platforms and tools become main-stream, the individual customization that Manovich declares is common in the New Media culture will be based on “how” and “when” consumers will “access” and “experience” New Media. The same holds true for “how” and “when” producers will “develop” and “launch” their packages.


  1. Great post, earlier this week I was trying to figure out why these writings mention Marx so much. I didn't really see this connection of his concept of alienation when reading Manovich, but your blog makes it much more evident now.

  2. Nice post! I agree that with Manovich that this new media is reverting us back to a more customizeable experience, mainly because it's easier to do so. With factories it was easier to just make the same product a million times because the product could ship out faster that way. Now, with computers and the internet, you can make some thing unique to each consumer in the same amount of time.