Media studies seems to be in a constant state of needing to deal with Bolter and Grusin’s conception of “remediation,” of which they write:
“It would seem, then, that all mediation is remediation. We are not claiming this as an a priori truth, but rather arguing that at this extended historical moment, all current media function as remediators and that remediation offers us a means of interpreting the work of earlier media, as well.” (55)
In other words, media are in a constant state of informing and changing one other. The authors go on to claim that this does not remove reality; it still exists, there “is no getting rid of the real” (56). The real can, however, be reformed in the ongoing process of remediation.
Paul Booth, in his attempt to fit remediation into current understandings, quibbles with Bolter and Grusin’s conception. His concerns are several: it’s (1) deterministic when it claims not to be, it (2) doesn’t adequately address social and cultural factors, and it (3) forces immediacy and hypermediacy into a position of polar opposition. He uses the logic of mediacy in alternate reality games (ARGs) to work through these issues, eventually coming to a conception that he calls demediation.
Demediation, put simply, is “a state where the ubiquity of mediation hides that selfsame mediation” (181). Demediation is the state a participant in an ARG enters when their mediated play so mimics reality that there is nothing outside of mediation: “To become completely engulfed in a mediated world. . .is to lose the ability to tell mediation from reality” (187). With this concept, Booth can then answer the concerns he raises about Booth and Grusin’s remediation.
First, the demediated state is one that accepts the entire, enmeshed web of technologies and can also encompass such experiences as flow (186), which means that technology is not remediated in each new generation in a linear fashion as according to Bolter and Grusin. Second, the user experience of an ARG is an important and valued part of the demediated state; in fact, demediation could not be explained without examining users and their forms of participation, concerns which need not be addressed when speaking of remediation. Third, ARGs “mash up” immediacy and hypermediacy, showing them not to be separate sides or drives; rather, they “inhabit an interreal space that has characteristics that can be described as both immersive and as obvious. . . .the ARG highlights the hypermediacy as an immediate experience” (189).
To Booth, then, demediation moves media studies past remediation, past looking at media as iterations of something out there, apart from reality (although able to affect it). Instead, media studies must acknowledge that all is media, whether daily life or game, never examining concepts such as “fans” or “participation” without first acknowledging that “mediation becomes a way of life” (192).
While I’m unsure whether I agree with Booth, I do find an interesting echo in Manovich’s conception of the interactive, of which the latter writes: “In relation to computer-based media, the concept of interactivity is a tautology. Modern HCI is by definition interactive” (55). Just as interactivity is no longer a state that has any difference from non-interactivity (since media can be thought of as always interactive), so does demediation show that the state of non-media doesn’t exist, making mediated living the default. As we march forward with technology and media, which other states will we become unable to enter? Will one of the “public/private” binary be erased? What about choice? Although I don’t pretend to be able to guess, I would assume it’s an important area to continue to study.
Bolter, Jay David and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. MIT Press, 2000.
Booth, Paul. Digital Fandom: New Media Studies. Peter Lang Publishing, 2010.
Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. MIT Press, 2002.