Remediation is summarized most accurately with an example. You know that movie you saw last week that was based on a novel or a comic book? That’s remediation. It is essentially the appropriation of the content of one medium into another. Marshall McLuhan said it best: “The electric light is pure information. It is a medium without a message, as it were, unless it is used to spell out some verbal ad or name. This fact, characteristic of all media, means that the “content” of any medium is always another medium”1.
Remediation refers to the blending of old and new media2, and not always unidirectionally. Old media can remediate new media as well, as an attempt to reassert themselves in a world where digital media rule3. Digital technologies don’t radically change the mediascape so much as alter and add to older media4, as with the Web borrowing from television, photography, film, and print. The term can also refer to the blending of several different forms of media in one document, such as with the integration of a large, ornately decorated letter at the beginning of chapters in medieval texts; it is a fusion of images and words and yet they constitute parts of a whole5. Remediation has not newly emerged along with digital technologies, but has existed for centuries.
One component of modern remediation is distantiation. This term refers to the individualization and deconstruction of mainstream media8. This often happens simultaneously with remediation, and it results in the borrowing of form coupled with the subversion of content. The individual (a blogger, for example), comments on mass news media while imitating techniques used by those same mainstream journalists. Remediation does not refer to a fundamental opposition to the mainstream, so much as the desire of the individual to express themselves9.
It is worth mentioning the concepts of immediacy and hypermediacy, which figure into a “double logic” of remediation3. Immediacy refers to the idea that our culture wants to erase all hints of mediation by making the medium invisible4, while hypermediacy refers to the exact opposite – wanting to infinitely multiply our media and heighten our awareness of them5. Every medium wants to improve upon older media through creating a more immediate experience. However, this promise of a newer and more authentic experience causes an awareness of the “new medium as a medium… thus, immediacy leads to hypermediacy”6. Some examples of media that attempt to achieve immediacy are photography, linear perspective painting, and Hollywood film. On the other hand, hypermedia is exemplified by stage productions in popular music, the Web, and television4. While this is not so much a problem in and of itself, it still speaks to our culture’s poor media literacy.
Additionally, McLuhan takes issue with the focus on content in studying media. When it comes to reading and consuming media, he calls us numb, technological idiots. “The effect of the medium is made strong and intense just because it is given another medium as “content.” The content of a movie is a novel or a play or an opera,” he says, “The “content” of writing or print is speech, but the reader is almost entirely unaware either of print or of speech”7. Essentially, remediation is a seemingly simple concept that still manages to evade us, and it has scholars frustrated.
Though the concept of remediation has been recognized for a long time, digital technologies are changing what it means. New media are and will continue to do precisely what their predecessors have done in the past. They will refashion other forms of media, presenting themselves as new, improved versions. Digital media “can best be understood through the ways in which they honor, rival, and revise”10 other media. Remediation, coupled with participation and “bricolage”2 will figure heavily into a greater sense of individual involvement in media. Individuals will contribute meaning, modify and reform ways of understanding media, and assemble personal versions of that media2. Remediation therefore will not be left to a film re-presenting a novel, but will be a tool in the hands of individuals navigating the mediated world.
- McLuhan 8
- Deuze 66
- Bolter & Grusin 5
- Bolter 62
- Bolter & Grusin 12
- Bolter & Grusin 17
- McLuhan 18
- Deuze 69
- Deuze 70
- Bolter & Grusin 14-15