Mediation and Remediation

Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. The MIT Press, 2000.

In chapter two, the authors discuss Mediation and Remediation. They note that while hypermedia and transparent media are opposites in design, they have a common goal: to move beyond representations and attain the real. However, the real is not some objective, universal truth that applies to all and that one can uncover. “The real is defined in terms of the viewer’s experience; it is that which would evoke an immediate (and therefore authentic) emotional response” (53). So, transparent media tries to hide the fact that it is mediated, while hypermedia puts this fact up front and strives to offer the user a richer experience, thus invoking a fuller reality.

The online video conversation (OVC), as noted in my last post, offers transparent media in its presentation of a real person on video and offers hypermedia in its features that allow (and at times require) the user to interact with the interface. In this way, it might be an example of a successful merging of hypermedia and transparent media offering the user many benefits from both styles. Conversely, it might be quite unsuccessful in this attempt if the two forms were to cancel each other out or simply be too distracting to achieve either goal. The answer to its effectiveness in this area would likely be found in the participants’ responses to inquiries about their perception of the experience. Without asking the participants direct questions that would likely confuse them in the questions’ design of obtaining specific academic information, the questions might be a bit more veiled to still glean the reactions and responses of the OVC participants. In this way, one could determine participants’ perspective without directing their responses.

The authors state that transparent digital technologies inevitably end up being remediations despite and because of their attempt to deny mediation. This is due to the idea that despite their attempt to improve and replace preceding media, are forced to define themselves by the standards of the media they are trying to replace. (54).

Essentially, all current media is a remediation of some preceding medium. Remediation allows us to both analyze a current medium in a frame that considers the preceding medium and also to interpret and perhaps understand the earlier medium. It is also worth noting that older media can also remediate newer ones, such as television refashioning itself to resemble the worldwide web or to include computer graphics. (55). At this point, it seems unlikely that a medium could exist independent of an affiliation with some other medium.

Bolter and Grusin detail three ways in which remediation can be represented (pgs 55-61):

  • Remediation as mediation of mediation – Each act of mediation depends on other acts of mediation. Media need each other in order to function as media at all.
  • Remediation as the inseparability of mediation and reality – All mediations are real as artifacts in our mediated culture. They are media that remediate the real.
  • Remediation as reform – Since mediations are both real and mediations of the real, remediation can be seen as a process of reforming reality.

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