On pages 15-17 Manovich discusses the way "representation" appears in new media: both the term and the concept itself. The use of the term throughout The Language of New Media follows a fairly complex path: Manovich is aware of, and skillfully mobilizes, the differences in the idea of representation which occurred over time. He argues that new media are affecting the cultural definitions of representation in several notable ways detailed below. In every case, the idea of representation is made progressively more complex, as new technologies enable different kinds of representation, new contexts, and new purposes.

  • In some cases representation is opposed to simulation: some technologies which use a screen to frame a virtual world differ from those which seek immersion of the viewer. Representation offers a world for objective perusal; simulation offers a world for subjective participation.
  • Fictional representation is often opposed to control of the device or technology itself. In some cases these functions compete and even interfere with each other. In others they are mixed (for example, when a computer-based control is designed to look and act like its analogue in the "real world").
  • Representation is sometimes constructed to create an illusion, as in the case of fiction films or even military decoys and similar devices. But sometimes it's used to make a duplicate of reality for investigation or direct manipulation Manovich calls "teleaction."
  • In most cases forms of electronic communication, "everything that begins with tele-" (17), do not produce objects one might call representations, but enable real-time contact between individuals. "By foregrounding the importance of person-to-person telecommunication, and telecultural forms in general that do not produce any objects, new media force us to reconsider the traditional equation between culture and objects" (17). (Manovich doesn't consider that some forms of electronic communication such as e-mail or MOO discussions, do produce objects as well as enable communication. Investigation of this particular mode of representation could begin from those forms.)
  • Finally, representation is often opposed to information. Will a new media object provide access to information or present a user experience of some kind as well? Manovich doesn't claim there is the possibility "pure information" or "just the content itself," but rather notes that some designers of new media objects portray design decisions in that manner.

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