ARIN 6903 Computers as Culture : Seminar Presentation : Andra Keay
Bolter & Grusin (1999) “… we call the representation of one medium in another
remediation, and we will argue that remediation is a defining characteristic of
the new digital media.”
In the arts, media (the plural of medium) describes the material and techniques
used by an artist to produce work. In cultural theory, media is the means of
communicating information. McLuhan stretched the concept of media to include
all technology; books, clothes, roads, cars, they all mediate our existence.
The Talmud says, “We see the world not as it is, but as we are.” All is mediated…
Slide 2: From Sound to Word to Image
In the beginning was sound. And the sound became word. And word became
written. As we progressed from symbolically coding sound in speech, to the
writing of our symbols, we displaced our early oral culture with a culture of copy
The primacy of visual representation in the history of western art began and
embodies our cultural quest to hold a mirror to ourselves.
“Whence did the wond’rous mystic art arise,
Of painting SPEECH, and speaking to the eyes?
That we by tracing magic lines are taught,
How to embody, and to colour THOUGHT?” William Massey
Slide 3: Perspective
The renaissance development of linear perspective is inextricably bound up in
Bolter and Grusin’s double logic of remediation, immediacy and hypermediacy.
Perspective literally means “seeing through”. Albrecht Durer.
Andre Bazin calls perspective the first mechanical reproduction, giving the artist
the means to create an illusionary 3 dimensional reality. Alan Turing, remediated
this meme when he christened the computer ‘a simulation machine’.
Slide 4: Windows
In 1455, Alberti wrote ‘On Painting’…. “I draw a rectangle of whatever size I
want, which I regard as an open window through which the subject to be painted
Artists of the Renaissance created a more real representation of real. Not simply
a more successful illusion, but by mathematizing space and measuring the world,
geometry created repeatable, definite, transferable and almost tangible realities.
This picture has perspective, there is a vanishing point. There are also remnants
of a more symbolic representation as the people are represented proportionally
to their importance not their physical distance.
Slide 5: Erasure
To further the immediacy effect, the brush stroke and other signs of the artist
must be concealed. Bryson argues that in Western art tradition, oil paint is
primarily an erasive medium, erasing the surface of the picture plane.
Slide 6: Death
Photography so successfully erased the artist that it was only recently
considered art. Roland Barthes sees the photograph as a death more than an
erasure. It shows what was, not what is now and in the stillness of the image, the
captured moment, the drying of light, it highlights the loss of the actual.
This hypermediated reading, was overturned by the moving image. Film set the
Slide 7: Movement
Although in reality film is far more mediated than photography, it seems more
transparently, hypnotically real. Metz believed that film was more real because
we perceive the movement of film in the same way as we perceive ‘real’
movement, therefore doing away with a level of mediation or difficulty, softening
the edge or rupture.
Our normal way of viewing the world is mimicked and we enjoy a subjective
feeling of reality.
Slide 8: Interaction
Film is multiple directed frames. We have no control. Even if our digital
computer experiences are less seamless visually than the filmic, our viewpoint
has come under our own control again. Our multiple windows are participatory,
and interactive creating a more immersive illusion of immediacy.
Slide 9: Multiplication
Immediacy is in constant oscillation with hypermediacy. (stated later too) Our
awareness of the frame around our windows is moved aside whenever we
choose to immerse ourselves in an image. The ruptures are as likely to be links
and connections. And within our multiple windows we are able to contain all of
our old media. This is the beautiful promise of digital culture.
Slide 10: New Media
New media encompasses digital, computerized or networked information and
communication. There is an implicit dating. New is… well, relatively recent.
Slide 11: Old Media
Film, photography and before that, the telegraph, were all digital media. Small
bits of information connected into a linear flow, or remediated by technology.
However, they are no longer new although they may repurpose and refashion
new media to the point almost of abandonment or absorption.
Slide 12: Alan Kay
Alan Kay, a founder of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) is best known for
the idea of personal computing, the concept of the intimate laptop computer, and
the inventions of the now ubiquitous overlapping‐window interface and modern
Alan Kay in 1987 reintroduces Ivan Sutherland’s Sketchpad, which was the first
graphical interface and used the first Window and arguably the first use of
cathode ray tube display. Around this time in the early 1960s, the first
interactive computer game ‘Spacewar’ was written by students at MIT.
(Dueling players fired at each other´s spaceships and used early versions of
joysticks to manipulate away from the central gravitational force of a sun as well
as from the enemy ship.)
And if you watch Engelbart’s ‘mother of all computer demos’ as well, you’ll see
that almost every feature of computing was developed 50 years ago. Graphical
interface, the use of icons, keyboard and mouse interface, games, laptops, office
applications, personal computing, the internet, hypertext, email.
