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Bolter, J. David , and Richard Grusin. Remediation Understanding New Media. Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, 1999. Print.

Preface

  • What is remediation?  RG coined the term in a meeting in May 1996, describing it as “a way to complicate the notion of ‘repurposing'” that relied on the double logic of immediacy and hypermediacy (more on that later) (viii).

Introduction: The Double Logic of Remediation

  • What is this double logic of which you speak?  The authors claim it is this:  Western culture wants to multiply and interact the media it encounters on a daily basis (hypermediacy); however, it wants to erase any traces of that mediated media (immediacy) (5).  In other words, the act of simulation creates an invisible immediacy (simulation through film, immersive-affective environments, etc) that we want to become ever more ubiquitous through various interfaces/interactions (hypermediacy – or the awareness of the medium itself).
  • What is remediation?  It is possible to claim that a new medium makes a good thing even better, but this seldom seems to suit the rhetoric of remediation and is certainly not the case for digital media. Each new medium is justified because it fills a lack or repairs a fault in its predecessor, because it fulfills the unkept promise of an older medium. (Typically, of course, users did not realize that the older medium had failed in its promise until the new one appeared.) The supposed virtue of virtual reality, of videoconferencing and interactive television, and of the World Wide Web is that each of these technologies repairs the inadequacy of the medium or media that it now supersedes. In each case that inadequacy is represented as a lack of immediacy, and this seems to be generally true in the history of remediation. Photography was supposedly more immediate than painting, film than photography, television than film, and now virtual reality fulfills the promise of immediacy and supposedly ends the progression. The rhetoric of remediation favors immediacy and transparency, even though as the medium matures it offers new opportunities for hypermediacy. (Bolter and Grusin 60).
  • Remediation: the representation of one medium in another (45).
  • Trajectory of the book:  Part I – remediation is located in the traditions of recent literary and cultural theory.  Part II – illustrates how remediation operates in a variety of media including computers, film, television, the WWW, and virtual reality.  Part III – this section of the book considers how new digital media are allowing cultures to redefine their self through the act of remediation.

Part I: Theory

  • The authors claim that a key to understanding how remediation occurs in media is to trace the “oscillations” between immediacy (transparency) and hypermediacy (opacity) over the course of long periods of time.  This means that while media continuously offer new experiences and opportunities they eventually, with time, become very visible as mediums.  In this way, immediacy leads to hypermediacy or invisibility leads to awareness.
  • The authors also recognize that media technologies are constituted by networks and hybrid media forms.  As such, new media doesn’t mean creating media anew from scratch; rather, it means refashioning the components of the network (along with splicing in new hybrids and cultural norms/forms/desires) so that the media can be reinvented (or remediated).  It is in this way that the authors claim that technology isn’t determined; rather, technology arises out of a rich interplay of culture, machine, and media.

Chapter One:  Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation

  • The authors note that remediation always operates at the current cultural assumptions of immediacy and hypermediacy (which are contextual and therefore rhetorical) (21).  The authors adopt Foucault’s notion of genealogy to consider how particular “resonances” or consubstantial vibrations reveal a descent . . . a genesis of new media forms.  These folks aren’t looking for origins.
  • B/G trace the desire for immediacy at least as far back as the Renaissance.  By considering how linear perspective, erasure (erasure of the surface of the picture plain), and automaticity (the automatic Cartesian perspectivalism made possible through photography – a medium that actually removed the artist and presented the viewer with unmediated immediacy) operated as strategies of immediacy, B/G claim that immediacy is an innate desire of culture (24).
  • Technologies are never imitating an external reality; rather, B/G claim that the only thing any technology can do is “define itself in relationship to earlier technologies of representation” (28).  So the progression from painting to photography to digital images is a successive redefinition of the reflection of life . . . not life itself.
  • Immediacy:  “our name for a family of beliefs and practices that express themselves differently at various times among various groups. . . . The common feature of all these forms is the belief in some necessary contact point between the medium ad what it represents (in photography light, in painting perspective, in film reality.  (30).  This desire to connect the real and the simulation is one half of the double logic of remediation.
  • Hypermediacy:  In contemporary media this often takes the form of the interface (I’m thinking of smart phones for example).  Yet, this interface relies on a repurposing of a whole host of previous media (typefaces, visual objects, handwriting, pictures, film, etc.) to function.  This is remediation in action – refashioning media anew by appropriating and positioning the media that came before.
  • What is “automatic” or immediate in the new media of digital realms?  The “code” or the languages that underwrite the function of the computer occur automatically (like the light in photography or linear perspective in painting).  This provides the feeling of immediacy.  Yet, contemporary new media is accessed through the GUI-interfaces of windows. . . as such, they are heavily mediated through interface (33).
  • The authors note that while immediacy gives the impression of a unified whole, hypermediacy actually creates the spaces for a multiplicity of interpretation – a “heterogeneous space” wherein representation is made and remade anew with each user engagement with the interface (34).  In this way hypermediacy is an act of remix; however, for it to be hypermediated the remixed past must be apparent/present.
  • A key point: remediated artifacts aren’t always more “advanced” technologies incorporating elements of less “advanced”; rather, remediation occurs across media and allows for other representations (like newspapers that resemble webpages).
  • How does the double logic of remediation make something real?  “Transparent digital applications seek to get to the real by bravely denying the fact of mediation; digital hypermedia seek the real by multiplying mediation so as to create a feeling of fullness, a satiety of experience, which can be taken as a reality” (53).

