Here is a “big picture” guide to the kind of apps and web sites you can use to compose and share messages in new media formats. Once you get the “big picture,” you’ll find it easier to make sense of the choices available to you.
To find specific apps and web sites, use the search suggestions indicated below.
What Are New Media Tools?
The term “new media” is still new enough that it has a wide range of meanings, but I’m using it to describe the kind of composing and sharing platforms that allow anyone to publish their own writing on the web — and by “writing” I’m including messages composed in the form of images, comics, animations, presentations, web sites, and video. )
What makes new media tools “new” is that they stand in contrast to the tools of “old” media, which are used only by professionals and those who can afford pro tools. New media tools are typically free or inexpensive (under $10) and so easy to use that everyone from fifth graders to grandparents are now using them to share their messages with the world.
“New media” also includes the platforms that allow any of us to share content that can potentially reach anyone with web access, which stands in contrast to the platforms of “old media,” which are regulated by publishers and producers who select only a handful of submissions to publish, air on television or radio, or produce as films.
In other words, new media composing apps and sharing platforms allow all of us to become producers and distributors of all kinds of content, composed in any combination of words, images, sounds, or video, and that’s created a major shift in how information is distributed and who has the potential to influence large audiences. And that’s why students in a writing class should have the opportunity to learn to use new media tools.
New Media Composing Apps
New media apps allow you to compose messages using the mediums common to the web: hypertext, images, audio, animation, and video, but they differ in how they enable you to share your message on the web.
These apps tend to fall under one of these two categories: content creation AND hosting or content creation only.
Content Creation and Hosting
These apps allow you to create content using a web-based interface and share it using the app’s public portal.
Most apps in this category are web-based, for obvious reasons, but some desktop apps can sync with the web versions (like Prezi). When these apps first became available, they were credited with “updating” the web to Web 2.0, meaning that those who lacked the technical skill to compose and publish web content under the “old” version were now able to do both. You can still find some of these tools by adding Web 2.0 to your searches, but now the term is used primarily by educators.
Web apps include platforms for creating your own wikis, blogs, and web sites as well as tools for creating and hosting images, slideshows, presentations, podcasts, comic strips, cartoon animations, photo stories, mind maps, timelines, and more.
Content Creation Only
These apps allow you to create content you can export into a web-ready format, but they do not offer a way to upload and share that content on the web. You’ll need to use a separate hosting site for that part of the process.
Most apps in this category are for desktop computers or mobile devices, but some web apps are also limited to content creation only. The benefit of using desktop and mobile apps is that you don’t need an active internet connection and the tools are often more powerful than those that do.
Desktop apps include those that come with operating systems, like iMovie and GarageBand for Mac users or Windows MovieMaker for Windows users, as well as a wide variety you can download from the web or via the Mac App Store. These include apps for composing and editing photos, audio, and video as well as making animations, mind maps, comic strips, and more.
Desktop apps that count as “new media” are targeted to consumers rather than to professionals, which means they’re either free or inexpensive (under $25) and are typically easy to use with only a small investment of time in tutorials.
Most apps designated as “desktop” or “mobile” are oriented towards content creation. Those include the familiar suite of iLife tools for Mac and iOS (iMovie, GarageBand, and iPhoto) and PC (MovieMaker, Audacity) as well as a variety of other free or inexpensive apps you can download for your computer or mobile device.
New Media Sharing Platforms
Web sites that offer you a free place to publish your content are referred to as “hosting” sites. Hosting sites tend to specialize in only one medium, such as audio, images, documents, or video, and they accept uploaded files that were exported in a web-ready format. After you’ve uploaded the file (and given the site time to process it, as needed), the hosting site will create a unique URL for your content, which you can share with others as a link.
Even if you’re planning to use a web site or blog to showcase your content, you’ll still need to use a “hosting” site for most types of media other than words and images. You can then use the hosting site’s embed code for your content to embed it into a web page or blog post, just as you see others do with videos from YouTube and presentations from Slideshare.