Slide 13: History
So, hypermediacy has been around for a long time. Nested symbols,
interconnecting spaces. Multiplicity, frames, edges and awareness.
In fact, there are some old inventions that haven’t really been incorporated yet,
like shifting viewpoints of data rather than linking to extra or other material.
Slide 14: Immediacy/Hypermediacy
We continue to oscillate between these states. One contains and conceals all it’s
workings and utilizes technology to immerse us in a socially constructed reality.
The other glorifies in a multiplicity of messages and diverse connections
simulating our perceptional reality, “the rich sensorium of human experience”.
“The appeal to authenticity of experience is what brings the logics of immediacy
and hypermediacy together.” B&G p71
Slide 15: Repurposing
Most of the time we don’t even notice repurposing remediation. The online
gallery allowing us to view photos or artworks. The DVD shop. They offer us a
seamless reissue of the old. All have repurposed from one media to another.
Most of these paintings were also repurposed from stories, myths or legends.
This is in a similar fashion to the series of adaptions of Jane Austen which don’t
explicitly refer to the book from which they originated but nonetheless
reproduce it recognizably in another form. Knowledge of one is not required to
allow knowledge of the other.
Slide 16: Refashioning
Refashioning however is remaking not retelling. It’s the overt manipulation of
other media and requires an awareness of the other sources of the media
involved. An appreciation of the process by which they have been remediated is
implicit in the experience. The old can refashion new too.
Slide 17: Absorbing
Finally absorption is a form of remediation. The old media no longer exist on
their own but exist within the new. This slide is deliberately ironic (as is the use
of the word slide). Newspapers particularly are succumbing to the digital
onslaught and perhaps that crossed Pranav Mistry’s mind when he picked this
way of demonstrating sixth sense computing.
The video and the film have been absorbed, as have the vinyl record, the cassette
and perhaps soon the CD, for general purposes although there are still specialist
features in each of those medium… except perhaps for video tape.
Slide 18: Breaking Through
Rheingold (1991) In the 1990s, VR technology is taking people beyond and
through the display screen into virtual worlds.”
VR has been disappointing in terms of the wire or headset but virtual worlds
have become a far more popular medium than predicted.
I have remediated the work of our Computers As Culture lecturers in these slides
btw. This is from the 2006 Second Life Symposium on the Remediation of Art in
the New Media Consortium’s Virtual Campus.
Slide 19: Moving In
Jay Bolter said in a 2007 discussion with Lev Manovich that if he rewrote
remediation, he would reduce their focus on the visual interface and incorporate
more about the influence of the social and network society.
Is remediation sufficient to reveal the interplay with older forms as we dance
around the edges and spaces of new realities?
Slide 20: Turing ON
We’ve broken through, moved in and are now Turing on. Haptic interfaces, touch
devices, ubiquity, convergence and 3 dimensional computing, The simulation
machine is spreading its wings.
The touch screen is a passing phase. 3 dimensional interactive computing cubes
and wearable computers are real now.
Siftables are real. 3 dimensional interactive computing cubes.
See David Merrill’s talk at TED February 2009
Reactable interactive musical instrument used by Bjork.
Sixth Sense is wearable interface demoed at TED from MIT.
I don’t know about Pranav Mistry, but Alan Kay was initially a musician before
turning to computers, as was Ray Kurzweil, as are the Reactable crew and David
Merrill of Siftables.
Perhaps he’s a dancer and I think it’s to the physical and musical arts that we
have now turned away from the primacy of the visual.
The keyboard and mouse were invented over 50 years ago. I believe that the
shift in the last decade to always on connectivity, mobility and touch interfaces
show the start of the really new media. The singularity is nearer. It’s almost
within touching distance.
Where do we go when we’ve moved inside the machine?
Remediation is a valuable way to examine the interplay of interfaces in our
mirrored and windowed world, but I think that Bolter & Grusin could extend
their dialectic into the 3 dimensional digital space. Immediacy and hypermediacy
have also the dimension of altermediacy.
Our links to previous media have loosened and there is no easy way to put the
genie back in the bottle. This century’s digital media cannot be reverse
remediated without reference to multiple media and the ways in which we relate
to it have multiplied far beyond the hyperspace. In this, they are metamedia as
Turing, Kay and Manovich proclaim.
The ways in which we are constrained to interact or operate with and upon the
media become the most important feature of the remediation. The reforming of
This is the logical combination of Manovich and Kay’s Metamedia and Bolter &
Grusin’s Remediation, otherwise we risk running down an infinite looping path
or remediation, rupture and dissolution.
“The goal of remediation is to refashion or rehabilitate other media.
