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Abstract

The emergence of new media (or digital media, or perhaps even ‘the new economy’) has certainly had some salutary effects on media studies. The advent of the Web has raised (or re-raised) a whole set of interesting questions for those concerned with researching various aspects of the media from those concerned with political economy and industrial organisation to those concerned with reception, interpretations and texts. Digital media frequently appear, even in the most sober accounts, to be some unstoppable tidal wave of change, a complex and multi-layered landscape moving so fast that researchers can only rush to try to keep up with its myriad implications and perturbations throughout society. This paper is concerned to break down that image, to try to show that its basic categories – digital media, developing quickly, researchers rushing to catch up – are, if not false, at least questionable. What I want to argue is that the researchers do not simply react, belatedly to the emergence of digital media, but that they have an active role in shaping its development. At the end of this essay I want to draw out some of the more practical implications of this point of view.

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