- Premediation: Affect and Mediality after 9/11
Richard Grusin's Remediation (co-authored with Jay David Bolter) has become core reading in media studies and cognate disciplines' curricula, and with a new book out called Premediation, there is a temptation to read it as a mere updating of the remediation thesis introduced some 10 years earlier. Remediation came out at a good moment in the midst of an interest in drawing theoretical concepts and methodology from old media and new media in parallel lines and added to that theoretical context its own input. Understanding new media from computer games to the World Wide Web through the very McLuhanesque theoretical idea of remediation was further elaborated in the book through the double logic of mediation in new media cultures. It was not solely an idea stating that new media circulates old media (even if articulating that the novel inventions had strong repercussions in understanding the prolonged lifetime of old media, with resonances to such work as Erkki Huhtamo's on the recurring topoi of media culture), but an elaboration of the constant tension between discursive immediacy and hypermediacy as aesthetic strategies. In the words of that earlier book, "Our culture wants both to multiply its media and to erase all traces of mediation: ideally, it wants to erase its media in the very act of multiplying them" (p. 5). Actually, Grusin himself is keen to establish continuities between Remediation and Premediation. He describes this new research concept and the book as a continuation or a counterpart to the earlier project, a new form of a media logic that is especially visible after 9/11, which is for Grusin the key turning point. However, I would argue that these books are quite different in their take and style, and that Premediation is not only a complementary project to the earlier one; the clear-cut "adaptability," to use a word that of course does not entirely catch the full breadth of Remediation, is in Premediation applied toward a more refined conceptual arsenal that articulates premediation more clearly as non-representational, material and affect-based logic of media.
Grusin outlines his new interest in media logic that tries to come to grips with futurity as the new horizon for politics of media cultures. Indeed, smoothly written and mapping his interests as part of the wider development of post-9/11 culture, he articulates the shift from the more screen-based emphasis of Remediation to his current interests in social networking and software-based cultural production. A key current concept is "affect," which both resonates with some recent trends in cultural theory even branded as the "affective turn" and acts for Grusin as a way to understand the embodied nature of our behavior in network environments—behavior that is fully embedded in a politics of anticipation that he sees as a new version or perhaps as a replacement of what such writers as Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Kracauer articulated as the emblematic distraction inherent in cinematic modernity.
Premediation is defined in the book in various but converging ways that all seem to contextualize it as a regime of security, temporality and processes of mediation after 9/11. Hence, as Grusin admits, it is primarily a book about America, even if post-9/11 culture has had its global wakes. Premediation is about such futures that are already present—the idea or feeling that "the future has already been pre-mediated before it turns into the present (or the past)," hence the need for a kind of a remediation of the future in order to "maintain a low level of fear in the present and to prevent a recurrence of the kind of tremendous media shock that the United States and much of the networked world experienced on 9/11" (p. 4).
Premediation works through the idea of media as objects and "mediation itself as an object" (p. 5) through which to investigate the mobilization of bodies in this security regime. Hence Premediation...