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What is Digitization?

Digitization, as defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, refers to the act of converting data or images to digital form [1]. New media arises, in part, out of the process of digitization. New media objects created on computers result in an immediate, digital deliverable.

In “The Language of New Media”, Lev Manovich [1] tells us that “converting continuous data into a numerical representation is called digitization” (p. 28). In other words, “when new media objects are created on computers, they originate in numerical form” (p. 28), meaning that the product begins as a digitized entity. Additionally, “old media” objects can be input into a computer, or digitized. The old media thus becomes new media.

Digitization in Practice

Manovich asserts that digitization consists of two steps:

1) Sampling: recording data at regular intervals “such as the grid of pixels used to represent a digital image” (p. 28). Sampling translates data into distinct measurable units (i.e. the pages of a book, pixels, etc) (p. 28).

2) Quantization: recorded data is “assigned a numerical value drawn from a defined range (such as 0-255 in the case of 8-bit greyscale image)” (p. 28)

Today’s scanning technology allows a user to convert a paper document into a digital representation. The scanner digitizes the paper document into a series of numbers. The computer deciphers the numbers into a representation of the document on a computer screen.

Examples of Digitization

World Wide Web: A primary, public sphere of new media, consisting of objects created on a computer and/or uploaded from an analog format.

Wiki: Digital information sharing.

MP3: A common, digital audio format.

Database: Digitized file cabinet of organized information.


  1. Manovich, Lev, "The Language of New Media." page 28.2001.
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