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Media, ethics, and journalism. What works. What doesn't.

Jeffrey Dvorkin

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Old Vs New Media Values

My first lecture in Media Studies at the University of Toronto is in a little more than a week, and I am thinking of how to compare the values of so-called old, or legacy media with the new media landscape that emerges and morphs into yet another iteration on a daily basis. Remember those old films we were shown in junior high? We hoped it was a prelude to sex ed, but instead it was only about cell structure, cell division, miosis and mitosis (don't ask me to remember what they mean...I just remember the words).

New media reminds me of those films: amoebas floating in a Petri dish and suddenly deciding to divide into new forms that more or less resembled the previous generation, yet were entirely new.

What are those differences between the old and the new?

  • Old media is defined by scarcity.
  • Its production is defined by the tools.
  • Production only happens in buildings.
  • Expertise has value because it is limited.
  • Social relations inside the organizations are highly defined.
  • New media is defined by abundance.
  • New media is post-industrial and non-material.
  • Production is defined by the product.
  • Production is collaborative, not hierarchical.
  • Expertise is based in diversity.
  • Social relations are in constant flux.

Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937): "The old world is dying; the new world does not yet know how to be born. In between, some curious deformations occur."


  1. Funny, I awakened this morning thinking about this subject too. In my case, though, I was trying to reconcile this dilemma:

    Old media practicioners are afraid -- that they don't understand and can't adapt to new media, and that new media journalists have no standards or rules and therefore aren't "journalists at all."

    New media practicioners are unafraid because they don't know what they don't know, and don't aspire to emulate old media journalists.

    And, by the way, new media doesn't use the term "new media" anymore. Legacy media doesn't use the term "old media" or "legacy media." No wonder we can't talk to each other!!!



  2. That's it in a nutgraph Jim. Thanks. Hope all is well.

  3. Jeff,
    By your own definition, your lecture will be "old media". It may be a challenge to engage young students in the process, when they prefer a more collaborative, diverse, less hierarchical approach to learning. What if your first lecture consisted of asking them to tell you what they think you, as an old media practitioner, need to know about the new media?
    I'm not being merely provocative...
    Warm regards,
    - David Schatzky

  4. Funny, but your comment about a prelude to sex ed speaks volumes
    The expectation followed by the reality.

    I live in both the old AND new media worlds... I enjoy both but for vastly different reasons.

    As I magazine publisher, I constantly try to shatter the boundaries between myself and my readership. It's working well, but it's not for everyone.