What's new, new media?
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Variability, refers to the idea that a digital product is not fixed, but can exist in different potentially infinite versions. The term originates from Lev Manovich's 2001 book The Language of New Media. Variability is a consequence of Numerical representation and Modularity which render media able to be "programmed" and thus able to manipulated mathematically.

Because hypermedia exhibits Manovich's principle of modularity,the elements and the structure are by definition, independent of each other. This enables the user to play an active role in determining the order in which the already generated elements are accessed.

Consequently, new media position the audience as users; able to manipulate and customize the media's experience for themselves to a greater degree than any previous form.


Examples

mash-ups
Google maps
RSS reader
Your email
Wikipedia


Examples of "hardwired" media

When a dictionary is updated we call it the 2008 edition.
When a book is updated it's revised.


Social implications

"The principle of variability also exemplifies how, historically, the changes in media technologies are correlated with social change."

Lev Manovich, p. 60/61 of The Language of New Media