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What is New Media?

The Berkeley Center for New Media (BCNM) is a focal point for research and teaching about new media, led by a highly trans-disciplinary community of 120 affiliated faculty, advisors, and scholars, from 35 UC Berkeley departments, including Architecture, Philosophy, Film & Media, History of Art, Performance Studies, and Music; the Schools of Engineering, Information, Journalism, and Law; and the Berkeley Art Museum. BCNM is located at a global center for design and information technology and based in a public research university known for alternative thinking.

Our mission is to critically analyze and help shape developments in new media from cross-disciplinary and global perspectives that emphasize humanities and the public interest.

All media (Latin for “middle elements”) facilitate transformation: by definition, media are transformative. From the stone tablet to the printing press to the internet, media have become increasingly reconfigurable. The value of a medium is often related to its capacity for reconfiguration. To claim a medium as “new” is to posit a meaningful improvement over prior media. Thus new media are highly reconfigurable and doubly transformative: they achieve a transformation of prior modes of transformation.

While new media often produce new perceptions, new behaviors, and new insights, they remain deeply rooted in powerful aesthetic, cultural, and political forces. As media transform, they often distort. Sophocles observed that “nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.” BCNM actively engages scholars who critically examine the opportunities and risks associated with new media and who consider how new media can constructively benefit education, political engagement, privacy, and aesthetic experience.

BCNM catalyzes research, educates future leaders, and facilitates public discourse through courses, lectures, symposia, and special events. BCNM has established cross-disciplinary faculty positions and a special program for masters’ and Ph.D. students. The BCNM supports academic modes of scholarship while encouraging unorthodox artworks, designs, and experiments. By reaching out to students, researchers, industry figures, and the broader public, BCNM stimulates new perspectives on contemporary new media.


Greg Niemeyer, Director

Lara Markstein, Program Officer

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