Lev Manovich
Lev Manovich is an author of new media
New media
New media is a broad term in media studies that emerged in the latter part of the 20th century. For example, new media holds out a possibility of on-demand access to content any time, anywhere, on any digital device, as well as interactive user feedback, creative participation and community...

 books, professor of Visual Arts
Visual arts
The visual arts are art forms that create works which are primarily visual in nature, such as ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, design, crafts, and often modern visual arts and architecture...

, University of California, San Diego
University of California, San Diego
The University of California, San Diego, commonly known as UCSD or UC San Diego, is a public research university located in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California, United States...

, U.S.
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and European Graduate School
European Graduate School
The European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland is a privately funded graduate school founded by the non-profit European Foundation of Interdisciplinary Studies. Its German name is Europäische Universität für Interdisziplinäre Studien...

 in Saas-Fee
Saas-Fee is the main village in the Saastal, or the Saas Valley, and is a municipality in the district of Visp in the canton of Valais in Switzerland...

, Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, where he teaches new media art and theory, software studies, and digital humanities. His best known book is The Language of New Media, which has been widely reviewed and translated into Italian, Korean, Polish, Spanish, Lithuanian and Chinese. According to two reviewers, this book offers "the first rigorous and far-reaching theorization of the subject" and "it places new media within the most suggestive and broad ranging media history since Marshall McLuhan
Marshall McLuhan
Herbert Marshall McLuhan, CC was a Canadian educator, philosopher, and scholar—a professor of English literature, a literary critic, a rhetorician, and a communication theorist...



Manovich was born in Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 where he studied painting, architecture, computer science, and semiotics. After spending several years practicing fine arts, he moved to New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 in 1981. This move caused him to have a shift in interests from still image and physical 3D space to virtual space, moving images, and the use of computers in media. While in New York he received an M.A. in Experimental Psychology
Experimental psychology
Experimental psychology is a methodological approach, rather than a subject, and encompasses varied fields within psychology. Experimental psychologists have traditionally conducted research, published articles, and taught classes on neuroscience, developmental psychology, sensation, perception,...

 (NYU, 1988) and additionally worked professionally in 3d computer animation from 1984 to 1992. He then went on to receive Ph.D. in Visual and Cultural Studies from University of Rochester
University of Rochester
The University of Rochester is a private, nonsectarian, research university in Rochester, New York, United States. The university grants undergraduate and graduate degrees, including doctoral and professional degrees. The university has six schools and various interdisciplinary programs.The...

 1993. His Ph.D. dissertation The Engineering of Vision from Constructivism to Computers traces the origins of computer media, relating it to the avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

 of the 1920s.

Manovich has been working with computer media as an artist, computer animator, designer, and programmer since 1984. His art projects include Little Movies, the first digital film project designed for the Web (1994), Freud-Lissitzky Navigator, a conceptual software for navigating twentieth century history, and Anna and Andy, a streaming novel (2000). He is also well known for his insightful articles, including "New Media from Borges to HTML" and "Database as Symbolic Form." In the latter article, he explains reasons behind the popularity of databases, while juxtaposing it to concepts such as algorithms and narrative. His works have been included in many key international exhibitions of new media art
New media art
New media art is a genre that encompasses artworks created with new media technologies, including digital art, computer graphics, computer animation, virtual art, Internet art, interactive art, computer robotics, and art as biotechnology...

. In 2002 ICA
Institute of Contemporary Arts
The Institute of Contemporary Arts is an artistic and cultural centre on The Mall in London, just off Trafalgar Square. It is located within Nash House, part of Carlton House Terrace, near the Duke of York Steps and Admiralty Arch...

 in London presented his mini-retrospective under the title Lev Manovich: Adventures of Digital Cinema.

Manovich has been teaching new media art since 1992. He has also been a visiting professor at California Institute of the Arts
California Institute of the Arts
The California Institute of the Arts, commonly referred to as CalArts, is located in Valencia, in Los Angeles County, California. It was incorporated in 1961 as the first degree-granting institution of higher learning in the United States created specifically for students of both the visual and the...

, UCLA, University of Amsterdam, Stockholm University
Stockholm University
Stockholm University is a state university in Stockholm, Sweden. It has over 28,000 students at four faculties, making it one of the largest universities in Scandinavia. The institution is also frequently regarded as one of the top 100 universities in the world...

