What is New Media?

by Vikram

The exact definition of New Media can be had from a variety of sources including the encyclopedia which says the definition is constantly changing and will always continue to do so. Here I will try to explain what New Media is, what is the need of it and what does it mean at the National Institute of Design, India. Of course these are all my interpretations except where stated explicitly.

What is New Media?

“New Media may be defined as an innovative media that generates experiences using all the possible divergent media, expertise and emerging technologies.”
– Dr Vinod Vidwans, National Institute of Design

The phrase New Media has recently come into much use in common vocabulary and is being used interchangeably to describe – multimedia, digital art, modern art, computer graphics or simply graphic design using computers and much more. While talking about New Media, people usually fail to make a distinction between New Media art and New Media design. This is further complicated due to romantically enmeshed nature of art and design. While art tends towards inquiry/interpretation/expression of its creator(s) design tends to have a more external purpose. Design is meant to serve a specific purpose – usually to alter an arrangement into a desired or more favorable one in a given context.

New media art, to put it simplistically, can be described as an art being practiced in non-traditional mediums; some times with a completely new grammar. Traditional mediums like painting, cinema, audio etc., have remained dominant for such a long time that we, like our senses, tend to believe that there are only this many. But with the coming of Internet age there has been a significant increase in the number of mediums for and artist or a designer to work in. People who take advantage of new emerging technologies and tools are what we know as New Media artists or designers. New Media people take advantage of these new tool and canvases, often mix them with the traditional ones or simply come up with new and unlikely application of the same in the course of their trade. Thus, New Media is firmly rooted in technology and novel expression and experience. It is a field, a medium, an interpretation, an art form, all at once.

Need for New Media designers
Technology is changing our world at a brisk rate. A multi-layered and multi-dimensional change is happening in all spheres of our society. This rate of change is overwhelming. In this “Brownian motion” type of change, new possibilities and opportunities are emerging and disappearing rapidly. While there will always be gifted people who would come up with great new ideas and visions. We need people, it is whose job, to keep a track of these changes, suggest new ideas and at the same time help make sense of it all. This is where New Media designers come in. It is the job of New Media designers to be on the edge of art, science, technology, etc., and keep a vigil at what’s happening and what else can be done. A new media designer seeks to amalgamate and/or augment these changes and makes sense out of them. Some times this can result in an invention, an innovation, a fresh look at a phenomenon, etc. A New Media designer is trained to transcend different walks of life, blend with it and come out with new insights and ideas. A New Media designer can plug into any field and make a useful contribution. S/he is not bogged down by the unfamiliar and is trained to take on “ill-defined” and amorphous problems. New Media designers have this “parasitic” tendency to absorb from several specialists (say scientists, grandmamma, accountants) and come up with an idea that builds a whole that is bigger then its parts.

New Media at National Institute of Design, India
NID is a unique institution with design excellence, depths of intellect and time-tested pedagogical processes. Established in 1961 with the help of famed design couple – Ray and Charles Eames (India Report), it has done pioneering work in creating design awareness and establishing design standards in India. The roots of NID are based in the Bauhaus and Ulm schools of design and even today that legacy is found in NID’s unique teaching methodology. Over the past four decades, NID has gained international recognition as one of the foremost institutions in the field of design. It has received several national and international awards.

The New Media programme was started in 2001 with the aim of producing creative thinkers who would posses broad-based technical and design skills, ability to communicate, work as a team and with strong problem solving skills. The programme addresses student’s immediate occupational needs with the flexibility to adapt to rapidly changing industry trends. Learning by doing is the motto of New Media programme and students are given ample amount of freedom to develop their own niche and pursue their convictions.

The course structure is subtly arranged to guide students, coming from various disciplines, from the basics of design to core subjects and further down the isle of professional competency. The most important courses taught during the duration of the programme are/were – Design cognition, System Thinking, Storytelling, Multi-sensory design, Design Research, Cognitive psychology, User studies, Information design, Instructional design, Interaction design, Cognitive ergonomics, etc.

For more detailed and official information on the course please download the following two documents.

What is New Media?

New Media course flowchart 2004
My Definition of New Media

You make a futuristic chair that’s furniture design.
You develop a new game based on smell – that’s game design.
You lead a campaign about drug abuse – tha’s social work.
You design an exhibition space – that’s expedition design.

No matter what you do some one can always claim it’s not yours. For me new media is a state of mind and they can’t take that away from me.

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