New Media: industry or ideas?

Mike Leggett

Terry Flew
New Media. An Introduction
Oxford University Press, 2003
ISBN: 0195508599

Terry Flew manages to reinvent the much derided term, ‘new media’, in his recent work, New Media. An Introduction, propelling the reader into the maelstrom of manifestations, evidence and issues that are the contemporary technology of things computer-mediated (CMT), or related to information and communications technology (ICT). If RealTime readers have associated ‘new media’ with the ‘hybrid arts’, then New Media. An Introduction provides a flue for disavowal. As Flew gives little, if any, acknowledgement of the ‘unstructured’ research performed over the last decade, new media then is what business, government and tertiary education have invented from scratch.

Flew’s survey of literature and websites, with expert discussion, explores and analyzes the impact of recent digital technologies on society. Presented from an Australian perspective, it addresses structural issues in an OECD if not international context, cyberspace and real politik. The scope is far broader than an industry study, combining the informational and analytical needs of education, government and ‘the general reader.’

Chapter design and a consistent presentational style in each of the 9 sections combine overview with detail. Once the reader grows familiar with this series of files, highly compressed in content, created out of the convergence (or collision) of established academic empirical disciplines (whether social and political history/science, economics, philosophy, cultural studies, etc), then the density of the text becomes ‘weightless.’ It becomes the point from which to conduct further investigation using suggested websites or the large bibliography of some 200 other titles on the subject.

This will be an invaluable reader for undergraduates and postgraduates contemplating a future with the ‘creative industries’ (like new media, a term full of redundant meaning but timely arrival). British Prime Minister, Tony Blair is curiously foregrounded here, credited with establishing the term, but it’s not acknowledged that Blair’s many meetings with Paul Keating (whose Creative Nation policy document of 1994 surprised everyone with its scope) played a significant role in the invention of New Labor and its success at the British polls in 1997.

If ‘creative industries’ are the postmodern version of the arts and industry of the last century (extending the realm of ‘the creative’ beyond cultural industries to acknowledge ‘the creative act’ as an essential component of other fields of entrepreneurship, for example, commercial sound design and CD production in music studies), will there be sufficient resources for the unstructured production of ideas and critical spaces afforded by exchanges based on the less tangible and the ineffable?

Dr Terry Flew is a Senior Lecturer in Media and Communication at the Queensland University of Technology and largely responsible for establishing the world’s first Creative Industries Faculty.

RealTime issue #54 April-May 2003 pg. 11

© Mike Leggett; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 April 2003