The Enduring Ephemeral, or the Future Is a Memory

Critical Writing
Publication Type: 
Journal volume and issue: 
35.1 (Autumn 2008)
Record Status: 
Abstract (in English): 

New media, like the computer technology on which it relies, races simultaneously towards the future and the past, towards what we might call the bleeding edge of obsolescence. Indeed, rather than asking, What is new media? we might want to ask what seem to be the more important questions: what was new media? and what will it be? To some extent the phenomenon stems from the modifier new: to call something new is to ensure that it will one day be old. The slipperiness of new media—the difficulty of engaging it in the present—is also linked to the speed of its dissemination. Neither the aging nor the speed of the digital, however, explains how or why it has become the new or why the yesterday and tomorrow of new media are often the same thing. Consider concepts such as social networking (MUDS to Second Life), or hot YouTube videos that are already old and old email messages forever circulated and rediscovered as new. This constant repetition, tied to an inhumanly precise and unrelenting clock, points to a factor more important than speed—a nonsimultaneousness of the new, which I argue sustains new media as such.

(Source: Author's Introduction)

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Alvaro Seica