, and University of Art and Design Helsinki
University of Art and Design Helsinki
Aalto University School of Art and Design , known commonly as TaiK, is the largest art university in the Nordic countries, and was founded in 1871. Media Centre Lume – the National Research and Development Center of audiovisual media – is also located in the university...

. In 1993, students of his digital movie making classes at the UCLA Lab for New Media founded the Post-Cinematic Society which organized some of the first digital movie festivals based on his ideas about new media, such as database cinema
Database cinema
One of the principal features defining traditional cinema is a fixed and linear narrative structure. In Database Cinema however, the story develops by selecting scenes from a given collection...


Currently, Manovich is working on a new book called Info-aesthetics. The book focuses on how software is a societal source that has allowed information to spread. He is also currently working on two other books: "Software Studies" and "Expanded Image". His current involvement in software studies has led to be part of a software Studies Initiative group. Another recent project is Soft Cinema
Soft Cinema
Soft Cinema is a collaborative new media art project headed by Lev Manovich. Manovich states that "soft cinema is a digital editor that provides an interface between human editors and a database of footage to 'perform' different edits of the footage...

 which was commissioned by ZKM for the exhibition Future Cinema (2002–2003; traveling to Helsinki and Tokyo in 2003-2004).http://softcinema.net/exhibit.htm "At the heart of the project is custom software and media databases. The software edits movies in real time by choosing the elements from the database using the systems of rules defined by the authors." Each Soft Cinema piece is a unique viewing experience for the audience; the software works with a set of parameters that allow for almost every part of a film to change.

Manovich's awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, Digital Cultures Fellowship from UC Santa Barbara, Fellowship from The Zentrum für Literaturforschung, Berlin, and Mellon Fellowship from Cal Arts.

The principles of new media

In his 2001 book, The Language of New Media, Manovich describes the general principles underlying new media:
  • Numerical representation: new media objects exist as data
  • Modularity
    Modularity (programming)
    Modular programming is a software design technique that increases the extent to which software is composed of separate, interchangeable components called modules by breaking down program functions into modules, each of which accomplishes one function and contains everything necessary to accomplish...

    : the different elements of new media exist independently
  • Automation
    Automation is the use of control systems and information technologies to reduce the need for human work in the production of goods and services. In the scope of industrialization, automation is a step beyond mechanization...

    : new media objects can be created and modified automatically
  • Variability
    The term variability, "the state or characteristic of being variable", describes how spread out or closely clustered a set of data is. This may be applied to many different subjects:*Climate variability...

    : new media objects exist in multiple versions
  • Transcoding: The logic of the computer influences how we understand and represent ourselves.

In Noah Wardrip-Fruin
Noah Wardrip-Fruin
Noah Wardrip-Fruin is Associate Professor in the Computer Science Department of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and is an advisor for the Expressive Intelligence Studio. He is an alumnus of the Literary Arts MFA program and Special Graduate Study PhD program at Brown University...

 and Nick Montfort
Nick Montfort
Nick Montfort is an associate professor of digital media at MIT in the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies. He is also a poet, computer scientist, and author of interactive fiction. Montfort has collaborated on the blog Grand Text Auto, the sticker novel Implementation, and the contemporary...

's new media anthology, The New Media Reader, Lev Manovich wrote an introductory piece called "New Media from Borges to HTML" . This article addresses the question: What is new media? Through history, and digital media as a medium, he details the Enframing of new media by debunking old definitions. Inside the article he proposes eight ways to look at and define what is new media. In the article New Media from Borges to HTML, Manovich criticizes the United States government for hesitant funding towards new media until the late 90s, as opposed to Japan and Europe who got a head start
Head start (positioning)
In positioning, a head start is a start in advance of the starting position of others in competition, or simply toward the finish line or desired outcome...

 in the beginning of the 90s. In 1995, Universities on the West Coast began to incorporate new media art and design in their curriculum. Later, museums and online projects followed in the same digital footsteps. Next, he compares and contrasts the new media and cyber-culture such as online community, online multi-gaming, cell phone and online identity. Then, he describes the distribution the new media which follows his 2001 book The Language of New Media analysis. Manovich reminds us that "We will see that many of the principles [of new media] are not unique to new media, but can be found in older media as well" (50). He also adds that Borges and Bush envisioned "a massive branching structure as a better way to organize data and to represent human existence" (15). Manovich also goes into the World Wide Web
World Wide Web
The World Wide Web is a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet...

