There Are No Old Media: Rethinking the Representation of Technological Change in Public Debates from Amazon to the BBC
Simone Natale [Loughborough University]
Public debates about the impact of digital and online technologies on the media industry often share a common interpretational framework: that what is at play is essentially an encounter between old and new media. Reports about litigations between Amazon and book publishers, for instance, underline the tension between the “old” book industry, on the one side, and the “new” business of Amazon, based on online commerce and e-books, on the other. Similarly, the debate about the fate of the BBC is frequently depicted as a confrontation between the old world of television and the new world of Internet and new media.
This lecture aims to show the problematic character of this vision, and how it limits, rather than advancing, our understanding of technological change in the contemporary world. The talk argues that there is not such a thing as “old media”—or, to put it in more nuanced words, that we should refuse binary and progressive distinctions between old and new media in terms of artifacts, social use, and technology. Old and new media should instead be treated as relational concepts: not attributes characterizing media as such, but elements of how people perceive, imagine, and enter in relationship with them. Rhetoric, everyday experience, and emotions are key contexts where new ground can be found to redefine the concept of "old media."
Simone Natale is Lecturer in Communication and Media Studies at Loughborough University, UK. His research focuses on the relationships between media and the imagination, on digital media and culture, and on media archaeology. He is the author of a monograph, Supernatural Entertainments: Victorian Spiritualism and the Rise of Modern Media Culture (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2016) and of articles published in some of the leading journals of his field, including the Journal of Communication, New Media and Society, Communication Theory, and Media, Culture and Society.