Bolter, Grusin, and Remediation: Double Logic of Reality Television

David Bolter and Richard Grusin begin their book Remediation: Understanding New Media with reference to Kathryn Bigelow’s neo-noir Strange Days, highlighting the film’s categorical capture of the contradictions of digital media and remediation in contemporary culture. Strange Days’ technologically-proliferated mise-en-scène represents to Bolter and Grusin the “double logic” of what they call remediation. Bolter and Grusin further argue that this “logic” plays out as such: “[remediation] dictates that the medium itself should disappear and leave us in the presence of the thing presented” (6). And so, the speed of digital media exacerbates the quandary of remediation — media is produced and developed, it seems, to remove the medium, the very thing through which media and messages are transmitted.

Among other contentions regarding remediation, Bolter and Grusin further posit that this media-rich environment in which we live is propagating faster than our societal institutions can keep in balance. This logic of remediation engenders another double “logic” regarding Bolter and Grusin’s second key term — the idea of immediacy. Immediacy mirrors remediation in the way that it aims to place us directly and immediately in the presence of what is being represented— further eliminating mediation. The authors then elucidate our affinity for immediacy by citing the popularity of mediums such as television programs and films that subsist on their ability to make the viewer feel there. It is precisely this ability that delineates Strange Days’ SQUID as the zenith of remediation — it is the selling of lived experience as commodities, a “porno for wireheads,” as it is described in the film. Such is the scope of remediation that I wonder how contemporary reality television fits into Bolter and Grusin’s ideas of remediation and immediacy. While the reading cites examples of remediation in the form of simulation and virtual-reality, it largely ignores the ubiquitous reality television — something which I argue is more like SQUID than any of Bolter and Grusin’s examples. Reality television plays on the aforementioned idea of selling real experiences in the form of entertainment. Unlike a simulation, a video-game, or virtual-reality, reality television is (one is lead to believe) authentic experiences. And here the double logic arises.

In other words, the medium here cannot disappear. And so it seems that our contemporary equivalent Bolter and Grusin’s Strange Days example falls short of the mark of true remediation: it relies, for now, on the medium through which it is presented.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *