Sunday, September 28, 2008

Case Study of Remediation/Circulation

Looking forward to reading them!


Kara T. said...

Ok, no comments...I'm posting first. Someone always needs to be the first...Enjoy!

Kara Taczak
Case Study
Dr. Kathleen Yancey
Due: September 29, 2008

Manolo, Louis V and Love: A Lens into Remediation through Sex and the City

My Zen teacher also said the only way to true happiness is to live in the moment and not be worried about the future.
—Carrie Bradshaw

My Unsentimental Education: Love in Remediation? I Don’t Think So…

It all began as it normally does—innocently enough. Class, fall semester, 2008. Same time, same place, almost the same group of people. KY was explaining the syllabus, and it seemed to follow the right protocol: lots of reading (check), a few small writing assignments (check), blogging (check), many SRRs (check, check), and big final project (I’ll check on it later). Three weeks later, I sat with my book by Bolter and Grusin opened enjoying my own version of remediation. I read the book’s first ten chapters, wrote a lengthy SRR, felt good, felt confident and walked into class armed with discussion points in my head.

(Imagine a giant red balloon full of hot air hovering above the room. Now watch as someone in a suit -- specifically the black suit with gold detailing -- takes a long, skinny pin and slowly, yet delicately jabs it into that red balloon.)

Sitting in my normal spot between Matt and Gil, I felt my grasp on remediation was slowly yet surely slipping away. What?!? Remediation is not as simple as one medium talking to another medium?

Well then, just what is remediation and what does that mean for me? To understand this, I must start with the two men who wanted to define it all for us—

Bolter and Grusin (Hum along to J. T.’s theme song)

Bolter and Grusin (otherwise known as B&G) began by defining remediation as a medium that has been (re) appropriated or borrowed and reused in another medium or the representation of one medium or another (45). It can also be represented in these three ways: 1) remediation as the mediation of mediation; 2) remediation as the inseparability of mediation and reality; and 3) remediation as reform. These definitions seem logical; they seem workable within the context that the two authors set up the book. Our culture, as they suggest, has rapidly progressed with new digital media and what is new comes from the particular ways in which “they refashion older media and the ways in which older media refashion themselves to answer the challenges of new media” (15). Remediation is our culture’s response to life’s rapid progression. It is the way in which the old becomes new again and appreciated for the value that it can offer the digital world.

Well ok then remediation seems workable. The next reasonable step was to figure out what they meant by medium or what is not a medium, which as shown in the example below is not as easy as we first thought:

A new PhD student came to the Friday “Chew”. He brought with him an interesting, yet challenging view of remediation. For twenty minutes, the students sat around the Panera table as the sun burned down upon them and discussed (well some of them argued) his theory of remediation. “NO!” demanded one student. “You’re wrong! If we say a watch is a medium then everything and anything can be a medium…that chair can be a medium and I don’t buy it!” Silence followed for the briefest of seconds after this proclamation before conversation continued.

Swingin’ Definitions? I don’t think so…

No real verdict was reached in this conversation because the term medium seems to be as slippery as remediation. B&G attempt to define it in simple terms: “a medium is that which remediates” (65). They continue “it is that which appropriates the techniques, forms, and social significance of other media and attempts to rival or refashion them in the name of the real” (65). With this definition in mind, perhaps both students at the Chew had a point; a medium could be a watch if he could prove it remediates another medium. However the other student had a point too: where is the line drawn for remediation? Everything can not be considered a medium…or can it?

While I am a lover of history, I am not a lover of theory with slippage so slippery not even a penguin could manage to walk over it and not fall. The following is a tale of remediation as told to me through the mediums that belong to Sex and the City. Nothing has been changed, so what you will read is the true account of remediation. Is it better or worse than those told before me? Who can tell except those that stand within the walls of the secret society and understand the slippage that slipped out before?

