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Lev Manovich

Lev Manovich is Professor of Visual Arts, University of California, San Diego. His book The Language of New Media (MIT Press, 2001) has been hailed as "the most suggestive and broad ranging media history since Marshall McLuhan."

Titles by This Author

Navigating the Database

What kind of cinema is appropriate for the age of Palm Pilot and Google? Automatic surveillance and self-guided missiles? Consumer profiling and CNN? To investigate this question, Lev Manovich, one of today's most influential thinkers in the fields of media arts and digital culture, paired with award-winning new media artist and designer Andreas Kratky. They have also invited contributions from leaders in other cultural fields: DJ Spooky, Scanner, George Lewis, and Johann Johannsson (music), servo (architecture), Schoenerwissen/OfCD (information visualization), and Ross Cooper Studios (media design).

The results of their three-year explorations are the three "films" presented on this DVD. Although the films resemble the familiar genres of cinema, the process by which they were created demonstrates the possibilities of soft(ware) cinema. A "cinema," that is, in which human subjectivity and the variable choices made by custom software combine to create films that can run infinitely without ever exactly repeating the same image sequences, screen layouts and narratives.

Mission to Earth, a science fiction allegory of the immigrant experience, adopts the variable choices and multi-frame layout of the Soft Cinema system to represent "variable identity." Absences is a lyrical black and white narrative that relies on algorithms normally deployed in military and civilian surveillance applications to determine the editing of video and audio. Texas, a "database narrative," assembles its visuals, sounds, narratives, and even the identities of its characters, from multiple databases. The DVD was designed so that every viewing of each film generates a different version.

In this book Lev Manovich offers the first systematic and rigorous theory of new media. He places new media within the histories of visual and media cultures of the last few centuries. He discusses new media's reliance on conventions of old media, such as the rectangular frame and mobile camera, and shows how new media works create the illusion of reality, address the viewer, and represent space. He also analyzes categories and forms unique to new media, such as interface and database.

Manovich uses concepts from film theory, art history, literary theory, and computer science and also develops new theoretical constructs, such as cultural interface, spatial montage, and cinegratography. The theory and history of cinema play a particularly important role in the book. Among other topics, Manovich discusses parallels between the histories of cinema and of new media, digital cinema, screen and montage in cinema and in new media, and historical ties between avant-garde film and new media.

A BIT of The Language of New Media

This BIT offers an excerpt from a book that has shaped the study of new media. In The Language of New Media, Lev Manovich offered the field’s first systematic and rigorous theory. Here, Manovich considers the computer as illusion generator, addressing such questions as the “reality effect” of new media images and the comparative illusionism of new media, photography, film, and video.