Immediacy. Hypermediacy. Remediation.

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 3, Surfaces and Strategies, Week 2

I have taken upon myself to learn more about the propositions posed by Bolter and Grusin. 

I have found their 40 page paper on this link accessed 8th June 2017

Entitled Remediation Jay David Bolter Richard Grusin (1996)

I follow, in the order of their writings, the flow of their analysis and evidence.  There is an unusually high degree of referencing due to the complexity of the arguments.  The quotes are the result of a two stage distillation process.

Quoting the film Strange Days (1995) and the concept of an enveloping skull cap that, as the sales patter goes “This is life. It’s a piece of somebody’s life. Pure and uncut, straight from the cerebral cortex. ‘ “You’re there. You’re doing it, seeing it, hearing it . . . feeling it.” Lenny is touting a black-market device called “the wire” to a potential customer’ (pp1).  They suggest, quite plausibly, that “our culture wants both to multiply its media and to erase all traces of mediation: it wants to erase its media in the very act of multiplying technologies of mediation (pp1).  Thus the virtual reality of immersive experience is a notion that removes the means, the vehicle, the method of experiential visualisation.  Put simply, there is an absence of media, it is invisible.  In 2017 wearable technology that actually achieves this involves heavyweight gear to remind you mediation is tangible on the muscles if not the immediacy encasing the eyes.

Hypermedia; (defined as ‘A collection of files existing in various digital media, such as text, graphic images, and audio and video recordings, that are connected together by hyperlinks’ see accessed 8th June 2017) Bolter and Grusin postulate that “Immediacy depends upon hypermediacy. In the effort to create a seamless moving image, filmmakers combine live-action footage with computer compositing and two- and three-dimensional computer graphics” (pp3).  They explain, “even the most hypermediated productions strive for a kind of immediacy. So, for example, music videos rely on multiple media and elaborate editing to create an immediate and apparently spontaneous style. The desire for immediacy leads to a process of appropriation and critique by which digital media reshape or “remediate” one another and their analog predecessors such as film, television, and photography.” (pp3).  They choose to provide a genealogical of traits demonstrating immediacy, hypermediacy, and remediation, with historical exemplars and contemporary digital media (as cited in their 1996 paper and thus appear somewhat outdated given technological progress to date).


Immediacy is a technology of mediation whose purpose is to disappear. The intent is described thus “what designers often say they want is an “interfaceless” interface, in which there will be no recognizable electronic tools, no buttons, windows, scroll bars, or even icons as such. Instead the user will move through the space interacting with the objects “naturally,” i.e., as she does in the physical world” (pp5) The aim is avoidance of a conscious medium of conveyance “a transparent interface is one that erases itself, so that the user would no longer be aware of confronting a medium, but instead would stand in an immediate relationship to the contents of the medium”(pp5).  Intriguingly the act of the designer or artist towards immediacy in the world of painting and photography means erasing their presence and thus marking their skill.  Those who are th ebest draw attention to themselves as their skill is celebrated, thus their presence is notable if not overtly there.

Bolter and Grusin contemplate computer generated images (CGI) which can now be virtual matches to photographs and there is experimental evidence that, for certain sorts of scenes, observers cannot distinguish these images from photographs. “even if we cannot always tell synthesized images from photographs, we can distinguish the somewhat different strategies that painting and photography have adopted in striving for immediacy, and we can explore how digital graphics borrows and adapts each of these strategies” (pp8).  They cite (pp9) the traditional methods of making photographs (film based and thus about the hand and eye of the photographer) verses the CGI methodology (programming and the use of algorithms which flow to create once set in motion my the hand on the mouse) when writing in 1996.  Yet diminishing CGI and  digital photography (and its ability to manipulate in cameras and during post production) to the pixel begins to merge the technology and thus the inputs and outputs.

The Logic of Hypermediacy

Bolter and Grusin  go on to describe the heritage of Hypermediacy.  History is invoked “in the earlier “multimediated” spaces of Dutch painting, medieval cathedrals, and illuminated manuscripts” (pp11) through to modernist collage and photomontage. They propose “at the end of the twentieth century, we are in a position to understand hypermediacy as immediacy’s opposite number, an alter ego that has never been suppressed fully or for long periods of time” (pp13). Velasquez’s Las Meninas is regularly referenced as having meanings and messages overtly framed.

Matters are brought somewhat up to date with the art critic Clement Greenberg’s (1909-1994) formulation and the analysis of modernist art when “the paradigm of transparency effectively challenged. 34 In modernist art, the logic of hypermediacy could express itself both as a fracturing of the space of the picture and as a hyper-conscious recognition or acknowledgment of the medium”(pp14)….”Just as collage challenges the immediacy of perspective painting, photomontage challenges the immediacy of the photograph”.  They cite Richard Hamilton’s Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? in that we become aware of the cluttered character of the space created in the crafted image and of the process of its crafting. “We become hyperconscious of the medium in photomontage”.

What are we seeing? “In all its various forms, the logic of hypermediacy expresses the tension between regarding a visual space as mediated and regarding it as a “real” space that lies beyond mediation….the tension between looking at and looking through…. a feature of twentieth century art in general and now digital representation in particular” (pp15)


This is all about “repurposing”: to take a “property” from one medium and re-use it in another, thus remediation. “With reuse comes a necessary redefinition, but there may be no conscious interplay between media. The interplay happens, if at all, only for the reader or viewer who happens to know both versions and can compare them” (pp17).   They see television and the internet as being in competition, each remediating the other.  Agin I suspect that the evolution of technology and indeed ‘media’ companies have actually merged and the cross-referencing – i.e. remediating is actually rather difficult to distinguish now, in 2017. “Paradoxically, then, remediation is as important for the logic of immediacy as it is for hypermediacy” (pp20).

Mediation and Remediation

Bolter and Grusin  introduce this section on strategies for remediation, thus “It is easy to see that hypermedia applications are always explicit acts of remediation: they import earlier media into a digital space in order to critique and refashion them. However, digital media that strive for transparency and immediacy (such as immersive virtual reality and virtual games) are also acts of remediation. Hypermedia and transparent media are opposite manifestations of the same desire: the desire to get past the limits of representation and to achieve the real” (pp20) “the real is defined in terms of the viewer’s experience: it is that which evokes an immediate (and therefore authentic) emotional response”

There is again a useful focus on twentieth century art, “as it offered the viewer a visual experience that he was not expected to validate by referring to the external world” (pp20)….“modern art too promised authenticity of experience, and it too emphasized process, e.g., the process of putting paint on canvas. …painting and sculpture can become more completely nothing but what they do; like functional architecture and the machine, they look what they do.  Digital hypermedia also looks what it does. On the other hand, modern art often worked by reduction and simplification rather than excess. In that sense digital hypermedia  are more like the excessive rhetoric of early modernism than the visual practice of high modernism. The rhetoric of cyberspace is reminiscent of the manifestos of Marinetti and the Futurists. Moreover, the cyberspace enthusiasts have a relationship with technologies of representation similar to the relationship that Marinetti and the Futurists had with technologies of motive power.

So, in undertaking this study, I summarise;

Immediacy is about a visual experience where the medium (the means) are invisible.

Hypermediacy is a collage of media which is visibly just that.

Remediation is an almost unavoidable (if one includes the subconscious referencing as well as the conscious) use of imagery reused in both immediate and hyper mediated contexts.


This peeve of learning has helped me critically analyse peer’s work, in that referencinces are often apparent in image making.

I see my use of technique, theories and style from my ongoing analysis of practitioners, which I shall write about separately.  This is in some ways a form of remediating an approach if not an explicit image.