April 9th, 2009

New Media, Old Patriarchy

I've been reading a lot of material from the 1960s, when the concept of "new media" was a big deal in some circles. For the most part, the novelty being discerned had less to do with any specific medium -- most of them were decades old already -- than with the relationship between different media. In a sense, the concept itself was the primary innovation, because it made it easier to imagine projects that combined film, video, tape recording etc. Greater involvement on the part of students or consumers was the goal for a good number of these projects, undertaken on the assumption that interactivity and/or psychological investment was likely to be enhanced by the use of what Marshall McLuhan called "mixed media." The future imagined to one day follow from these efforts often looks a good deal like the present we inhabit. But the cultural attitudes in speculative thinking of this sort were often deeply conservative, as if the shock of the new had to be offset by the comfort of the familiar, even when that comfort derived from reactionary convictions:
These days, even conservative supporters of "family values" might find it galling to make some of the assumptions manifested in this clip. The scene where the husband sits at his machine monitoring his wife's spending, displeasure radiating from his body language, is particularly egregious.