Remediation and Striving for Effeciency

Jay David Bolter’s writing, Remediation: Understanding New Media, discusses the topics of remediation, immediacy, hypermediacy, and transparency in digital media. Below are some topics that came to mind while I was reading Bolter’s writing. Most of the concerns arose around page 65-66 discussing earlier forms of remediation.

Bolter writes that “there may be or have been cultures in which a single form of representation (perhaps painting or song) exists with little or no reference to other media” but he does not give possible examples of unmediated forms (65) . After reading to this point in Bolter’s work, it appears that all media eventually remediates itself in some matter. So what could possibly have no form of remediation? A colleague of mine thought that Bolter could have meant very early images, like the drawings from Lascaux. Could this be what he was referring?

Songs seems to be an excellent example of remediation since they are derivitives of the culture in which they were sung, changing with time, social, cultural, and historical events that mold previous songs into new ones. This is evident in earlier folk songs, classical music, and hip-hop. Again, I am unclear about what early forms have no reference to media and I would like to learn more, or whether Bolter is referencing isolated cultures removed from ‘main-stream’ media. However, media (which is a conveyance, or expression of something) in any culture is automatically a remediation from it’s original form because the expression of the original media cannot be identical.

Efficiency seemed to be a missing element in Bolter’s writing. Humans innately draw upon what others have done to ‘improve’ our way of life. How, in American culture, can media and culture not have instances of remediation? Doesn’t remediation and efficiency go hand and hand? One aspect of a digital culture’s obsession with remediation is creating efficiency by improving what has come before. Computers of the 40’s and 50’s are examples of remediating handwriting and printing (just like Gutenberg‘s printing press) in an effort to make these processes more efficient. We remediate earlier technologies again and again in order to improve them by making them faster, easier to use, and less expensive.

We are never at a stand still in time nor do we wish to only experience what we have here and now and never improve apon or alter those experiences. If we do not remediate, we do not progress. Human kind is constantly striving to become more effecient, more streamline, making communication and work effortless and fluid. So, in our attempt to become like the Borg, highly efficient and one collective unity that provides an extreme transparent immediacy, we must continue to remediate until we cannot remediate any more.

Read more of my writing on remediation.

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