The New Media Reader


This page collects the excerpts from The New Media Reader that are included on this website. Excerpts from the book are presented in PDF form (with the exception of the book's preface, which is in HTML). Excerpts from the CD are presented in HTML (including the CD preface). Of course, because these are only excerpts, many of the links in the CD material are no longer active. Inactive links are indicated in bold.

We have chosen these excerpts with an eye, in part, toward showing how the NMR book and CD complement each other. For example, we have included the famous "Dynabook" paper by Alan Kay and Adele Goldberg in our book excerpts, and also included video of Kay discussing the Dynabook in our CD excerpts.

The first book excerpts are the two NMR introductions, both from leaders in the new media field:

Inventing the Medium

Introduction, by Janet H. Murray [excerpt]

New Media from Borges to HTML

Introduction, by Lev Manovich [excerpt]

The book's chapters begin in 1941 with Jorge Luis Borges's short story "The Garden of Forking Paths," followed by the influential article "As We May Think" by scientist Vannevar Bush. Innovators in computer science, cybernetics, literature, art, and media studies follow these selctions. One author of three of the book's selections is Theodor H. Nelson. He gave us (among other things) the term "hypertext." He not only took on the perspectives of both a techie and a dreamer, he even wrote a two-sided book that could be flipped over and read either way:

21. From Computer Lib / Dream Machines

Theodor H. Nelson, 1970–1974

During the 1970s, the personal comptuer revolution that Nelson envisioned began to take shape. Many important innovations in the development of programs and the workings of interfaces were made at a Xerox PARC research group headed by Alan Kay, in the Dynabook project:

26. Personal Dynamic Media

Alan Kay and Adele Goldberg, 1977

The next wave of computing struck many observers as some sort of alien assault. The era of the video game came into full swing in the 1970s. While others were fretting about the way video games might influence America's youth, Sherry Turkle looked to them to consider, from a psychoanalysitical perspective, how people related to computers:

34. Video Games and Computer Holding Power (from The Second Self)

Sherry Turkle, 1984

A different perspective on the computer game came from Brenda Laurel, who provided a way to understand computer interaction in terms of Aristotelian drama. Her formal approach offered one of the first close readings of a popular new media object:

38. Two Selections by Brenda Laurel

The Six Elements and Causal Relations Among Them (from Computers as Theater), 1991
Star Raiders: Dramatic Interaction in a Small World, 1986

There was plenty of new media innovation going on outside video game companies, and even outside research labs, during the 1980s. One example is provided in the pioneering interactive video art of Lynn Hershman:

44. The Fantasy Beyond Control

Lynn Hershman, 1990

The book's selections end with the first major publication about the World Wide Web, in 1994. By the early 1990s, when popular access to the Web was imminent, new media had made substantial computational and creative advances. And, even before the Web took hold, some writers—such as Stuart Moulthrop—had the insight to discuss the nature of a worldwide hypertext network, pondering the issue in a way that remains worthwile today:

48. You Say You Want a Revolution? Hypertext and the Laws of Media

Stuart Moulthrop, 1991

Like the book, the CD is organized chronologically. Its first section includes documentation of projects from the 1960s. CD users can play the first modern videogame, interact with the first chatterbot, and watch video of the first demonstration of the mouse, word processing, hypertext, videoconferencing, and other innovations. In addition, video from a talk by Alan Kay is included; he discusses (and shows imagery of) three of the most important early new media interface projects:

Sketchpad, Grail, and the Dynabook, 1962–77

discussed by Alan Kay

In the 1970s new media began to move beyond the research lab. New media was even created during this time by many home enthusiasts and children—especially through a programming language which was also used for hit games and art projects:

Basic programs, 1973–91

by Gregory Yob and Judy Malloy

New media also began to be used for widely-distributed entertainments, including a form that became highly visible in the late 1970s—the video game. The CD includes emulated versions of a number of popular games, as well as documentation of one that employed a difficult-to-emulate special controller:

Atari games, 1979–81

Missile Command, Yar's Revenge, and Adventure running in emulation, as well as documentation of Star Raiders.

In the 1980s personal computing became increasingly common in U.S. homes. The CD includes games written for the influential Apple II platform, as well as textfiles of the sort that home computer users exchanged with one another on pre-Internet Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs). The CD also includes documentation and examples of new media arts from filmmakers, fiction writers, and poets.

The most famous new media development of the 1990s was the rise of the World Wide Web, and the CD contains a selection of early Web works, as well as other contemporary new media objects. New media studies also gained significantly in academic respectability in the 1990s, and the CD reproduces a special section of an academic journal devoted to hypertext (a term coined by Ted Nelson):

Writing on the Edge, 1991

The Spring 1991 issue included this special section, edited by Stuart Moulthrop, and was bundled with Storypace hypertexts "Izme Pass" by Carolyn Guyer and Martha Petry and "WOE" by Michael Joyce, also included.

The Web site for The New Media Reader (824 pp. + CD-ROM)
Edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort
Book design by Michael Crumpton