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Remediation: Understanding New Media by Bolter and Grusin, link to

Remediation: Understanding New Media

by Jay David Bolter

and Richard Grusin

Wiki entry:
Diane Cooke
James Gregory
Wil Laveist

"The iPad of 1935,"
How new is “new media?” In Remediation: Understanding New Media, authors Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, explain the impact and influence that new and old media have on each other. They call this Remediation: new media borrows from old media as it seeks to improve upon it. In turn, old media, to avoid becoming stale and obsolete, adapts features of new media and improves as a result of new media’s influence. What makes new media “new” is the particular way in which it reconstitutes the elements of the media the precedes it.

The importance of this book to the field
of study is that it builds on earlier research regarding user interaction and experiences with media (content) through mediums and further defines the interplay. It reinforces the idea that in terms of the evolution of media (print, TV, radio, Web, etc.), there is really "nothing new under the sun." Each has been informed by what preceded it. However, innovation results by pushing the envelope based on what is lacking in the current media. The “new media” of tomorrow will likely result from what is lacking in today’s  new media because of our drive to make our experiences with  content more and more real to life.

The book is divided into three sections:

I.  Theory, which outlines Remediation’s foundations

II.  Media, looks at various modes of communication 

III. Self explores social implications.

Section I: Theory

Chapter 1 deals primarily with what the authors call the “double logic of remediation.” Western culture desires to erase its media through the act of multiplying it. The authors refer to this as “immediacy” and “hyperimmediacy.” Immediacy refers to our desire to have a live experience with the content, as if the medium is transparent. Hypermediacy refers to the viewer being conscious of interacting with the content through the medium. Immediacy and hypermediacy interact simultaneously and independently.

Chapter 2 addresses “mediation and remediation.” New media improves upon what the media that preceded it lacked. Motion pictures allowed for the exact theatrical performance to be seen over and over, where a live stage play obviously could not. As television improved upon radio in adding visuals to sound, websites improved upon television by adding instant user interactivity. Meanwhile, the previous media refashions itself by taking on characteristics of the new media. For example, the interface design of a CNN TV newscast often incorporates components of webpage design.

Chapter 3 is about networks of remediation. Medium is defined as “that which remediates. It is that which appropriates the techniques, forms and social significance of other media and attempts to rival or refashion them in the name of the real” (p.65). Each medium is interconnected with another. For example, theater to film. Websites/internet are tied to print designs as well as television. Also, new media supplants aspects of old media, particularly in terms of economics, in order to become viable to consumers in the marketplace.

Section II: Media

The Amazon Kindle. Image from
Section II of Remediation covers different types of digital media and how they remediate earlier media. At the core of this section is the concept that in remediating former media, the new medium “is just like “X,” only better!” This means the new medium “refashions,” improves upon and fills in a gap earlier media formats did not or could not fill. However, older media never fully goes away, but often appropriate qualities of the new in a symbiotic and cyclical manner. Old and new media can “honor, acknowledge, appropriate and implicitly or explicitly attack one another” (87).

The table below recaps the general illustrations covered in chapters 4-12, what forms they remediate, through which logic does the new seek to create an improved experience and to which concepts from the other texts do these media tie most closely.

Something to keep in mind as one examines this chart: not only to the media formats themselves appropriate qualities from each other, but immediacy and hypermediacy are symbiotic,as well. Theoretically these concepts function as two separate logics, but each lends to the other. The two function together as the double logic of remediation.

The last two chapters of Section II are “Ubiquitous Computing” (chapter 13) and “Convergence” (Chapter 14). As these two illustrations are more or less conceptual and approaches to using other media mentioned, we are discussing them separately.


