In Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation, Bolter and Grusin focus on three different topics, each of which involves how media is portrayed, represented, and presented. The paper highlights how remediation operates under cultural assumptions about immediacy and hypermediacy, and touches on all three subjects. Bolter and Grusin make the point that these three concepts did not get their start with the digital age. Rather, they have existed long before that in various different forms of media.
The first section of the paper focuses exclusively on immediacy. Immediacy is our need to have media that reflects our reality as close as possible. There is a trail throughout our cultural history of attempts to create media that do this. The example used first is that of virtual reality. It is supposed to make us feel closer somehow but still, contains many ruptures. Bolter and Grusin say that this sort of transparent interface is born out of the need to gloss over the fact that digital technology is by definition mediated. Later on, the examples of renaissance painting and photography are used to illustrate immediacy through transparency. They make the point that each was the best attempt at immediacy up until that point. Each was the best representation up to that point. (Bolter & Grusin, 26) They then connect the concept to most recent times, suggesting that computer graphics are an extension of the need for immediacy. Later on, they state that the human agent being erased from the media is a big part of immediacy. It is what makes it seem legitimate or not.
The next section is based around the concept of hypermediacy. Hypermediacy can be defined simply as multiple forms of media combined together in a viewing experience. Hypermediacy “privileges fragmentation, indeterminacy, and heterogeneity and emphasizes process on performance rather than finished art object. ” (31) Although one can think of the internet as a good example of this, it didn’t start with it. Bolter and Grusin use the example of magazines such as Wired to illustrate that this is not new. A magazine layout features many combinations of mediums such as text and images, all together but not one overbearing on the other. Much like windows on a desktop, they don’t all try and blend into each other. They contrast with each other, and give you different perspectives. They also explain the difference between immediacy and hypermediacy. Immediacy is a unified visual space; hypermediacy is windows that open to other representations or other media. Finally, they comment that the internet is culture’s “most influential expression of hypermediacy.” (43) They also state that the internet is an exercise in replacement. It is most radical when new space is a different medium, such as reading an online article and then switching to a video. Finally, they state that the difference between immediacy and hypermediacy is the difference between looking at, versus looking through something.
Finally, they touch on the topic of remediation. This is a concept that should be familiar to most communications students. Remediation, to quote Bolter and Grusin is when content is borrowed from a certain form of media, but the medium is different. (44) With remediation, the medium borrowing the content rarely mentions the medium being borrowed from. For example, a movie based on a book would never mention the novel that it is based off. This is because it would ruin the illusion of immediacy. Remediation has permeated culture and society, Bolter and Grusin actually define remediation by different degrees. The first one is when an older medium is represented digitally without irony or critique. An example of this is CD-ROM picture galleries. The second one is when a medium emphasises the differences rather than try to erase is. The example they give is Microsoft’s Encarta, a digital encyclopedia that highlights the fact that it is a digital version. The third one is refashioning the older medium while still marking the presence. An example is e Emergency Broadcast Network’s Telecommunications Breakdown, where television and movie clips are inserted with techno music. And finally, when a new medium tries to absorb the old medium entirely. An example of this is the video game Doom, which remediates cinema.
In all, the article focuses heavily on immediacy and hypermediacy, which is understandable. Remediation is a fairly basic concept that most can easily understand. However, the first two take a bit of time to grasp, thus the pages of examples. As well, the concept of remediation builds upon both of the first two concepts. You get a better understanding of remediation by knowing in depth what immediacy and hypermediacy are, and how they relate and contrast. It is also interesting how they use previous examples of media to illustrate all three concepts. Most people think that they have their origins with digital media; it is interesting to see the various examples that are used to illustrate that these concepts have existed as long as media has existed.
Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. 1998. Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation. In Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: The MIT Press.