The Double Logic of Remediation

Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin, ‘The Double Logic of Remediation’, pp.2-15, in:

Bolter, J.D., Grusin, R., 2003. Remediation: understanding new media. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.


In this last decade of the twentieth century, we are in an unusual position to appreciate remediation, because of the rapid development of new digital media and the nearly as rapid response by traditional media. Older electronic and print media are seeking to reaffirm their status within our culture as digital media challenge that status. Both new and old media are invoking the twin logics of immediacy and hypermediacy in their efforts to remake themselves and each other.


As the webcam jukebox shows, our two seemingly contradictory logics not only coexist in digital media today but are mutually dependent. Immediacy depends on hypermediacy. In the effort to create a seamless moving image, filmmakers combine live-action footage with computer compositing and two- and three-dimensional computer graphics.


The desire for immediacy leads digital media to borrow avidly from each other as well as from their analog predecessors such as film, television, and photography. Whenever one medium seems to have convinced viewers of its immediacy, other media try to appropriate that conviction.


[on a flight simulator game]

The action unfolds in real time, as the player is required to monitor the instruments and fly the plane. The game promises to show the player “what it is like to he” a pilot, and yet in what does the immediacy of the experience consist? As in a real plane, the simulated cockpit is full of dials to read and switches to flip. As in a real plane, the experience of the game is that of working an interface, so that the immediacy of this experience is pure hypermediacy.

Remediation did not begin with the introduction of digital media. We can identify the same process throughout the last several hundred years of Western visual representation. A painting by the seventeenth-century artist Pieter Saenredam, a photograph by Edward Weston, and a computer system for virtual reality are different in many important ways, but they are all attempts to achieve immediacy by ignoring or denying the presence of the medium and the act of mediation.


Like immediacy, hypermediacy also has its history. A medieval illuminated manuscript, a seventeenth-century painting by David Bailly, and a buttoned and windowed multimedia application are all expressions of a fascination with media.


Our primary concern will be with visual technologies, such as computer graphics and the World Wide Web.


We will argue that these new media are doing exactly what their predecessors have done: pre//senting themselves as refashioned and improved versions of other media.


Digital visual media can best be understood through the ways in which they honor, rival, and revise linear-perspective painting, photography, film, television, and print. No medium today, and certainly no single media event, seems to do its cultural work in isolation from other media, any more than it works in isolation from other social and economic forces.

What is new about new media comes from the particular ways in which they refashion older media and the ways in which older media refashion themselves to answer the challenges of new media.