Love’s like a runway but which one do I love more: The beginning

In fall of 1994, Candace Bushnell was asked by her editor-in-chief at the New York Observer if she would like to write her own column. Bushnell states she skipped with joy and exclaimed, yes, yes! Though she was unsure of what to say or where to start, she was convinced it should be about her and her friends—“a group of single women all of whom seemed to have had a never-ending series of freakish and horrifying experiences with men (and sometimes with the same men)” (Bushnell vii). They often discussed their crazy relationships at length in order to laugh and keep from going insane. Bushnell admits that while many people might find the content cruel and disturbing, it does contain some universal truth revolving around the question—why are we (women) single? Originally written for the New York audience, she safely concluded it was because women wanted to be single. The characters she created and the stories she told all hold many variants connecting cities across the United States hinting at the cultural significance that would soon unfold following the TV series and the movie.

This initial iteration of Sex and the City was created in response to a boss’s offer. It continued due to the demand of the readers. Later because of the success the column enjoyed, Bushnell began her first remediation from column to book. This step is an example of remediation as reform because as B&G state “remediation can also be understood as a process of reforming reality as well” (56). Bushnell’s collection of essays was accounts of her and her friends’ real-life experiences with men in New York City.

I be looking for labels, I ain’t looking for love: The Book

Sex and the City, the book, was originally published in 1996 and then again 2001, 2006 and 2008. It is a collection of essays that Bushnell wrote for the New York Observer. The novel is told from the point of view of columnist Carrie Bradshaw. Her columns center on her and her relationships, which she often refers to as her research. The characters who share her adventures are Charlotte York, Miranda Hobbs and Samantha Jones. In the novel, Charlotte is a sex-crazed British girl, Miranda is a cable executive and Samantha is a movie producer.

Bushnell’s book began to questioning the varying degrees of love including but not limited to romantic love. She also set up this idea of a love for fashion directly connected to each of the character’s personalities. As Bushnell weaves her story through the eyes of Carrie Bradshaw, readers get caught up in the truth being told. As one man reveals in the book, “The condom killed romance, but it has made it a lot easier to get laid” (Bushnell 8). The harsh tone carried throughout the book allows for a certain reality to unfold. Dating and relationships are hard, yet there are often layers to each that never get explored because of certain cultural hang-ups. An example can be seen in the idea that men want a younger, prettier woman. More often than not, we only see the top layer—the man with the younger woman. But why does this happen and what makes it happen? These sorts of questions are what Bushnell addresses in her book.

Goodbye print and Hello cable! The beginning of an era

The cable TV series ran from 1998 to 2004, which included six seasons. The show put HBO on the map in a way that had not been done before. It gave the first taste of what cable could do with a comedy-drama series. The success Sex and the City saw was unprecedented at the time because HBO up to that point was known as a movie channel. Sex and the City paved the way for HBO’s other drama series such as The Sopranos. HBO now enjoys the commercial success of being both a channel that shows movie and drama series.

The shows creator, Darren Star, paid Bushnell for the rights to her book and made changes to the book’s characters. For starters the main characters all have different personalities and different jobs: Charlotte is a na├»ve, prudish American WASP; Miranda is a hard-core working lawyer; and Samantha is a sex-crazed publicist. The personalities in the series become more vibrant and more alive with the actors playing them. Each actor gave a twist to the character and soon there were quizzes on-line and in magazines asking “Which Sex and the City character are you most like?”
Carrie told each episode’s story through the lens of her column. She often gave voice-overs that mimicked what she was writing in her column. These became the cornerstone for the show asking questions and giving advice that was based in reality.

Carrie : Later that day I got to thinking about relationships. There are those that open you up to something new and exotic, those that are old and familiar, and those that bring up lots of questions, those that bring you somewhere unexpected, those that bring you far from where you started, and those that bring you back. But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the you you love, well, that's just fabulous.

