The digital media are already the most widely used among the world's population, which puts more hours per week of television, radio, newspapers or movies.
In the latter part of the 20th century, a number of media appeared that were called new. Every time this happens in history, it is wise to ask ourselves what exactly is “new” about these media. Hardly ever are so-called new media completely new. Most often, they combine characteristics of old media. Today, insecurity appears to be high as there is a whole range of expressions for contemporary new media digital media, interactive media, multimedia, and information and communication technologies or indications of particular new media, such as the personal computer and the internet.
In this chapter, the new media are called digital media, first of all. While defining their characteristics, we will come across the other indications, such as interactive media and multimedia. After these definitions, the capacities of digital media will be elaborated. What are the strong and weak capacities of these media as compared to other media? In the third section, we will deal with the most conspicuous process the digital media are engaged in: media convergence. Are the digital media integrating all known media in a single communication infrastructure? Or do they only mean another step in the process of media differentiation characterizing the 20th century? Subsequently, the main applications of the digital media are described: the internet, interactive broadcasting, mobile telephony, or computing and computer games. In the final section, four fundamental issues will be selected from the many social aspects accompanying digital media diffusion in society: information and communication freedom, intellectual property rights, the unification and fragmentation of society, and the so-called digital divide (Messaris, Humphreys, 2006).
The first defining characteristic of digital media has given them their name. Digital code is a technical media characteristic, with great substantial consequences for communication. Digital code means that in using computer technology, every item of information and communication can be transformed and transmitted in strings of 1s and 0s called bytes, with every single 1 or 0 being a bit. This artificial code replaces the natural codes of the analog creation and transmission of items of information and communication (e.g., by beams of light and vibrations of sound).
Digital code enables a second defining characteristic of digital media, the general media characteristic of multimedia form. This means a combination of signs, symbol systems, communication kinds, and types of data in a single medium. Analogous media only possessed single media forms until the advent of television and motion pictures with sound. They were the media of the press (text), photography (images), and the telephone and radio (speech and sound). The digital media give an extra impetus to multimedia forms beyond older multimedia such as film and television. All kinds of texts, figures, numerical data, windows, taskbars, and sound effects are added to the screens and speakers of traditional audiovisual media.
The third defining characteristic of the digital media is their ...