Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin provide an in-depth exploration of the logic that surrounds new media in Immedicacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation (1998), particularly how digital technologies begin to arouse those aforementioned ways of thinking through their existence in contrasting media outlets.
The first hurdle I came across with this reading was the lack of familiarity with the two latter terms, so I pulled some dictionary definitions off of Google to start my note taking process.
Hypermediacy is ” a style of visual representation whose goal is to remind the viewer of the medium” (Bolter and Grusin 272). Hypermediacy plays upon the desire for immediacy and transparent immediacy, making us hyper-conscious of our act of seeing (or gazing).”
We then learn from the authors that Remediation is “the representation of one medium in another,” and later on in the reading they argue that this is actually a defining characteristic of digital media.
Initially, I assumed that hypermediacy was something that always worked against establishing immediacy, which is considered the quality of bringing one into direct and instant involvement with something to give rise to a sense of urgency or excitement. This was not the case, as Bolter and Grusin begin introducing these three terms by saying:
“We do not claim that immediacy, hypermediacy, and remediation are universal truths; rather, we regard them as practices of specific groups in specific times” (Page 2).
To expand on that, we learn that immediacy can be seen differently from the perspective of artists, designers, theorists, or any viewers with less knowledge of the processes associated with the creation or presentation of media forms. Although, we also discover that hypermediacy brings a wider array of reactions that occur according to contemporary ideas that surround immediacy, so we already start to see how these two forms of logic are intertwined in that respect and not always polarized.
Furthermore, Bolter and Grusin assert that remediation will always operate under whatever cultural assumptions are associated with those two aforementioned themes. Yet before any contemporary examples of remediation are picked out for deciphering, first the historical resonances to Renaissance painting, nineteenth century photography and twentieth century film are examined among many other technologies.
Beginning with virtual reality, we are introduced to the term “transparency” and its relation to the immediacy of a medium, or our way of getting lost in the moment of being exposed to it. Virtual reality is presented as a very obvious example, as Bolter and Grusin describe it as so realistic that we are meant to forget about the fact that we are interacting with technology.
Transparency is then identified in Renaissance painting methods, where artists make use of linear perspective to draw what Alberti (1972) calls “an open window through which the subject to be painted is seen” (55). Additionally, paint artists use erasive methods such as removing brush strokes to establish a stronger sense of immediacy for viewers.
With the advent of photography and television, these technologies began to automate the techniques associated with linear perspective, thus also making it even easier to conceal the artist and artistic process so much more through their remediation of painting concepts. The same can be said for computer animation as well, where it is now commonplace to function as a film by presenting a “sequence of predetermined camera shots” (Page 9-10).
From this point of analysis, Bolter and Grusin then begin to highlight how the logics of immediacy and hypermediacy are governed by contemporary thoughts surrounding new media, such as a computer desktop full of windows.
“If the logic of immediacy leads one either to erase or to render automatic the act of representation, the logic of hypermediacy acknowledges multiple acts of representation and makes them visible. Where immediacy suggests a unified visual space, contemporary hypermediacy offers a heterogeneous space, in which representation is conceived of not as a window on to the world, but rather as “windowed” itself—with windows that open on to other representations or other media” (Page 15).
Thus our contemporary logic of hypermediacy falls in line with how we interact with the digital media of today, which are proving to be increasingly more multidimensional and versatile according to how we handle it. The desktop computer screen’s graphical user interface (GUI) was already mentioned before, but there are other examples such as opening multiple tabs on an internet browser which fall into Bolter and Grusin’s notion of “replacement” being the operative strategy in our windowed technology nowadays.
In addition, our ability to scroll through or zoom in on photos while using smart phones allows us users to become the mediators of the technology in more of a transparent fashion, as these methods remediate the older ideas introduced by computers, where visible buttons for a magnifying glass tool or scroll bar was accessible.
To conclude the analysis, the authors rebut against the argument made by media theorist Steven Holtzman (1997), who states that digital media “cannot be significant until they make a radical break with the past (Page 31). I would agree with this position as well, and the fact that there will always be a reflection or an idea of older media when it is compared to the actions of newer digital media.
It is exactly as Bolter and Grusin put it in their final sentence: “Repurposing as remediation is both what is ‘unique to digital worlds’ and what denies the possibility of that uniqueness” (Page 31).
Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. 1998. Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation. In Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: The MIT Press.