There is No Crisis

Remediation: Understanding New Media by Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin (1991)

According to Bolter and Grusin, media is all about expression. Facilitating expression is media's purpose and its place in culture. Is the way we express ourselves inherent in our human character, or is it determined by our tools? Holtzman believes the latter, while Bolter and Grusin adamantly argue for the former: if our capabilities and goals of expression are fixed, there is nothing to fear, and there is nothing truly new, in new media.

We are not victims of changing technology and media. Media are not "external agents." Rather, they "emerge from within cultural contexts"(17). We determine our technology, not vice versa. The opposite view, "technological determinism," deemed a "trap by Bolter and Grusin, is the basis of our discussion of the supposed current "crisis of attention" (17). Critics like Carr would say that the introduction of the internet (new media technology) has changed the way we consume media negatively, and reduced our ability to appreciate and contemplate.

I propose that the increased hypermediacy of today simply matches the preferences of our culture appropriately. Previously we discussed hyper attention, which is the manner in which we consumer hypermediated content: switching focus and multitasking, seeking highest stimulation. The "crisis of attention" is a construction made from fear of progress and change. New media, which is the majority of expression most people today consume, require hyper attention. The way we want to engage with art (immediately) and the nature of our culture (heterogenous) requires the proliferation of complexity and access.

However groundbreaking the net might seem, visually complex media has always existed. Medieval cathedrals, illuminated manuscripts, and calligraphy are just a few examples Bolter and Grusin provide as historical context for our dual desire for immediacy and hypermediacy. While immediacy may provide unity and clarity, hypermediacy displays a "rich sensorium of human experience." This phrase reaches the heart of the appeal of hypermediacy that is not unique to the digital age. The human experience if nothing if not "rich" and varied. Hypermediated spaces and representations acknowledge and celebrate that complexity. Whether through a gothic cathedral, collage, or computer interface, hypermediation provides satisfaction in that acknowledgement.

The web's ability to "layer...visual and verbal meaning" makes the media it displays more effective. Carr feared that we would be turned into "pancake people" by spreading ourselves too thin across the breadth of available information on the internet. In this process we would lose our "dense cultural inheritance." Bolter and Grusin would argue the very opposite. More information displayed in increasingly complex and layered manners will increase our access to cultural history. The new media does not replace the old. Through remediation, the internet repurposes and makes relevant old media, as all new forms of representation has done.

The internet's lack of a concrete beginning, middle, or end can feel intimidating and scary. It is radically different from the former main transmitter of media (print). However, the evolution is natural. The heterogeneity of the space of the internet creates competition for the viewers attention, but free competition is very much the basis of our culture.