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New media, public spheres and forms of expression (NMOG)

City Fables is a reserach project within NMOG

Malmö University has a research profile called New media, public spheres and forms of expression (NMOG). The mission of the profile is to explore new media and their uses by combining expressive and analytical research, frequently in collaboration with extramural actors. Malmö University was granted the rights to confer PhD degrees within NMOG in 2010.

Introduction: New media, public spheres and forms of expression

After half a century, the famous remark by Marshall McLuhan that “the medium is the message” appears more insightful than ever.  The significance of media in society is ever increasing, and this holds in particular for new media such as the web, blogs, mobile services, online forums, and virtual worlds. The increase is deeply related to technical developments in the field of information and communication technology.

A distinguishing trait of new media is that they form platforms where traditional media such as books, newspapers, radio, TV and film blend together across technologies and genres. In this way, the new media offer possibilities for new forms of expression. TV shows have websites, movies are extended to computer games and “online communities”, newspapers publish digital and interactive editions, and news is pushed directly to the mobile.

These new forms of expression are not used only by professional media actors, but individuals create home pages, write blogs, make movies, remix and mashup, and most importantly publish what they do online. The relations between producers and consumers, between professionals and amateurs, are thus reshaping in quite drastic ways.

However, the potential of the new media is not limited to transforming the traditional media but rather extends to enabling completely new communication practices. The kinds of conversations and interplays that take place on Facebook and in World of Warcraft would not only have been impossible, but even inconceivable, in the time before the Internet.

The creative activities that are taking place by means of new media and new forms of expression have been instrumental in shaping a societal development from a few to a vast number of new public spheres, transnational as well as domestic. Anyone with an Internet connection has the possibility to publish video clips and thus contribute to influencing the public sense of audiovisual aesthetics as well as making their voices heard on equal terms with other media actors. The Internet has become a political arena for diaspora groups and informal lobby organizations as well as terrorist networks. Since Napster, the conditions for intellectual property and creative practice have shifted irrevocably. Projects like Google Earth change our notion of the planet, just like Wikipedia forces us to embrace new notions of knowledge, educators, and the relations between knowledge and governance.

Finally, it must be noted that new media and new forms of expression play central roles for societal development also in professional and public contexts that are traditionally not considered to be media-related. Examples range from making collaboration more effective, facilitating learning and supporting decision-making all the way to catalyzing economic and social change on a global level.

The NMOG research profile

The research profile called New media, public spheres and forms of expression (NMOG) at Malmö University aims at developing knowledge about  new media, new forms of expression and new public spheres by combining expressive and analytical work.

Main analytical perspectives and elements
NMOG comprises studies of digitally enhanced mediated communication and its properties, where the main analytical perspectives are drawn from social science, culture studies and media studies. Another equally important element is design-oriented experiments with new digitally enhanced communication practices. The experiments may be inspired by analytical insights, and they may provide topics for further study and reflection.

Academic disciplines
Our work spans academic disciplines such as media and communication studies, cultural studies, sociology, and teaching and learning studies; interaction design, service design and social innovation; film, literature and games; information technology and computer science. All of these disciplines certainly have their own academic and professional practices, but they also contribute to the multidisciplinary synthesis of the profile. Using the qualifier “new” may seem naïve; it is actually an intentional way to emphasize the importance of addressing “new” phenomena in relation to established media, public spheres and forms of expression.

General questions within our research
The following questions might provide a sense of the knowledge interests guiding the research in NMOG. They are more general than the research questions normally used to drive individual projects, but they still serve to clarify the character and direction of the profile. The definition above implies that each of the questions can, and should, be addressed through analytical studies as well as design experiments.

• How can we understand notions of integrity and identity in an age where the private becomes public? How can we express our understanding in new communication practices? How can state-of-the-art information technology influence and facilitate such practices?

• What are the forces that motivate creative expression in heterogeneous groups, and how can those forces be enhanced?

• How can informal communication and shared meaning-making and learning be fostered in public and professional spheres?

• How can new media be put into play to catalyze and support social and professional innovation processes?

• Which new services are needed to make the ever-growing body of published media content accessible and meaningful in public and professional settings?

• What are the most promising roles for established media and information producers to take on in a mediascape where the means of production and channels for distribution are available to everyone?

• What are viable business models and distribution forms in a situation where an infinite number of original-quality copies can be created and disseminated?

• What is the meaning of authorship in an age where the boundary between author and reader dissolves? What are the ways to “tell” a story in multiple channels across time and space where the audience becomes participants?

• What characterizes the politics of the new media? How are power, influence and co-determination distributed in the new public spheres?

More information

A few typical examples of research projects within the profile

Much of the work in the profile is performed in co-production with companies, organizations and other extramural actors. Our co-production in the field of new media is concentrated to the research centre MEDEA Collaborative Media Initiative
Last updated by Susanne Lundborg