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The Language of New Media [Hardcover]

Lev Manovich
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 15 2001 Leonardo Books
In this book Lev Manovich offers the first systematic and rigorous theory of new media. He places new media within the histories of visual and media cultures of the last few centuries. He discusses new media's reliance on conventions of old media, such as the rectangular frame and mobile camera, and shows how new media works create the illusion of reality, address the viewer, and represent space. He also analyzes categories and forms unique to new media, such as interface and database.

Manovich uses concepts from film theory, art history, literary theory, and computer science and also develops new theoretical constructs, such as cultural interface, spatial montage, and cinegratography. The theory and history of cinema play a particularly important role in the book. Among other topics, Manovich discusses parallels between the histories of cinema and of new media, digital cinema, screen and montage in cinema and in new media, and historical ties between avant-garde film and new media.

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About the Author

Lev Manovich is Professor of Visual Arts, University of California, San Diego. His book The Language of New Media (MIT Press, 2001) has been hailed as "the most suggestive and broad ranging media history since Marshall McLuhan."

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New Languages of Communication and Relationship? Jan. 1 2003
Format:Paperback
According to the back cover introduction, "Lev Manovich offers the first systematic and rigorous theory of new media". He does this by describing the developing history of available media as a context for understanding the current digital electronics technology.
On the media of today he notes: "One general effect of the digital revolution is that the avant-garde aesthetic strategies came to be embedded in the command and interface metaphors of the computer software. The contemporary computer media are actually the past avant-garde materialized!"
As is perhaps clear from the book's title, "The Language of New Media" is primarily about the communication 'languages' that the various media make available through their existence. A language, in the sense that Mr. Manovich uses the term, is a collection of methods[in a media-tool/medium context] and their effect on that which may be communicated by a particular work. A wide range of examples, from published or exhibited creations, are cited to help describe the fruits of using a particular method/context that he details.
The strongest recurring theme in the book is how it deals with the history of cinematic language. Cinema is the media which brings under it's umbrella the greatest range of production methodology, so comes the closest to tying the whole text together into a coherent narrative. Otherwise, the book would tend to be more a kind of dictionary of available media methodologies/effects/attributes, each with their own implication towards constructing a sensual or conceptual experience.
Marshall Mcluhan's point, that "The medium is the message", may well serve as the best description of the contents of this book. For those seeking an analysis on the "meaning of the messages", that the media artists convey, it is probably best to seek additional books as a supplement to this one.
Was this review helpful to you?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended Sept. 29 2002
Format:Paperback
(Planeta.com Journal) -- About a century ago the early years of cinema witnessed the creation of veritable masterpieces. For more than a generation (1980s-1930s) filmmakers produced seminal works that defined the very language of the medium. So at the turn of this century, how do we recognize the equivalent works in "new media" -- computers, the web and other digital compositions? A scientist and theoretician, Lev Manovich guides the way in his exceptional book.
New media links content and interface, providing an unlimited number of ways of accessing a work. This is the norm of the digital age. Manovich argues "modern media is the new battlefield for the competition between database and narrative." (p. 234) But new media does not begin with the Web. In fact, there's no better place to begin than with the 1929 avant garde film classic, Dziga Vertov's "Man with a Movie Camera," which serves as a guide in an innovative prologue.
Later Manovich sums up the achievement of this classic film: "Vertov is able to achieve something that new media designers still have to learn -- how to merge database and narrative into a new form (p. 243).
The Language of New Media offers a rigorous theory of new media. The author discusses new media's reliance on traditions, such as the use of the rectangular frame. He also demonstrates how concepts from film theory and art history play a vital role in understanding where we stand today. This book is highly recommended.
Was this review helpful to you?
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Unfortunate Classic Feb. 15 2003
Format:Paperback
The language of the book is unneccessarilly opaque, and in it's attempts to tie the author's descriptive language with the language of current digital technology it is strained and often veers toward inaccuracy in desperation.
Ok, I said it. Sorry.
That said, the book offers a powerful theory of new media, and introduces a very useful vocabulary.
Bleah.
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0 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars My name is Lev and I'm clueless. Sept. 15 2002
Format:Paperback
In this fine work of literature, Mr. Manovich illustrates that he can talk a lot about computers, even though he doesn't know anything about them. He makes a plethora of fallacious statements, such as when he argues that all digital media must be discrete and contain only discrete objects, neglecting one can define a continuous geometry using discrete coefficients. If his statment were true, there'd be no way to draw a circle in Adobe Illustrator, but I know I've done that before! Read this book if you don't know what a computer is and won't mind misinformation presented to prove points that are stupid and worthless anyway.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
26 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New Languages of Communication and Relationship? Jan. 1 2003
By Nicholas Croft - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
According to the back cover introduction, "Lev Manovich offers the first systematic and rigorous theory of new media". He does this by describing the developing history of available media as a context for understanding the current digital electronics technology.
On the media of today he notes: "One general effect of the digital revolution is that the avant-garde aesthetic strategies came to be embedded in the command and interface metaphors of the computer software. The contemporary computer media are actually the past avant-garde materialized!"
As is perhaps clear from the book's title, "The Language of New Media" is primarily about the communication 'languages' that the various media make available through their existence. A language, in the sense that Mr. Manovich uses the term, is a collection of methods[in a media-tool/medium context] and their effect on that which may be communicated by a particular work. A wide range of examples, from published or exhibited creations, are cited to help describe the fruits of using a particular method/context that he details.
The strongest recurring theme in the book is how it deals with the history of cinematic language. Cinema is the media which brings under it's umbrella the greatest range of production methodology, so comes the closest to tying the whole text together into a coherent narrative. Otherwise, the book would tend to be more a kind of dictionary of available media methodologies/effects/attributes, each with their own implication towards constructing a sensual or conceptual experience.
Marshall Mcluhan's point, that "The medium is the message", may well serve as the best description of the contents of this book. For those seeking an analysis on the "meaning of the messages", that the media artists convey, it is probably best to seek additional books as a supplement to this one.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Foundational but incomplete Feb. 2 2013
By Koen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In this book Lev Manovich sets out a theory of new media, by drawing a parallel between its development and the development of early cinema. He sets out a `layered' protocol theory for new media with four layers: the influence of older forms (or cultural interfaces), the influence of media technology (or operations), aspirations of media makers (or illusions) and emerging genres (or forms). This is a comprehensive and rich account of new media and it is still relevant today despite the fact it was written more than ten years ago. It offers a way of looking to new media, that is valuable and it offers an interesting description of some new media.
The most important weakness of the book is that by comparing new media with cinema, much is left out. Manovich wrote his book before the social media revolution, so this is not covered and his understanding of the reference structure in interaction design seems to be limited. In fact new media seems to be so pluriform that his choice to describe "the" language of new media. In fact there seem to be many languages of new media, and Manovich succeeds in describing those who look at cinema most. Still, his account is a valuable starting point if you want to understand the many other languages of new media. So the book seems to deserve the paradigmatic status it has gained over the years.

