New media has become more or less synonymous with the digital. However, the path of this course is based on the straightforward, if neglected, observation that old media once were new. Therefore, this course focuses on moments of media transition, when old technologies encounter new ones. Some questions which animate this course include: How is the concept of “new” imagined and represented? How do older forms and expressions accommodate or respond to the threat of the new? What new aesthetics are opened up by innovation in media technology? How is the “shock of the new” managed by the promoters of innovation? How are “wild” media “tamed” and domesticated?
For the purposes of this course, we can understand history as the relationship between the present and the past. In this sense, we can only access the past through the mediation of historical records – which require interpretation, analysis, and narration; in short, historiography. Much of what we will read are historical accounts, not primary sources (the historical record). Therefore, we will also be engaged in the question of how to write new media history. What methods are available? What are the metrics against which accuracy, precision, and fidelity to the historical record can be measured? Even more fundamentally, what counts as “evidence” for the writing of history?