In their renowned book Remediation: Understanding New Media, Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin thoroughly spell out their concept of remediation which they define as “the representation of one medium in another medium” (45). Though their definition appears complete (and, at times, redundantly so) I believe that their claims appear contradictory at times. In their discussion of remediated mediums, they tend to fall into the same traps they warn against. While building the scaffolding for their concept, they also focus on digital media’s relationship to immediacy and hypermediacy. They define immediacy as individuals’ desire to see the contact point between “the medium and what it represents” (30) and hypermediacy as offering “a heterogeneous space, in which representation is conceived of not as a window on to the world, but rather as ‘windowed’ itself—with windows that open on to other representations or other media” (34). As such, an interesting contradiction arises between these two concepts that manifests itself in a user’s desire to look through a medium in order to see what it represents as well as being continually confronted with a mediation of content that makes the medium apparent. They continue to assert that in all remediation, the “older medium cannot be entirely effaced” (47) though “transparency remains the goal” (46). Within their definition, they continue to emphasize over and again the digital medium’s desire to “erase itself” (45) so that the viewer can confront the original medium (such as the physical desktop emulated through the computer desktop).
While they admit that the digital medium can never truly be erased, they seem to purport that, within those hypermediated environments, mediums and information can erase and replace each other, an idea that seems problematic. For example, they turn to a discussion of hypertext and the “World Wide Web” as “our culture’s most influential expression of hypermediacy” because “replacement is the essence of hypertext” (43). They claim that, upon clicking a hyperlink, the new material can “erase the previous text or graphic” (44). This reliance on the notion of erasure seems problematic though, for their belief that any data, page, graphic, text, etc. can be erased by new content. Perhaps this problem lies at the level of semantics in which they simply mean temporary replacement, not physical erasure, because, as Kirschenbaum makes evident in his essay “‘Every Contact Leaves a Trace’: Storage, Inscription, and Computer Forensics,” digital data is hardly as ephemeral as many believe it to be, especially in the case of navigating between pages. In this move, content is hardly lost- it is just navigated away from. It seems to me as if, in this instance, Bolter and Grusin must mean that mediums and material replace each other through hyperlink navigation, not erase. To glorify the WWW as our culture’s “most influential expression of hypermediacy” for the ability of its hyperlinks to “erase the previous text or graphic” seems inane. To glorify this type of hypermediacy over other mediums ignores the medium’s resemblance to the physical book, one in which a reader can flip the page and replace page two with page three. In omitting this similarity by glorifying the erasing potential of the WWW, Bolter and Grusin appear to forget their primary claims about remediation, that new media remediates mediums that came before.