Some of the success Sex and the City has seen draws upon the audience that follows it. Each week audience members would tune in to see what Carrie and her best girlfriends would do next. People began to say that the show copied their own lives in a way that no other show had done with clarity of real life and real women. Women began to understand that their sexuality was something that good. On HBO’s website blogs, forums and profiles began to get the audience actively involved. People commented on everything from the fashion to the ways in which Sex and the City affected their own life.

The series finale was one of the most watched finales ever. The series won over 50 Emmy in its lifetime on the air. The series went into syndication and airs on TBS and the CWB. Sara Jessica Parker (SJP), who played Carrie Bradshaw, summed up why the show is and has seen such commercial success: “What the show has to have, and has had to have in order to survive six years, is a soul...if the show was a heart and you split the heart in two, one half would be the four women, and the other would be Carrie, alone, and her life in the city with her friends” (Sex and the City).

The show became an icon in pop culture for its frankness and humor about women and sex and it allowed women to be viewed in a way that showcased their sexuality.

Hello, Lover: The Movie

Many fans wondered if a movie would ever be realized. For several years, tabloids had us guessing with headlines screaming “SJP in talks with producer!” and “Kim Cattrall spotted leaving SJP’s apartment!”

Written, produced and directed by Michael Patrick King, the movie premiered in May 2008. The movie has earned over $400 million world-wide. Like many movies that have cult-like following, movie-goers dressed up opening weekend in their favorite character to watch the show in. The show followed the series finale by picking up four years later.

SJP recognizes that the audience plays a center role in the success of any phenomena. When asked if there would be another movie she said, “It’s all about the story. If we can’t tell a story that’s really worthy of an audience, then we won't do it.” “We've been really lucky at this point,” she continued. “We’ve been in people’s good graces for a long time, and we take that very seriously. So that’s the biggest challenge, the story” (US magazine)
Rhet/Comp Girl’s Tale of Remediation and Medium: It was rich, devoted, and…ugly

The craze that surrounded Sex and the City repurposed into material gain for many businesses. The series was released into DVD and several CDs containing music from the series have been produced. The movie recently came out in two versions of a DVD one with “extras” and the other a traditional DVD. From the movie, two CDs were also produced, the second longer CD releasing with the launch of DVD.

The fashion from the series and the movie has also created a cultural movement because now women want to dress like “Carrie” or “Samantha.” Fashion designers were able to use the show as advertisement by allowing their designs to be worn by the characters. Suddenly names like Manolo and Louis V were household names.

Remediation is a slippery term that can offer the world of technology a theory to understand the world inside it. We can learn from this that remediation often needs a second look in order to understand the value of it. Remediation is our culture reacting with change and attempting to keep up with that change. Most of time remediation has a positive impact and creates a new wave of understanding literacy because we can see that due to remediation literacy is constantly in motion. Our cultural literacy changes with acts of remediation. Sex and the City contributed to our cultural literacy by showing that empowerment for women can be found in non-traditional ways—such as being single, being independent and not giving up once you hit a certain age. It gave women a different type of voice, one that allows them to be allowed to be aware of their sexuality without skirting around that issue.

Bushnell concludes her book by Carrie having a moment of realization that she is ok with being single.

Sometime in the middle of September, Carrie was at a restaurant and Mr. Big was there. He came over and sat down. “I never knew what you were thinking,” he said. “You never talked about your feelings. Every time I tried to talk to you, you would go to that place in your head. You’re like a cyborg or something.” His hand was on the table. Carrie touched his finger. Let’s face it, Carrie thought, you ate the pickle (287).

My own realization (in regards to remediation) came as I was trying to do pre-writing in my head. Sometime in the middle of Sunday, I was walking my dog, Trini, and the sun was beating down on us and no one was around. She was moving slow due to the heat and moved in closer to a tree to get some shade for a second. I wondered, when if ever, I would understand this thing called remediation. Hearing my voice and recognizing the frustration behind the words, Trini turned her big, brown Susan Sarandon eyes up towards me as if saying, “Mom—get a grip you’re talking to yourself.” She licked my leg. I continued on. Let’s face it, I thought, I am getting closer. And happily, closer is good. Closer is real good. Things are starting to make sense.