What it remediates

Which logic it seeks

(immediacy or hypermediacy)

Computer Games

Computer Games controller--
(Chapter 4)
Arcade games, video games (89-90), standard board games, television, film, linear, point-of-view perspective (91), broadcast television (92), in some cases  (Myst), traditional written texts (96), acts of sex and violence, some social spaces when playing games in a community Both since the more immediate the experience feels, the more attention to the medium it draws

Digital Photography

Image of digital camera by Henkster, 5)
Photography, the photograph, computer graphics, photorealism, “Truth” of the material world (106-110), traditional visual art forms, photojournalism

The CD or server that stores images remediates the art gallery, library or archive (107).
Digital photography is hypermediated; traditional analog photography comes from desire for transparent immediacy (111)

Photorealistic Graphics

Photorealistic painting of cupcakes, by Thaneeya McArdle,

(Chapter 6)

Photography, the photograph, traditional visual art forms (pushing against expressionism, postimpressionism and modernism) (121), color, refracted light (123) textures (125), traditional artists (129) Both since the more immediate an image feels, the more attention to the medium it draws

Digital Art

Digital art by Caltiva,

(Chapter 7)

Traditional 2D and 3D art, photography, the photograph, traditional artists and artistic styles (134), popular illustration (135), static images, in some cases (such as fig. 7.6), film, television, video and even audio (136), depending on the subject matter.

One question that arises with Digital Art is this: when an artist uses a computer, how much of the product is due to the artist’s agency (140-143)?
Both, but it depends on the subject matter (133);

both can be side by side  (142)


Image of Film reel and canister, by alexsaes,

(Chapter 8)

Depending on the subject matter-- photography, static drawings, traditional art, computer graphics, computer games, live-action films, feature-length animated films remediate animated shorts (149), traditional cinematic camera techniques (shifting perspectives, subjective camera), the subconscious (Hitchcock’s dream sequences) 152), simulated nature (153), “cinema of attractions” (high-concepts and experiences to get people into the theaters) (156) Both, sometimes oscillating from one to the other and back (157)

Virtual Reality

Navy image of virtual paratrooper.

(Chapter 9)

Travel to actual places, films, fantasies, arcade games (“Too Much is Not Enough,” a virtual reality arcade in NYC), point-of-view experiences, desensitization therapy (for acrophobic patients) (165), defining the self in relation to the body in the world (166) The book claims “transparent immediacy” (161) though there often are hypermediate components to the interaction.

Mediated Spaces

Image of Epcot Center, by Miramar93,

(Chapter 10)

Disney theme parks remediate particular Disney films, songs, animated characters. Disney also remediates their parks and films on their television shows/channel. Epcot remediates travel to actual foreign countries (169-173).

Shopping malls are considered “non-spaces” since they don’t connect to “real life” experiences and “function only during hours of operation” (178).  Some “non-spaces” function as a connection to an historical event or person (178-9).

Cyberspace is another hypermediated space that rejects the material world and the human body (182).
Hypermediacy which then seeks to create an immerse, transparent experience


television, by Ambrosio,

(Chapter 11)

 Most media remediate most other media at some point in some way. Further, most remediation is reciprocal, meaning television remediates film in some ways, film remediates television is some ways, television and digital media remediate each other, etc.

Both, depending on the particular program. Live sports, for instance, shoot for immediate transparency, while television news shots for hypermediacy.

The World Wide Web

Image of networked nodes,

(Chapter 12)

Again, most media remediate most other media at some point in some way. In the case of the Web, nearly all forms of traditional media are remediated in some capacity for utilitarian effect.

Hypermediacy generally, yet immediate transparency is achieved with things such as virtual libraries, PDF documents, live streaming media, etc.

Ubiquitous Computing & Convergence
"The Push Button School of Tomorrow,"from

“Ubiquitous Computing – the use of electronic devises to refashion a physical environment, such as the classroom or the home. The devices are distributed throughout this environment and communicate with each other and with the user. Ubiquitous computing is in the spirit of hypermediacy and is the opposite of virtual reality” (Bolter 273).

Ubiquitous Computing is effective as a medium because of convergence. “We are still in a hypermediated environment, and yet we seem to be confronted by one all-encompassing medium rather than many – one whose characteristics are openness and transparency for all the participants. And it is almost as if the medium transcends any particular technology; it needs no computer. Instead, information cascades from device to device, seeking you out” (Bolter 223).

