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Impact of emerging coms technologies examined

Impact of emerging communication technologies examined

Is the printed book obsolete? Almost certainly not, says Professor David Thorburn, a United States expert on new media and Professor of Literature and Comparative Media at MIT, who is currently visiting the University of Otago.

“Old media rarely die; their original functions are adapted and absorbed by newer media and they themselves may mutate into new cultural niches and new purposes,” Professor Thorburn says.

Founder and for twelve years the Director of the MIT Film and Comparative Media Studies Program, he was one of the first American scholars to begin examining television in a humanistic context and has written widely on literary, cultural and media topics.

Since 1996 Professor Thorburn has also been director of the MIT Communications Forum, which sponsors lectures, panel discussions and occasional conferences devoted to the political and cultural impact of communications, with special emphasis on emerging technologies, such as computers and the Internet.

Professor Thorburn points out that if you look back over history at the transition from one media to another – for example from illuminated text to print, or from radio to TV – “the process of media transition is always a mix of tradition and innovation, always declaring for evolution not revolution”.

He says in many cases apparently competing media may strengthen or reinforce one another, as books inspire movies which in turn stimulate renewed book sales.

“Television and movies today are discovering a variety of strategies for extending and redefining themselves on the World Wide Web,” he adds.

While at the University of Otago, Professor Thorburn is conducting a research workshop and discussing challenges posed by new media with staff in the Departments of Communication Studies, English and Political Studies.

He will give a public lecture entitled “No Elegies for Gutenberg: New Media and the Work of Culture”, 5.10 – 7.00pm, Wednesday 8 June, in the BURNS1 lecture theatre.

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