Augmented Environments and New Media Forms

Media are ubiquitous, especially in our urban environments: one reason is that the vast majority of us now carry smartphones, wearables, or tablets at practically all times. These mobile devices are platforms for the remediation of traditional media (the printed book, film, television, and recorded music) as well as for newer digital forms, such as videogames, social media, and Augmented and Virtual Reality applications. The next step in our media culture will be the continued multiplication and diversification of media forms. There will be no single medium (e.g., VR) that absorbs all others; instead, different media will flourish, each augmenting different aspects of our daily lived experience.


Media are everywhere. Other advances—particularly in biotechnology—may ultimately have greater social impact and promise to remake what it is to be human. But if we look at the most visible changes that our culture has undergone in the past fifty years, they are in the realm of media. Many, perhaps most, readers of this article will remember a time when there were no smartphones or tablets; when cellphones were bulky and generally owned by businesspeople and so-called early adopters; when it was impossible to watch a television series or film on your computer; when LCD or LED flat-screen televisions were rare and expensive. Today people in the advanced economies carry media devices everywhere they go. Bars and airports have television monitors almost literally in every direction that you look. Elevators in office buildings have small screens to watch cable news and advertising as you ascend. Even some gasoline pumps now offer video entertainment (and of course advertising) as you fill up your car. Meanwhile, as for 2015, three digital media giants (Google known as Alphabet, Apple, Microsoft) led all other companies in market capitalization; Berkshire Hathaway Inc, a financial company, and Exxon Mobil came in fourth and fifth (Price Waterhouse Cooper, 2016). The sixth company, Facebook, whose social networking site is nothing but virtual entertainment, continues to climb toward an active user community consisting of one-quarter of the population of the planet. These are remarkable indications of the economic as well as cultural power of contemporary media.

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