Digital Soup for the Soul: The Double Logic of Remediation

Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin’s introduction to Remediation: Understanding New Mediaaddresses the emergence of new digital media and how they intermingle with traditional media in ongoing attempts to achieve immediacy. By drawing parallels to the film Strange Days, Bolter and Grusin emphasize the ways in which our culture strives to make media obsolete in the very act of proliferating it. In other words, in trying to make the medium itself disappear so that we can have an unobstructed experience of what is being presented, we become aware of the medium as a medium. In this way, the contradictory logics of immediacy and hypermediacy are dependent on one another as we are challenged to enjoy the act of mediation required to obtain a sense of immediacy.

In light of Bolter and Grusin’s arguments, I question whether the substantial increase in anxiety in today’s population plays a role in our need to gain “authentic” experiences through ever-evolving, over-saturated media. This mounting anxiety correlates with the widespread adoption of smartphones and social media; continuous access to glimpses of others’ lives and weakened relationships as a result of technological obsessions have rendered us increasingly isolated as we compare ourselves with others and avoid real-life interactions. We seem to depend on digital media not in spite of, but because oftheir hypermediated state. 

For instance, a web-streaming phenomenon called the “mukbang”, an audiovisual broadcast wherein the host eats a large amount of food while interacting with their viewers, is becoming increasingly popular online. It immerses us in the experience of eating with another person through deliberate staging, while giving us the comfort of obvious mediation as we watch the stranger through a screen on a hypermediated website and are aware of the edits. Like instant messaging and Internet forums, mukbangs simulate social interaction while eliminating the anxiety of social situations. 

Thus, advancing digital media temporarily relieves us from the anxiety of social situations as we turn to our technology for the immediacy of interacting with others, and the simultaneous distance of knowing that the immediacy is a pretense created by hypermediacy. 

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