My Journal



Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation

Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. The MIT Press, 2000.

Repurposing as remediation is both what is “unique to digital worlds” and what denies the possibility of that uniqueness” (50).

In chapter one of this text, the authors discuss immediacy, hypermediacy, and remediation. Fittingly, they offer the disclaimer that they make no claim that any of these three concepts are universal truths, but rather that they are practices of specific groups at specific times.

Transparent Immediacy
Discussion of this term should really consider each word separately. Transparency refers to the goal of interface designers and developers to make the “interfaceless interface” – to make it so intuitive, it erases itself for the user.

In this sense, a transparent interface would be one that erases itself, so that the user is no longer aware of confronting a medium, but instead stands in an immediate relationship to the contents of that medium” (24).

Immediacy refers to users’ desire for immediacy in access, understanding, and interaction. This is to say, users want an immediate connection with the medium. “The automatic or deferred quality of computer programming promotes in the viewer a sense of immediate contact with the image” (28). By extension, when one is using video to communicate with another, he or she has an equal or greater sense of this immediate contact, yet with the individual on the screen.

This term is sort of the opposite of transparent immediacy in that hypermediacy’s goal is not transparency, but rather to be very apparent so that the user may interact with the interface. “Its raw ingredients are images, sound, text, animation and video, which can be brought together in any combination” (31). In hypermedia settings, the user is continually brought back to and made aware of the interface.

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. (34).

The authors reference a number of early devices, such as the diorama, the phenakistoscope, and the stereoscope.

These devices, characterized by multiple images, moving images, or sometimes moving observers, seem to have operated under both these logics at the same time, as they incorporated transparent immediacy within hypermediacy. (37)

Like such earlier devices, the online video conversation (OVC) is a sort of unique combination of striving for both transparent immediacy and hypermediacy. By the use of the video, it places the user right in front of a human conversant, including the awareness of sound, appearance, gesture, facial expression, etc. In this way, the interface strives to remove the controls one has to use when communicating via IM, Chat, email, telephone, etc. Upon locating the video still, one need merely push a single (Play) button and he or she can see and hear the conversant’s oration. However, there are many other controls on the screen including the viewer’s ability to post a textual response in the video timeline or to forward/rewind the video as desired. In this way, the interface is pushing for hypermedia, to make the interface as interactive as possible. Of course, one can also post a video response, which presents another series of steps and tools to post such a response.

“[H]ypermediacy can operate even in a single and apparently unified medium, particularly when the illusion or realistic representation is somehow stretched or altogether ruptured” (34.

It is important to note that the logic of transparent immediacy does not necessarily commit the viewer to an utterly naïve or magical conviction that the representation is the same thing as what it represents. (30).

Placed in the context of the online video conversation (OVC). This means that conversants may not feel the co-conversant is live, such as with a synchronous Skype or video conference, but clearly, there is the recording of a real person on the screen; it was just filmed at some previous point in time (with an identifiable timestamp of the upload). In other words, no one is really deceived by the OVC, not to the extent that the interface becomes so transparent, one forgets that the conversant is not actually in the room or that the conversation is not live. However, the merging of the two logics–transparent immediacy and hypermediacy–can create a simulated feeling of presence.… at least that is the direction my research is pointing thus far.

“[W]e call the representation of one medium in another remediation, and we will argue that remediation is a defining characteristic of the new digital media” (45).

This term refers to the idea that all new media (and virtually anything can be considered new media at its inception) relies on one or more preceding medium, which it refashions or repurposes. As McLuhan put it in Understanding Media, “the ‘content’ of any medium is always another medium. The content of writing is speech, just as the written word is the content of print, and print is the content of the telegraph” (23-24). Now, we can still see that many new media examples draw on preceding media. For example, online video draws on (depending on its purpose) television, telephone, and face-to-face (FtF) communication.

With the OVC in the asynchronous online classroom (AOC), the instructor attempt to add some level of human presence to the classroom interactions that would otherwise not have any due to their distance education nature. In the way, the image is a representations of the individual, and one sees it as such partially due to the hypermedia aspect of users having to interact so much with the interface.

Ideally, there should be no difference between the experience of seeing a painting in person and on the computer screen but this is never so. The computer always intervenes and make its presence felt in some way, perhaps because th viewer must click on a button or slide a bar to view a whole picture or perhaps because the digital image appears grainy of with untrue colors. Transparency, however, remains the goal. (45-46).


Finally, I’ll (re)post the reference I made on 06.04.10 about remediation and the OVC:
It is worthy to note that the OVC can now be yet another technology to add to the list of those that must be modeled on (or at least thought of in relation to) a preceding medium or technology with some new feature, an idea that relates directly to Bolter and Grusin’s concept of remediation– the process of creating new meaning in a new item by applying a module of another medium to it. The OVC is essentially just online video; it does not offer any radically new feature beyond what has been available for quite some time: a video repository to which one can upload and store videos and make them public (or private, available only to a select audience). The ability for viewers to comment within a video’s timeline is relatively unique in that it is not a common feature with all repositories; however, the really unique aspect to the OVC is the way in which it is used. Video as a communication tool is generally used in a synchronous manner with tools such as Skype, video IM, and teleconferencing. Conversely, the OVC takes place asynchronously, which allows participants the ability to ponder responses before posting, respond at any time, rerecord a response before posting it live, go back and re-read/watch previous posts, and search archived conversations.