Remediation: A Modern Perspective

Published in 1999, David J. Bolter and Richard Grusin’s eBook Remediation: Understanding New Media considers the ways in which visual media is rapidly evolving while simultaneously evaluating the effects this has on the viewer’s visual experience. This study uses technological examples of its era to affirm the argument that ‘modern’ visual media is simply a repurposing and improvement of past forms of media. In this article, I will be exploring the ideas expressed within the eBook’s introduction: “The Double Logic of Remediation” while also making connections to modern media of 2017.

Bolter and Grusin’s study is merely seventeen years old yet modern day readers can clearly note that it has become outdated due to the exponential evolution of media and technology in the years since its publication. What was surely a cutting-edge and relatable study in 1999 has now become a definite product of its time. It is intriguing that an article which comments on “new media” has now become an example of its own argument. Despite the eBook’s obvious outdatedness, the arguments presented remain quite relevant in relation to today’s media and society.

Bolter and Grusin coin the term “remediation” to define the repurposing and improvement upon earlier media. According to the study, rather than inventing new forms of media, modern society is simply refashioning preexisting forms. The text mentions that modern culture “wants to erase its media in the very act of multiplying them”. Thus, our culture is destroying existing forms of media by refashioning them to create new and improved versions. To put this into context, I will provide modern examples, rather than the dated ones expressed in the text. Although the in text examples (the “world wide web”, early versions of webcams and flight simulators, and split screen news reports) are no less accurate or valuable to the argument, I believe that a modern explanation will provide further understanding.

One of the key points of this study is the interplay between immediacy and hypermediacy. Bolter and Grusin state that “immediacy dictates that the medium itself should disappear and leave us in the presence of the thing represented”. Modern virtual reality technology is an ideal example of how successful visual media has become at immediacy. Virtual reality glasses submerge the viewer into an entirely new and interactive setting. Viewers may completely forget that they are sitting on their couch at home while they are “riding” a virtual rollercoaster. On the opposite end of the spectrum is hypermediacy, in which media attempts to remind the viewer of the medium being used. A modern example of hypermediacy is the smartphone. The mere act of holding and pressing one’s finger on an app to open it serves as a constant reminder of the medium (the smartphone) being used to represent the visual media (photos, games, videos, text, etc.). The text states that while the ideas of immediacy and hypermediacy contradict each other, they also coexist and depend upon each other in current digital media. This coexistence seems very prevalent in today’s society. Bolter and Grusin’s eBook was written before the rise, popularization, and improvement of social media and thus does not mention this medium of visual media. Social media is a prime example immediacy and hypermediacy working together to provide a captivating experience for viewers. Facebook, for example, features photos, videos, and games alongside text, message and notification windows, and advertisements. The photos, videos, and games use immediacy to draw in the viewer, but the layout of the website and incorporation of text, notification, messaging, etc. use hypermediacy to remind the viewer that they are using a website to view this visual media.

Today’s society is oversaturated with visual media. Due to the result of rapid remediation, there are multiple different forms of media that did not exist in 1999. Virtual reality has been improved, video devices like GoPros are far more durable and portable than the original video cameras, and wifi has allowed for media to be accessed almost anywhere instead of being restricted to bulky computers. Perhaps one of the most notable products of remediation, immediacy, and hypermediacy is the creation and constant improvements of the smartphone. This modern device provides access to video games, movies, the Internet, photography and more in the palm of one’s hand. Thanks to remediation, this has eliminated the need for video game consoles, VCR and DVD players, television, computers, and cameras to do the same job.

Essentially, media is constantly being created and reinvented at an increasingly rapid pace. It is intriguing to imagine what the future of media will bring. Will new forms of media continue being created this quickly? What products of today will be remediated and rendered useless in the next two decades? How far will the lines between immediacy and hypermediacy be blurred? I previously mentioned that the forms of media discussed in Remediation: Understanding New Media, have become outdated in the past seventeen years. In the upcoming seventeen years the ones I mentioned in this response will surely be outdated too. It is impossible to predict the future of media but one thing is certain: remediation is inevitable.

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