Bolter, Jay David.
"Theory and Practice of New Media Studies." Eds. Gunnar Liestøl,, Andrew Morrison and Terje Rasmussen. Digital Media Revisited: Theoretical and Conceptual Innovations in Digital Domains. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004. 15-34.
Bolter considers the place of "new media studies" in the humanities
with specific attention to the existing theoretical terrain and the divide
between theory and practice. He explains the limitations of early
"formal media" theory (Ong and McLuhan) with its ties to
poststructuralism (Derrida and De Man) and also looks at ideological
critique as a theoretical orientation common in the humanities. The
long standing tension between theory and practice isn’t easily resolved, but new
media studies mixes them in an encouraging complementarity. New media studies
has found solid footing in the most practice-oriented fields because people in
those disciplines were some of the earliest to experiment with emerging
technologies. It’s not clear, however, that new media studies (and its affront
to the print paradigm) will warm to conservative views toward online
publishing of scholarship and the appropriateness of such publications
venues for tenure. Bolter ends by calling for refashioning a "new
media critic" whose methodology is "a hybrid, a fusion of the critical
stance of cultural theory with the constructive attitude of the visual
Key Terms: postindustrial engineering (17), formal media theory (18),
technological determinism (18), hypertext critics (18), broadcast model (22),
rhetoric of resistance (25), shift from consumption to production (27), new
media critic (30).
"The poststructuralists were media theorists who confined themselves
mainly to verbal media" (18).
"This linking of hypertext to poststructuralist theory, however, did
not have the impact on the critical community that some had anticipated. It did
not lead to widespread engagement with or acceptance of hypertext in humanities
"The dominant critical strategies in the humanities today are the many
varieties of postmodernism, feminism, and cultural studies, all of which reject
the formalist tendencies of poststructuralism" (21).
"When cultural studies critics now approach digital media they
often assume that these new media must follow the same pattern [as mass media]
of hegemonic production and resistant reception" (22).
"Computer technology has improved the status of teachers of writing
and rhetoric, who were in fact among the first faculty members in the humanities
to embrace the new technology" (26).
"The success of teachers in defining new forms of writing suggests that
cultural theorists may have been premature in lumping electronic media together
with mass, audiovisual media such as television and film" (26).
"Popular mass media forms have therefore been suspect on two counts: as
promoters of both capitalist ideology and visual representation" (27).
"Will they be willing to redefine scholarship to include the multilinear
structures of hypertext or (what may be even more radical) the multiplicity of
representational modes afforded by digital multimedia?" (29).
- Related sources:
- Jay, Martin. Downcast Eyes. Berkeley: U Cal Press, 1993.
- Noble, David. "Digital Diploma Mills. Part 1: The Automation of Higher
Education." October (Fall 1998): 107-117.
- Noble, David. "Digital Diploma Mills. Part 2: The Coming Battle over
Online Instruction." October (Fall 1998): 118-129.