After spending the first five chapters of The Language of New Media alluding to cinema’s place in the digital landscape Lev Manovich uses chapter six to define how exactly cinema technology integrates with the tenets of new media. Manovich deconstructs cinema into the relatable concept of “images”: images are possibly the backbone of new media as they incorporate so many facets of current digital media. A discrete language, modular layers, the existence of compression and an anchor to linked content. As with the last chapter and the ubiquity of digital databases, Manovich hit upon a reality in plain sight but hidden by overuse:
Any unique image that you desire probably already exists on the internet or on some database. As I have already noted, the problem today is no longer how to create the right image, but how to find an already existing one.
I’ve spent more time than I care to admit searching for the “perfect” image instead of using tools already at my disposal to create exactly what I need. I imagine this is due to a couple of reasons: it’s theoretically easier to enter search terms into Google and I am too critical of my own work and would get too wrapped up in the creation of the image.
Images created for any purpose have one goal in mind: to tell a story. Whether it’s a motion picture, snapshot or portrait the image exists to say “This is what is happening right now through this camera lens.” Of course with digital manipulation and compositing the camera lens is extended to the point of view of the screen, but the idea remains the same. Even when dealing with fantastical ideas that do not exist without image manipulation the image still bends to the narrative, stating “This is what is happening right now through this camera lens, even though it doesn’t really exist in the natural world.” Cinema and new media makes this possible.
The Language of New Media was a challenging read at times but the underlying message became much clearer after finishing chapter six. Digital technology has evolved to become a single machine comprised of many components creating an all-in-one tool for work and play. It’s difficult to imagine where media will go next but there was also a time when tiny had-held computers that everyone carried with them seemed like a pipe dream.