Got Remediation?

A Summary of Networks of Remediation

Are video game designers as inspired as fine artists? Can a photographer be as skilled as a painter? What’s so great about the Opera and so lousy about movie theaters?


These relationships, and the notion of “remediation” are examined within “Networks of Remediation”.  Authors Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin define the semi-jargon term “remediates” as that of a medium “which appropriates the techniques, forms, and social significance of another media and attempts to rival or refashion them in the name of the real”.

Bolter and Grusin go on to define the unique properties of media, noting how each medium develops off the back’s of previous forms and how each do not independently exist.

Examples of this “remediation”, such as how the medium of the creation of the movie theater usurped the audience of a stage theater performance, help to clarify the authors’ point. The existence of a new, and what is often characterized as a “better” medium, does not inherent qualify it as “remediating”, for the new medium must be inexpensive and widely available. The authors provide the history of  the personal computer and how during it’s early existence, cost and availability restricted it from greater public use.

Technologies of Mass Destruction

After framing the relationship of remediating mediums, Bolter and Grusin point out the social, technological, and political impact of medium innovations.  Most importantly the articles recalls Walter Benjamin’s 1969 essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, commenting on the transformational qualities of mechanical printing and the destructive qualities this new technology poses.

Noting this point relates back to the idea stated earlier in the article on how one system connects to another. In this case Benjamin is referring to the mechanical press’ ability to de-value the uniqueness of an image. This notion is just as valid if compared to VHS’s ability to devalue the qualities once carried only by film stock.

Technological Determinism

Bolter and Grusin outline the ideas of British Maxist Raymond Williams (and adopted by historians and social scientists) that the introduction of new mediums changes society and that this quality means that “nothing good can come of it”.  This argument is in contrast with the message of mainstream society that these technological advancements are valuable.

Gender Remediation

The authors note the same potential for oil paintings and wood cuts to objectify the subject (in many cases women), newer mediums like film carry the same potential. This critique of the newest mediums is voiced loudest by feminists.

Though as the authors note, this gender relationship and perspective is not uniform in emerging technologies and differs by the medium. As Networks of Remediation comments, television’s coverage of a live story have a different relationship with the consumer than the user of a video game.

In closing the authors dissecting the two different relationships that many of these emerging mediums selectively embrace. The “Linear Perspective” of the TV creates a sense that there is a single “right viewpoint. In contrast the “hypermediacy” of the Internet engages the viewer in a much different fashion, one that is both “multiple” and “deviant”.

-Joel Ballezza

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  • David Cho  On 11 November 2005 at 10:44 pm

    Hi Joel,

    Interesting perspective on remediation. How do you feel the author’s idea apply towards today’s media and social aspect?

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