IMAGES Journal for Visual Studies

projects: Visual Culture and New Media

New Media, Old Culture Forms

By Klaudio Štefančić

In the course of the nineteen-nineties, the term "new media" took hold for a group of activities related to the application of new digital technologies. In the field of visual arts, the "new media" primarily covered the artistic use of digital technological inventions such as the personal computer, the Internet, the CD-ROM, the World Wide Web, etc. Owing to different discursive practices (art, art criticism, media theory, sociology, etc.), the new technologies were interpreted primarily as media, which in all areas of their application emphasized their communicational, mediating aspect. From the very beginning of the new media activities, this symbolically equated the artistic and the critical practices: the discourse was no longer (only) the framework of the event, its secondary interpretation, subsequent reflection, but the very event itself. With the rise of the new media, the traditional privilege of modernistic art — the right of precedence in the representation of new social phenomena — thus became a certain general cultural good, a place in which different social institutions, more or less distant from the world of art, participated with equal importance (A. Danto).

The new media, among other things, may also be interpreted as cultural form, not in the sense of Manovich's extension of the (artistic) text through culture, of the distinctive characteristics of the new language through new social and production relations, but rather in the sense of culture itself, of a particular form of culture as "text". I will illustrate this interpretation of the first decade of the art of new media through two cultural forms: the art festival and the printed magazine. As the research methodology will largely be based on the theory of cultural studies, i.e., on the model of cultural roundabout (R. Johnson), two examples of these cultural forms have been chosen: the art festival Media Scape and the weekly magazine Arkzin.

"Initiated as an international meeting in the framework of which the impact of the new media on art in the wider sense is presented", Media Scape was established in 1991 in Zagreb, where by 1998 six events took place, before it moved its activities to Novigrad. The festival was based on a model which in the course of several days included one or more exhibitions or presentations and a conference devoted to a selected topic from the field of the theory of media art. As a fanzine of the Anti-war Campaign, Arkzin was founded in the same year, but the significance of this cultural form started to grow in the mid-nineteen nineties, when the systematic promotion of the art and culture of the new media was started. We will thus approach both Media Scape and Arkzin as texts, with an emphasis on the fact that in addition to being a reader in text, he is always also a reader in society. Being a reader, however, is not only the privilege of the researcher. Thus, this study will, among other things, aim to interpret the ways in which Media Scape and Arkzin "read", or rather present the new media. On the backside of this interpretation, it is then possible to define the position of these representations in relation to not only the governing representations of the Croatian post-socialist society, but also in relation to the representations of the new media in other, primarily neighbouring, countries (Slovenia, Italy, Serbia, Hungary, etc.).

Thus, we will investigate whether in the first decade of the new media much "more" than art was "at stake", whether, in addition to new art media and genres, also new cultural forms appeared, whose far-reaching implications it is impossible to assess outside the context of local society on the one hand and the global one on the other.

Research Summaries

Marina Kožul / Mirna Belina
Animation Techniques as a New Medium

Mirela Ramljak Purgar
Digital Photography as a New Medium

Tomislav Medak / Nenad Romić
The Political Right and Tactical Media

Ivica Mitrović
Design and New Media - the Croatian Context

Katarina Peović Vuković
New Media Genres and Their Reception

Klaudio Štefančić
New Media, Old Culture Forms