Chapter Two: Mediation and Remediation

  • Three core ways remediation operates:  1) remediation as the mediation of mediation – all media are continually commenting on other media. . . . as such, they are always remediating other media (this is the visual/media equivalent of the grammatalogical perspective); 2) remediation as the inseparability of mediation and reality – mediations are real and should be treated as such; and 3) remediation as reform – remediation’s goal is to refashion or rehabilitate media . . . and because all media are real all acts of remediation are acts of per(re)forming the real (55-6).
  • What’s the function of language as mediator?  B/G rely on Latour to describe how the work of language is to make a human subject a mediator independent of nature and society alike rather than a way to put the human subject in touch with the world (257).  Yet, B/G claim that language works in concert with the whole host of other media to mediate the realities of our lives.  [1. Interesting that the authors use a network theorist like Latour to describe the classificatory, Aristotelian-esque project of cataloguing mediations instead of embracing the networked effects of mediation across space-time . . . or maybe they do?]

Chapter Three: Networks of Remediation

  • What is a medium?  A medium is something that does the work of remediation.  “It is that which appropriates the techniques, forms, and social significance of other media and attempts to rival or refashion them in the name of the real” (65).  Media are Latourian hybrids – mediums that have their own content that cannot be separated from the economic and social functions of the medium (and the content) itself (67).  So the material/economic realities/functions of media are always remediated (think comic books and movies and kids toys from movies about comic books).  Further, the social function of remediation acknowledges the constructedness of any medium for the purposes of the culture in which it circulates.  Mediums are technosocial objects.  This is how the authors get around the problem of technological determinism [2. A chicken and egg problem to be sure; however, this explanation seems to make a lot of sense.]
  • Convergence is remediation under a different name[3. Convergence describes the overlapping of media toward new media forms – remediation.]. (224)

Part III: Self

Chapter 15: The Remediated Self

  • The authors note that we, as humans, employ media as a way to define our own personal identity and the identity of the broader cultures in which we circulate (231).  Because this is the case we become the subjects of our media and we become the objects of our media. . . . this too is not a new development but a reinscription/remediation of identity in new media.
  • Two versions of contemporary mediated self that correspond with the two logics of remediation:  1) when confronted with media of transparent immediacy (VR) we see ourselves from a POV that is immersed in a seamless visual field (232); 2) viewed from the POV of hypermediacy we see ourselves as “networked” and “connected” through the technologies that populate our media ecologies.  In this way we come to our own subjectivities through the double logic of remediation (immediacy & hypermediacy) (232).

Chapter 16: The Virtual Self

  • The virtual self is the product of immersive, 3-d digital, graphical environments that allow for a new subjectivity – a new POV.  This is the defining quality of the virtual self (243).  This allows for new subjectivities wherein we occupy the position or POV of creatures/subjects different from ourselves.  As a result we are provided with the simulated (but real) experience of experiencing multiple POV simultaneously (or at least serially) . . . allowing for new ways of self/culture making (245)[4. This is especially the case in “virtual empathy” or the experience of being something other than the self. . . a constructed, programmed other].  In this way the new, networked subjectivity (the virtual self) is a way to experience the world anew as others do. . . not to retract from the world into the self (as in the Cartesian account of subjectivity).

Chapter 17:  The Networked Self

  • This is basically the interconnected, networked subjectivity that arises as a result of the immaterial (and sometimes becoming material) connections made through the web.

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