Furthermore, because all mediations are both real AND mediations of the real,
remediation can also be understood as a process of reforming reality as well.”
According to Baudrillard’s The Precession of Simulacra “It is no longer a question
of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the
signs of the real for the real.”
That representation now precedes and determines the real. This is McLuhan’s
message. We shaped the tools first but are now being shaped. This is more than
immediate, more than hyper, it is alter.
We are Alice through the looking glass and this new world may turn our
perceptions internetside out.
Remediation: Understanding New Media – Bolter & Grusovin
Many Artworks by Madeline Von Foerster
Windows and Mirrors – Bolter & Gromola
Remediation of the Artspace in Second Life – LytheWitt & AnyaIxchel
Mirror States – Kathy Cleland & Lizzie Muller
Computer History Museum, TED Talks and also….
Undertanding Media – Marshall McLuhan
The Medium is the Massage – Marshall McLuhan
Writing Space – Jay Bolter
Online Debate on Digital Aesthetics and Communication – Bolter, Manovich,
Jensen, Fetveit, Stald
Alan Kay’s Universal Media Machine – Lev Manovich
What is Digital Cinema – Lev Manovich
What is Cinema – Andre Bazin
Image Music Text – Roland Barthes
Simulacra and Simulations – Jean Baudrillard
Participation, Remediation, Bricolage – Mark Deuze
Interface as Image – Ian Gwill
Exploring Visual Culture – ed Matthew Rampley
Videos of talks and demos by Alan Kay, Doug Engelbart, Ivan Sutherland,
Video/demos Pranav Mistry, David Merrill and Reactible.
Apologies for all unmentioned influences!
I have also added a section on my “Ideas of Altermediacy” to the notes.
The Idea of Altermediacy
Altermediacy is the property of change in the remediation of the real. Neither
real, nor the illusion of real nor the augmentation of real, altermediacy describes
the state or rate of flux between our remediated reality, our immediacy and
Altermediacy in Remediation
Altermediacy can reference the way in which an individual is finding meaning in
the media or a group or network finding/making meaning in the media.
INDIVIDUAL Fast contact and strong Technologically limited,
feeling of conversation small screens, clumsy
possible but reply can be platforms, many steps.
lost in the crowd or if However links to extra
you’ve switched off. information/media poss.
GROUP/SOCIAL Mobilizing action or Weakening connections
sinking into through lack of depth
insignificance? Few and excess multiplicity.
groups gain strength and Move of advertizing into
identity from process. space.
Using twitter as an example of mapping altermediacy, you can ascribe a value to
the way in which twitter as a whole remediates our communications and also
use one value to contrast with another value by way of social, gender, economic
Altermediacy can measure both the state AND rate of change and is in play when
there is oscillation between immediacy and hypermediacy. However, that is
indicative of rate of altermediacy only. It is possible for there to be no significant
rate or oscillation between states and yet for a state to be highly compelling,
delivering a message of force.
Altermediacy and Media Ecology
Altermediacy can also be used to explain the ‘direct’ relationship beween media
but as ‘directly’ is effectively removing the mediating or remediating subject, the
relationship beween media as a flow is more rightly media ecology or network
Altermediacy , the Subjective and the Social
Altermediacy on the individual level is highly subjective and open to
psychological, literary and semiotic analysis.
Altermediacy on the social level is highly political and open to network, cultural
and sociological analysis.
Altermediacy is always open to an aesthetic or philosophical analysis.
Altermediacy , reflecting recent readings
Having just finished the moodled reference; “Video Games: Remediation and
Synergy” by Geoff King and Tanya Krzywinska, I was struck by the use of
hypermediacy to describe a ‘heightened or hyper reality’ with a greater effect
than media with immediacy.
While this is a logical expansion of the use of multiplicity as a sign of hypermedia
and a great appeal of hypermedia is the utilization of the multiple perceptions (&
workings) available to us, I find that use of hypermediacy consistent with Arthur
C. Clark’s quote in Bolter & Grusovin (p 163) that “Virtual Reality won’t merely
replace TV, it will eat it alive!”
However, I didn’t think that Bolter and Grusovin support a ‘hyper’ as ‘greater’
meaning. In fact, a definition of hypermediacy as ‘a greater illusion of reality and
greater presence’ is contrary to B&G’s definition from Remediation (p41), that
“In all its various forms, the logic of hypermedicay expresses the tension
between regarding a (visual) space as mediated and as a ‘real’ space that lies
Therefore, hypermediacy requires the acknowledgement of the media.
Altermediacy would answer the need to describe a heightening of effect (or
reduction) as a way of describing a media or a remediation.
Andra Keay August 2009