Section III: Self

The Self as Remediation - The Remediated “Real”

Photo of Rhinoplasty Nose Surgery Cosmetic Surgery Procedure being Performed by Facial Plastic Surgeon., Image from
Media remediates media, and media also remediates the “real.” Case in point: the remediated self, which is the spiritual, material, and social self represented through media, either virtually or networked, in both cases speaking to Interface, Performance, Perception, Interactivity, and Simulation.

The Virtual Self
The projection of the self through V.R. (ex: avatars, MMORPG’s, etc.). Rhetorical empathy is embodied in the Virtual Self as a way of knowing the world, whereas it “enable(s) us to occupy (a certain) position, and therefore the POV, of people or creatures different from ourselves” by placing the user within the  mediated (in this case, the virtual) environment (Bolter 245 - parentheses mine).

The Networked Self
The manifestation of self throughout digital media in terms of affiliation or association, such as the emailed self, the videoconferenced self, and various other representations of the user. Various manifestations of the networked self are “hypertexted” out from the original, each destination being one small part of the greater remediated self.

Key Concepts and Remediation:


Concerns are that new media is eroding the value and dependability of archived information. This could have a negative impact on the authenticity or reliability of content, as new media allows more average citizens and non authoritarians to collaborate, create and store reality. The authors cite digital photography, for example, as allowing for easy manipulation of reality. Unlike the chemical process of analog photography, digital images exist as bits. Bolter and Guisin raise the question of whether the image is actually a computer graphic and not a photograph at all (p.105).” Digital photography poses a similar threat for those who believe that the traditional photograph has a special relationship to reality” (p.106).


Hypermediacy has a social dimension in that as the user is aware of experiencing the medium, he/she creates a sense that the interaction with the medium is an “experience of the real.” The user enters into a relationship with the media through the environment of the medium.


As new media and old media influence, stretch and evolve each other, knowledge is increased as the content is expressed and delivered in different forms. New media also “repurposes” information, allowing for easy transmission across various mediums/platforms. Content originally written for a print publication, can be converted for use on a website as well as easily repurposed for transmission via mobile phone.


New media is driven by the desire for immediacy -- to  experience and interact with content live as if the interface is transparent. “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” (p.9) The borrowing process is a form of interaction between old and new media as new media improves upon what old media lacks and old media borrows from new media to maintain its relevance. The “two logics of  remediation” also pertain to user interaction with the medium. The desire for Immediacy (transparency) leads to hypermediacy in which the user becomes aware of the medium by which he/she is experiencing the content. Whether it’s a computer or video game player the user becomes conscious or even perhaps fascinated with the medium itself as he/she interacts with the content. 


Brooke devotes a good portion of his “Interface” chapter to Bolter and Grusin’s book. Brooke basically concludes that Bolter and Grusin’s work is best used as “a framework for focusing our attention on the similarities and differences among various media“ (Brooke 21) as well as “a framework for describing combinations that have already occurred and acquired some degree of cultural stability” (Brooke 21).

The concept of interfaces ties most obviously to Remediation’s recaps of computer games, virtual reality, television, the World Wide Web, and ubiquitous computing.  However, the idea that the interface acts as a translator (Gane and Beer 54), or gatekeeper between humans and machines also can link to Bolter and Grusin’s idea about how any medium that stands between the viewer and the viewed is a sort of interface that remediates—it is a point through with information is gathered. Therefore, digital photography, photorealistic graphics, digital art and television all act as interfaces between the viewer and the viewed. The more immediate the interface is, the more transparent it is; the more hypermediate the medium is, the more aware the viewer is of the remediation. As Gane and Beer point out, one danger of a medium’s transparency is that it can just become an accepted part of life and not prone to strict critical analysis (69).


The concept of “network” ties most directly to the way in which computer games, mediated spaces, the World Wide Web, ubiquitous computing and convergence allow connections, relationships and interactions among individuals and communities.

