Friday, April 13, 2007


On the opening page of UNDERSTANDING MEDIA (1946), Marchal McLuhan remarked that "the 'content' of any medium is always another medium. The content of writing is speech, just as the written word is the content of print, and print is the content of the telegraph"

As his problematic example suggest, McLuhan was not thinking of simple repurposing, but perhaps of a core complex kind of borrowing in which one medium is itself inroporated or represented in another medium. Dutch painters incorporated maps, globes, inscriptions, letters, and mirrors in their works. In fact, all our examples of hypermediacy are characterized by this kind of borrowing, as is also ancient and modern eKPHRASIS, the literacy descriptions of works of visual art, with W.J.T Mitchell (1994) defines as "the verbal representation of visual representation". Again, we call the representation of one medium to another REMEDIATION, and we will argue that remediation is a defining characteristic of the new digital media. What might seem at first to be an esoteric practice is so widespread that we can identify a spectrum of different ways in which digital media remediate their predecessors, a spectrum depending on the degree of perceived competition or rivalry between the new media and the old.
At one extreme, an older medium is highlighted and represented in digital form without apparent irony or critique. Examples include CD-ROM (or DVD) picture galleries (digitized paintings or photographs) and collection of literary texts. There are also numerous websites that offer pictures galleries (digitized paintings or photographs) and collection of literary texts. There are also numerous web sites that offer pictures or text for users to download. In these cases, the electronic medium is not set in opposition to painting, photography, or printing; instead, the computer is offered as a new means of gaining access to these older materials, as if the content of the older media could simply be poured into the new one. Since the electronic version justifies itself by granting access to the older media, it wants to be transparent. The digital medium wants to erase itself, so that the viewer stands in the same relationship to the content as she would if she were confronting the original medium. Ideally, there should be no difference between the experience of seeing a painting in person and on the computer screen, but is never so. The computer always intervenes and makes its presence felt in some way, perhaps because the viewer must click the button or slide a bar to view a whole picture or perhaps because the digital image appears grainy or with untrue colors. Transparency, however, remains the goal.


Anonymous said...

Very true...I never tought about it that way at all...
"the viewer must click the button or slide a bar to view a whole picture...Transparency, however, remains the goal." very very interesting line...its so true how we strive to attain reality in the digital form when we already have the reality right in front of it trying to create animated objects or creating graphics or creating electronic music or cloning...we somehow end up trying to imitate god's true isnt it?


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