*Works Cited on Hard Copy

Kara T. said...

Repurposed titles from Sex and the City Novel by Candace Bushnell and Fergie lyrics from her song “Labels or Love” one of the main songs for the movie

Tony said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony said...

Tony Ricks
Dr. Kathleen Yancey
Case Study on Remediation
September 29, 2008

“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

--Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown in Back to the Future Part 1

Back to the Medium!

The Back to the Future trilogy (that appeared in cinemas between 1985 and 1990) provides an interesting case study for what media theorists Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin call remediation. We might think of remediation, as Bolter does in Writing Space, as the process by which one technology subsumes and at the same time reconfigures an older technology. We might add an idea emphasized in Bolter and Grusin’s Remediation—that remediation rests heavily on a given medium’s capacity to repurpose, reinvent, or reconfigure an older medium. Finally, we ought to think of remediation as a dialectical process between different media. In Hegel’s famous explanation of dialectic, it is the struggle between two agents that brings about change. Remediation, as the struggle between different mediums, offers a credible ideological frame for dialectic because it emphasizes both replication and reconfiguration. As a case study, the Back to the Future trilogy has been reinvented in several mediums including television, comics, toys, video games, and a theme park ride. Here, I will explore several of these remediation.

In the early 1990’s, after the successful release of Back to the Future Part II (1989) and BTTF Part III (1990), the television industry drew upon the narrative for entertainment and commercials. A cartoon series furthered the narrative by picking up where the third movie had ended—specifically, with Doctor Emmitt Brown’s new family. According to a wiki on BTTF, the series aired on CBS from 1991 to 1993, “and later repeated on FOX from March to September 2003.” Some of the characters’ voices were those of the actors who played them in the films, while others were voiced by different actors. An interesting device in the animated series is the inclusion of real footage of TV personality Bill Nye, who later started his own television show about science. In the animated BTTF series, footage of Bill Nye conducting scientific experiments is shown while the voice of Christopher Lloyd (as Doc Brown) explains what Nye is demonstrating. Nye is never allowed a speaking role; rather, Doc Brown’s authoritative voice (as a scientist) is used.

The BTTF narrative was also remediated through TV commercials in the 90’s. YouTube reveals that the BTTF narrative was used by at least Pizza Hut and McDonald’s to sell their products—and searches of ebay,, and reveal many products connected with BTTF to this day: for example, t-shirts, posters, items from the films themselves, and action figures. In an early-90’s McDonald’s commercial now displayed on YouTube, a handheld camera leads viewers through the doors of a McDonald’s restaurant. Doc Brown (who is holding the camera) narrates: “through the wonder of video spectronomy, I am documenting an amazing phenomenon.” Slipping past a young couple surprised to see either the camera or Doc Brown, Doc focuses on a table with some children seated at it (also surprised at the camera—or Doc…I’m not sure which). The screen then changes to the image of a hamburger and some toys—the $1.99 McDonald’s Happy Meal, which is the “phenomenon” he came to document. “Analysis shows” he continues, as scientific symbols appear over the toys as if on an invisible chalkboard, “it comes with one of four toys” (nothing significant about that). The toys shown include replicas of the Delorian, Marty Mclfy, and the time travel locomotive from the third film—in this case, all the toys are cartoonish in appearance to appeal to children.

As with the Bill Nye example from the animated series, the McDonald’s commercial drew on the authoritative persona of Doc Brown to display their Happy Meals and BTTF toys to TV viewers, which might expand the demographic reached beyond children to fans of the BTTF series.

