In the first chapter of “Life after New Media: Mediation as a Vital Process (2015),” Sarah Kember and Joanna Zyliska have drawn theoretical foundation and applied case study for understanding the old and new media and its dynamic processes of mediation. New media, which authors define as ‘a set of discrete objects to understanding media, old and new, in terms of the interlocked and dynamic processes of mediation’ (p. 1) have resulted a division of the world into categories, also called false divisions. Our limited dualism or binary or oppositional thinking such as analog vs. digital, readerly vs. writerly, mass vs. participatory, constructs ontological conceptualizations of them (p. 3). The authors then address the concept of ‘originary technicity,’ which proposes, “We have always been technical,” in other words, “we have always been mediated” (p.18). They argue that mediation is interconnected with ‘life’. Their study concludes that “mediation” is being-with and emerging-with the technological world.
The initial aspect of the term “new media” is ‘newness.’ However, authors highlight that the newness of the products and processes that get described as “new media” should not be taken at face value (p. 3) because their meaning is different. They express “newness” functions as a commercial imperative (p. 4). For example, new products or services demand to upgrade computers, smartphones and any devices in order to exhibit the one’s advanced labour and social relations. However, authors point out two key terms illustrating “new media,” which are converging and interactive. It is aware that new media are categorized as more active consumption whereas old media such as newspaper, radio and books as passive consumption. However, according to the reading, authors have depicted one of the old media, book as a medium that isn’t different from new media: “… a philosophical plane of immanence or a fictional world of novel has always required an active participation and contribution from the reader, not to mention the efforts of all those who have been involved in their editing, design, production and distribution. Arguably, books are thus as hypertextual, immersive and interactive as any computerized media (p. 4)”. Therefore, it is significant that old media is already interactive and converged and thus there is no borderline between new and old media. Although Gary Hall, the author of Digitize This Book!, demonstrates old media, including book is inherently instable and becomes obfuscated since it is difficult to find interactivity between authors and readers and more leaning toward to creativeness and collaboration of “new media”, this point of view enhances the binary concept, resulted in linear, cause-and-effect way thinking, which is the major problem of making false division. Thus, its binary and an cause-and-effect thinking about media and the process of mediation must be eliminated.
The authors then bring the concept of ‘originary technicity’ by illustrating the history of Greeks by Stiegler. This history uncovers that human is a technological being: human being that has the power to create but also relies on external elements to fully realize his being (p. 16). He states, “orignary technicity can therefore be understood as a condition of openness to what is not part the human, of having to dependent on alterity – be it in the form of gods, other humans, fire or utensils – to fully constitute and actualize one’s being” (p.17-18). This statement underlines that technology was and still is part of us (human) and we have always been technical or mediated. According to Bergson, mediation can be seen as another term for “life,” for being-in and emerging-with world (p. 22). The authors believe that the possibility of the emergence of forms always new or potentiality to generate unprecedented connections and unexpected events (p. 24).
This reading has changed the way I think of new media and the process of mediation. As a student in the field of Communication, the concept of digital media is understood as more structuralized and more technologically advanced version of old media, ensuring there is a significant transition from old to new media. However, throughout the study of philosophical literatures in this reading, it is significant that digital media is a part of a long historical trajectory. Stieger’s study of the Greeks is one of the examples reveals that human has an instinct power, which endures and reaches for what is not in human, from creating tools to making fire. Therefore, it is true that human himself is a tekhne, or technology for achievement.
Overall, it is impossible to speak about media without indicating the process of mediation. The limited dualism and false divisions of old and new media have been problematic in understanding the actual meaning of media. Given the philosophical works, it is significant that media need to be observed as particular tekhne, which enables the “temporary “fixings” of technological and other forms of becoming (p. 21)”. The authors remark, “by saying the logic of technology (as well as use, investment and so on) underpins and shapes mediation, we are trying to emphasize the forces at work in the emergence of media and ongoing processes of mediation” (p. 21). As mentioned in the introduction, the term “mediation” means ‘being-with’ and ‘emerging-with’ the technological world. The lifeness, or vitality of media indicates that human and media are strongly interrelated. More specifically, media in terms of the process of mediation has been already associated with the world. Thus, we should not make a cause-and-effect way thinking or linear thinking when understanding the media.
Kember, S., & Zylinska, J. (2015). Mediation and the Vitality of Media. In Life after New Media:Mediation as a Vital Process. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 1-28.