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  • Premediation
  • Richard Grusin

Remediation and Premediation

In our 1999 book Remediation: Understanding New Media, Jay Bolter and I defined "remediation" as the double logic according to which media (particularly but not exclusively digital media) refashion prior media forms.1 In response to the question of what was new about digital media at the end of the twentieth century, we proposed that these media were new precisely because of the ways in which they refashioned older media. Specifically, we examined the ways in which such media as computer graphics, video games, virtual reality, and the World Wide Web define themselves by borrowing from, paying homage to, critiquing, and refashioning their predecessors, principally television, film, photography, and painting, but also print. Video and computer games, we argued, remediate film by styling themselves as "interactive movies," incorporating standard Hollywood cinematic techniques. Virtual reality remediates film as well as perspective painting. Digital photography remediates the analog photograph. The Web absorbs and refashions almost every previous visual and textual medium, including television, film, radio, and print. Furthermore, we argued that older media remediate newer ones within the same media economy. The traditional Hollywood cinema, for example, has responded to the challenge of digital media in a variety of different ways: by employing computer graphics in otherwise conventional films, by creating films entirely with computer animation, or by replacing the logic of linear narrative with more iterative, gamelike logics. Television, too, has made such extensive use of new media that TV screens often look like Web pages. Remediation, we suggested, seemed to be a characteristic not only of contemporary media but of visual media at least since the Renaissance, with its invention of linear-perspective painting—as evidenced by the recent interest among art historians in the role that optical devices (including the camera lucida, camera obscura, and photographic projection) played in the history of realistic painting. Each medium seems to follow this pattern of borrowing and [End Page 17] refashioning other media, and rivalry as well as homage seem always to be at work.

In Remediation we took Kathryne Bigelow's 1995 film Strange Days as exemplifying the often contradictory logic of mediation at work at the end of the twentieth century, tracing out what we described as the double logic of remediation by which contemporary culture seeks simultaneously to proliferate and to erase mediation, to eliminate all signs of mediation in the very act of multiplying them. In 1999 we argued that Bigelow presented a vision of the near future that was really an account of the double logic of remediation at the historical moment of the film's production and release. Strange Days imagines an idealized form of remediation as a perceptual immediacy that would bypass or erase all mediation by connecting one consciousness to another, even while the film itself simultaneously presents a world in which media and mediation are everywhere (including the recording and playback devices that produce and transmit the "clip" that is a piece of another's perceptual experience).

Although we were, I would insist, correct to single out Strange Days as an instance of remediation as a cultural dominant at the end of the twentieth century, we did not at that point recognize how this double logic—if not precisely nearing its end—was at least on the verge of being re-mediated according to another logic, a logic of premediation in which the future has always already been pre-mediated. In other words, we failed to understand fully the way in which Strange Days was already participating in a logic of premediation insofar as it was pre-mediating the United States (particularly Los Angeles) nearly five years into the future. Furthermore, we failed to recognize that Strange Days was also participating in a logic of premediation insofar as it remediated future media practices and technologies. In depicting the "wire" as a device that records one person's sensory perception of the past, according to the logic of appropriate media forms, and makes it available in the future for playback by another person, through means of appropriate media technologies, Strange Days not only participated in the double logic of remediation at the end of the twentieth century but...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1536-0342
Print ISSN
0011-1589
Pages
pp. 17-39
Launched on MUSE
2004-07-14
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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