Reduce, Reuse, Remediate – Joe and Jameson

A particularly interesting quote from these readings is found in Bolter and Grusin’s piece on remediation: “In addressing our culture’s contradictory imperatives for immediacy and hypermediacy, this film demonstrates what we call a double logic of remediation. Our culture wants both to multiply its media and to erase all traces of mediation: ideally, it wants to erase its media in the very act of multiplying them” (Bolter and Grusin).

This is a fascinating concept, and even more relevant today as we accelerate towards a world that is, in a sense, at the same time both media-ful and media-less. Not only are different mediums combined (and “remediated”) in novel ways—text, video, audio, imagery, etc, and the new forms that emerge from their combinations—but they are also becoming even more a part of our reality. They are no longer seen as mediating forces for and to the world, but exist as forces for and to the world. They are both everywhere and nowhere. They are not merely tools we use to express, capture, or understand something else, they are also the something else. They are ubiquitous yet invisible. This is the double logic of remediation: we want to access the “unmediated” meaning being represented “behind” the medium (the “object,” in Peircean terms), without the “mediation” in between us and the object. What this means is we get an explosion of media, while at the same time try to limit any evidence that media exists.

Alan Kay discussed the new power that the DynaBook (and computers in general) could have on our education. His view on technology as a commodity was that the DynaBook could be given away for free, and only it’s content would be sold. Today we see the exact opposite, as our systems come with a hefty price, but are pre-loaded with free software. It’s the software that enables remediation: we can represent endlessly, convert one message into another, and represent that conversion as a unique message. However, what we can not do is properly denote the link in this trail of representation. For instance, to make a GIF is to take a sequence from a recording out of context, and loop it, thus repurposing the old sequence with a new meaning. If you do not recognize the context of the GIF, you cannot comprehend the full message. A small tweak in a GIF could enable a user to click on it bringing them back to the full sequence or source material. We have the capabilities to do this in research where we mark our cognitive associations with citations, so anyone reading our work can access the papers which influenced us. This type of linkage would be more difficult as it relates to music sampling, you can’t click on a soundwave, and digital streaming services do not show producer credits. Ultimately, it will be interesting to see if new media built for short viewing, will be able to credit sources, as original content becomes increasingly repurposed and devalued.

Alan Kay, A Personal Computer for Children of all Ages. Palo Alto: Xerox PARC, 1972.

Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media.

Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000.

Vannevar Bush, As We May Think. Atlantic, July, 1945.