This is a heavily condensed version of my original discussion of the book ([ ... ])
18 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended Sept. 29 2002
By Ron Mader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
(Planeta.com Journal) -- About a century ago the early years of cinema witnessed the creation of veritable masterpieces. For more than a generation (1980s-1930s) filmmakers produced seminal works that defined the very language of the medium. So at the turn of this century, how do we recognize the equivalent works in "new media" -- computers, the web and other digital compositions? A scientist and theoretician, Lev Manovich guides the way in his exceptional book.
New media links content and interface, providing an unlimited number of ways of accessing a work. This is the norm of the digital age. Manovich argues "modern media is the new battlefield for the competition between database and narrative." (p. 234) But new media does not begin with the Web. In fact, there's no better place to begin than with the 1929 avant garde film classic, Dziga Vertov's "Man with a Movie Camera," which serves as a guide in an innovative prologue.
Later Manovich sums up the achievement of this classic film: "Vertov is able to achieve something that new media designers still have to learn -- how to merge database and narrative into a new form (p. 243).
The Language of New Media offers a rigorous theory of new media. The author discusses new media's reliance on traditions, such as the use of the rectangular frame. He also demonstrates how concepts from film theory and art history play a vital role in understanding where we stand today. This book is highly recommended.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars provocative and smart Jan. 21 2008
By Serious Fun - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Manovich's treatment of computer-media expressive forms is intelligent and entirely worthy of serious engagement. At crucial points, however, he makes leaps and grand assertions without proper demonstration.

For example, he speaks of the database as an expressive form, and as the key computer-mediated form of our time. So, why not explain how in the world a database is expressive, or how it makes meaning? He says it is naturally opposed to narrative--they are "natural enemies"--but how precisely does database accomplish anything for anyone without narrative (or interpretation, which is closely related)? What is a database without narrative? I just don't see how he has shown what he asserts. At the same time, i think much of the virtue of this book is through its suggestions rather than its water-tight argumentation. That can make it a fertile reading experience, but frustrating all the same. Books like this one get people talking, even if they are wrong on a lot of points. We need people to be speculative and a bit "loose" like much of this book is, but one must be prepared to read it critically and with some caution.
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful concepts March 7 2013
By Bonotto, André - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book offers many useful concepts to serve as substract to analyse the new media, specially through comparing them to cinematographic and computer history.
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