Bolter and Grusin are listed as key theorists in the Key Concepts text as they agree with Gane and Beer with regard to how networks and other social structures are culturally-constructed and driven. Media do not just pop out of nowhere, but rather they spring from other social constructions and can be studied through the lenses of social network analysis (23) as well as actor network theory(27).

As one reads about the networked media in Remediation, it’s important to keep in mind Gane and Beer’s point that networks are not stable and fixed entities. They can form into different configurations which shift dynamically (Gane and Beer 16-17). The Key Concept’s recap of Manuel Castells’ The Rise of the Network Society also brings into focus the idea of flows—just because there is a connection between two entities does not mean there’s a smoothe flow between them (Gane and Beer 21).


Brooke replaces the traditional rhetorical term “arrangement” with “pattern.” Rather than seeing arrangement as part of a process of creating rhetoric that subdivides into different genres and categories, Brooke states “it is possible to reconceive it as a practice that mediates those categories” (Brooke 112). In Bolter and Grusin’s terms, Brooke’s view of “pattern” remediates between one type of text and another. The fact that patterns emerge, go-between and connect between genre styles and societal expectation, ties in with the idea of network too.


Brooke replaces the traditional rhetorical term “delivery” with “performance.”

Both terms relate well to remediation in that what they describe are the resulting formats through which the viewer gathers information. All of the media discussed in Bolter and Grusin’s book, including the sections on the self, easily relate to the performance of the content.


The concept of remediation is itself persistence, whereas certain approaches or techniques are retained across varying texts and media from one platform to another. New media uses these retained approaches and techniques to remediate certain facets of the media that have come before.


Bolter and Grusin use perspective throughout the book to establish the concept of Remediation, especially in establishing examples of transparency and immediacy. The best example of this is linear perspective, which is a mathematical projection resulting in three-dimensional objects on two dimensional surfaces. The authors define it more specifically, in terms of Western painting method, and they use this example to establish what exactly is being remediated in new media, including digital art and motion picture art.


Proairesis is linked to invention. In seeking inspiration as an inventional device, media remediates. In seeking methods of content presentation, media looks to other media for invention.


In terms of the book as a whole, simulation can best be tied to the concept of remediating the real. Part three deals with specific ways the user’s self is represented through media. There is a reflexive relationship between user and medium... (centering around) out culture’s definition of the self” through digital media (229). The real self is thereby remediated in new media, illustrated in particular by the remediated material self. Our material self is our medium, which is remediated either virtually or as various network manifestations.


Some believe Remediation: Understanding New Media to be a very important contribution to the discourse, whereas others don't believe the authors went deep enough with their analyses of what takes place in the remediation process. Regardless of where people stand, it has sparked a lot of conversation and the term "remediation," as Bolter and Grusin have defined it, has been adopted and is well-used in academic circles.

Review by David Blakesley, Purdue University

Review by Nell Ferrell

Review by John Bonnet, Institute for Information Technology, National Research Council;view=fulltext


Despite the range of attitudes about this work, Remediation has proved to be a seminal piece of scholarship within the academic community ever since its 1999 release (MIT's version, in 2000). Google Scholar declares that Remediation has been cited in other scholarly works no less than 2895 times. Considering this impact, and the fact that media continues to expand and evolve, it's probably time for an updated version of this book to come out. Until then, there are a few videos on Youtube which can address the topic as it stands in today's world.

This video discusses technology that didn't exist when Bolter and Grusin wrote Remediation.
09.28.10 Augmented Versus Virtual Reality.mp4

The last word from one of the authors:
Jay David Bolter - Trends in Virtual Worlds
Their website: Nordic Virtual Worlds Network

Answer our question about remediation! Answers will be revealed on the night of our presentation.

Works Cited

Bolter, J.D. and R. Grusin. (2000). Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Brooke, C.G. (2009). Lingua Fracta: Towards a Rhetoric of New Media. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, Inc.

Gane, N. and D. Beer. (2008) New Media: The Key Concepts. New York: Berg Publishers.