New & Emerging Media – From Pencils to Social Media

Our first task in my Emerging Media and the Market class was to create a new term for new and emerging media. The assignment contained this sentence:

These media will only be “new” and “emerging” for so long (the pencil was new media too once).

The idea of a pencil as new media reminded me of a conference I attended in the summer of 2010 where Michael Wesch was the keynote speaker. Wesch is an associate professor of cultural anthropology. During his speech, he talked about how a new media completely changed the culture of a village in Papua New Guinea. This new media? Pencil and paper, in the form of a census book.

That may not seem new and emerging, but to a society that had never used such devices, it changed everything for them. A few months before I saw Wesch speak, he gave this address at TEDxNYED, which is very similar to the one I saw.

He took his experience observing a village that was transformed and applied it to the new and emerging digital culture. My favorite thing from the video above is that there is no opting out because a change like social media and Web 2.0 is a societal change – it changes the way we communicate and relate to each other. You can’t opt out of that.

We have to recognize in our society that the new media we see in our environment are not just new means of communication, not just tools. Media change what can be said, how it can be said, who can say it, who can hear it, and what messages will count as information and knowledge.

– Michael Wesch (Digital Ethnology at Kansas State University)

Wesch showed us this video, which has been seen more than 1.6 million times.

That’s pretty great, right? It’s exciting to be living in a time when new media is truly revolutionizing our lives.

If you’re interested in learning more about Michael Wesch, you can follow him on Twitter at @mwesch and on YouTube at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *