As coined in the writings of Marshall McLuhan, metamedia referred to new relationships between form and content in the development of new technologies and new media. McLuhan's concept described the totalizing effect of media environments.
In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the term was taken up by writers such as Douglas Rushkoff and Lev Manovich. Contemporary metamedia, such as at Stanford, has been expanded to describe, "a short circuit between the academy, the art studio and information science exploring media and their archaeological materiality." Metamedia utilizes new media and focuses on collaboration across traditional fields of study, melding everything from improvisational theatre and performance art, to agile, adaptive software development and smart mobs.
|“||The new avant-garde is no longer concerned with seeing or representing the world in new ways but rather with accessing and using in new ways previously accumulated media. In this respect new media is post-media or meta-media, as it uses old media as its primary material.||”|
|— Lev Manovich|
While hypermedia was coined a year later in 1965 by a programmer to refer to file systems of multimedia, the term metamedia was coined in 1964, referring to the theoretical effects of mass media. McLuhan, like his teacher Harold Innis, an earlier theorist of communication theory, saw communication as central to social systems.
More recent distinctions between old and new media have meant that metamedia becomes used to describe modernity and art more than systems.
As an academic field of study
Stanford University Humanities Lab and MIT currently run research labs investigating metamedia. The MIT lab's mission is to provide a flexible online environment for creating and sharing rich media documents for learning on core humanities subjects. It is led by Kurt Fendt (co-Principal Investigator and Manager of the Metamedia project) and Henry Jenkins.
Stanford's lab is principally facilitated by Michael Shanks with other collaborators, including Howard Rheingold and Fred Turner (academic). In its mission statement, it describes itself as a "creative studio and laboratory space for experimenting and taking risks...a democratic and collaborative assembly of archaeologists, anthropologists, classicists, communications experts, new media practitioners, performance artists, sociologists, software engineers, technoscientists, and anyone else who wants to join." A recent project is Life Squared (aka Life to the Second Power), an animated archive of the work of artist Lynn Hershman in the online world Second Life. Life Squared is one endeavor of The Presence Project, a live metamedia performance art project within the Metamedia lab.
- Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964) Marshall McLuhan
- "metamedia.stanford.edu". Metamedia: a collaboratory at Stanford University. Affiliated with Stanford Humanities Lab. Retrieved 2008-05-20.
- "metamedia.mit.edu". Metamedia: transforming humanities education at MIT. MIT. Retrieved 2008-05-20.
- "What is Metamedia?". metamedia.mit.edu. MIT. Retrieved 2008-05-20.
- Vandre, Megan. "Humanities Go Digital: Innovative multimedia programs give students new ways to study languages, literature, and the arts.". Technology Review. Retrieved 2008-05-20.
- "humanitieslab.stanford.edu". Mission statement. Metamedia at Stanford. Retrieved 2008-05-20.
- Life Squared The Presence Project stanford.edu