 and Unix
Unix is a multitasking, multi-user computer operating system originally developed in 1969 by a group of AT&T employees at Bell Labs, including Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, Brian Kernighan, Douglas McIlroy, and Joe Ossanna...

 in the 1970s as well as GUI
Gui or guee is a generic term to refer to grilled dishes in Korean cuisine. These most commonly have meat or fish as their primary ingredient, but may in some cases also comprise grilled vegetables or other vegetarian ingredients. The term derives from the verb, "gupda" in Korean, which literally...

s and Atari computers invented in the 1980s. Last but not least, the invention of hypertext
Hypertext is text displayed on a computer or other electronic device with references to other text that the reader can immediately access, usually by a mouse click or keypress sequence. Apart from running text, hypertext may contain tables, images and other presentational devices. Hypertext is the...

 by Ted Nelson
Ted Nelson
Theodor Holm Nelson is an American sociologist, philosopher, and pioneer of information technology. He coined the terms "hypertext" and "hypermedia" in 1963 and published it in 1965...


Manovich's 8 Propositions on What is New Media

1. New Media versus Cyberculture

2. New Media as Computer Technology Used as a Distribution Platform

3. New Media as Digital Data Controlled by Software

4. New Media as the Mix Between Existing Cultural Conventions and the Conventions of Software

5. New Media as the Aesthetics that Accompanies the Early Stage of Every New Modern Media and Communication Technology

6. New Media as Faster Execution of Algorithms Previously Executed Manually or through Other Technologies

7. New Media as the Encoding of Modernist Avant-Garde; New Media as Metamedia

8. New Media as Parallel Articulation of Similar Ideas in Post-WWII Art and Modern Computing

Manovich's Proposition of what New Media Is Not

1. New Media is not continuous or digitally encoded

2. New Media can be played on multimedia machine

3. New Media allows random access unlike a film or videotape

4. New Media can be lost because it contains a fixed amount of information

5. New Media can be copied endlessly, analog media cannot

6. New Media is interactive and participatory

Database as a Symbolic Form

In 1998, Lev Manovich came out with an essay called "Database as a Symbolic Form". In this essay, Manovich defines the term database and compares it to narratives. He explains how a database is like a big unordered list, whereas narratives orders their list with a beginning, an end, and a certain path to follow. Readers tend to want to mold things into a narrative. He uses the example of Man with a Movie Camera
Man with a Movie Camera
Man with a Movie Camera , sometimes called The Man with the Movie Camera, The Man with a Camera, The Man With the Kinocamera, or Living Russia is an experimental 1929 silent documentary film, with no story and no actors, by Russian director Dziga Vertov, edited by his wife Elizaveta...

by Dziga Vertov
Dziga Vertov
David Abelevich Kaufman , better known by his pseudonym Dziga Vertov , was a Soviet pioneer documentary film, newsreel director and cinema theorist...

, and describes it as "the most important example of database imagination in modern media art". Manovich applauds Vertov for creating something that illustrates a middle-ground between databases and narratives. As well, he discusses the concepts of paradigm and syntagm and how new media reverses their original relationship. Instead of syntagm being explicit and paradigm implicit, the paradigm (database) is given material existence and the syntagm (narrative) is de-materialized.


  • Soft Cinema
    Soft Cinema
    Soft Cinema is a collaborative new media art project headed by Lev Manovich. Manovich states that "soft cinema is a digital editor that provides an interface between human editors and a database of footage to 'perform' different edits of the footage...

  • Software Takes Command. Released under CC license, November 20, 2008. http://www.softwarestudies.com/softbook .
  • The Language of New Media (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001). http://www.manovich.net/LNM/index.html
  • Database as a Symbolic Form (Cambridge: MIT Press 1998). http://transcriptions.english.ucsb.edu/archive/courses/warner/english197/Schedule_files/Manovich/Database_as_symbolic_form.htm
  • Tekstura: Russian Essays on Visual Culture (Chicago University Press, 1993).
  • The Engineering of Vision from Constructivism to Computer (University of Rochester, 1993).
  • Little Movies Vol.1: microcinema: cinema for the early Net 1994-1997
  • Freud-Lissitzky Navigator: Computer Game History Browser, 1999
  • Anna and Andy: a Streaming Novel Emotional Movie Engine, 1999–2000
  • FROZE 01 curated for Electronic Orphanage, 2001
  • DATA BEAUTIFUL for Mapping the Web Infome exhibition, 2001

External links

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