The Pizza Hut commercial is a remediation of the second film. The opening shot displays two young men (maybe early 20’s) sitting in a Delorian with the “wings” up. “You sure about this?” says the one seated in the passenger seat. He’s wearing sunglasses (like Marty and Doc in the movie posters: see above) and a black leather jacket.

“Yep.” Replies the other (meanwhile a caption appears: “Hill Valley: 1989”). This character, seated in the driver’s seat, has long blonde hair—which, unless this is a subtle variation on Doc Brown’s long white hair, he bears no resemblance to Doc. It’s more like two college students who stumbled upon the time machine.
They close the wing-like doors and the car rises of the ground and takes off in the air. The next cut shows the two men arriving in “the future.” Observing that they haven’t eaten for 25 years—even though the trip is supposed to be instantaneous—they both exclaim “pizza!” as an answer to their sudden hunger problem. After an unsuccessful attempt at finding pizza by going to a “Domino’s” store (now a hardware store, with “hardware” in smaller letters than “Domino’s”), they ask a female cop who appears to be placing a citation slip on someone’s windshield: “Officer, where do you get pizza around here?” Rather than speaking to them like the cops did in Back to the Future Part II, a message moves across her hat in the form of a markee sign and the message is simultaneously voiced in a robotic tone, “Turn around guys”—probably the strangest remediation of the commercial! When they turn around, they see the “Pizza Hut” logo above a large door (how had they missed it before?), and then a voice-over explains to viewers that “in the future, as today, there’s only one place to get a great pizza.” In this commercial, the BTTF Part II narrative is relied upon quite strongly. In the future part of the commercial, the music is noticeably a mimic of the song “Back in Time” (without voices) that is featured in the films. For a few seconds, a person moves across the screen on a floating board similar to the hoverboard from BTTF Part II (yet noticeably too high and with fire shooting out below, both of which are less realistic than the film). Also, there is a motorized trash can that moves around on wheels that looks like the trash cans from the future in BTTF Part II.
BTTF Part II is thus remediated in many ways through this commercial—primarily, in the way the commercial uses the plot device of time travel to show that their product (and not the competition’s) is as real in the future as it is in the present.

One final example of the BTTF trilogy’s remediation is Universal Studios’ Back to the Future: the Ride, which closed in 2007. Located in a building called The Institute of Future Technology that was apparently designed for the BTTF ride, the Institute itself furthered the BTTF narrative in the many ways it implies that Doc Brown—often considered a crazy scientist by minor characters in the films—has now built a successful enterprise. After entering the building, visitors are informed by Doc himself through a TV screen that Biff Tanen—who Doc calls a “juvenile delinquent”—has stolen the Delorian, which could destroy the space-time continuum. Visitors are then allowed to ride in an eight-passenger Delorian (a seating “upgrade” from the films) and, via an Imax screen, chase Biff through the future and the past until they finally rear-end his car, sending him back to the Institute where he is captured.
In this remediation, the visitors play the roles of Doc and Marty as they chase Biff. While Doc addresses the visitors—and his voice guides them through the ride—the character of Marty is not included in the narrative other than as the viewers identify themselves with Marty through their role as heroes. As in the Bill Nye example from the cartoon series and the McDonald’s commercial example, Doc Brown is the authoritative figure: in this case, he assesses the situation, narrates the experience, and congratulates the visitors on their victory of capturing the “delinquent” Biff Tanen.

As popular films in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Back to the Future trilogy has been remediated in many forms. For the BTTF-related media explored here, it is the narrative that provides the conceptual material for composition: while the cartoon and the ride are supposed to be “additions” or sequels, the Pizza Hut commercial is positioned within the narrative itself (a replication of part of the second film). Each of these mediations (cartoon, commercials, and ride) reach out to different but overlapping audiences. In order to reach these audiences, each medium reinvents the narrative, ultimately reinventing the purpose, simultaneously replicating and reconfiguring the previous medium of film.

*Works cited on hard copy.

Leigh said...

*As a favor to everyone, I haven't included my works cited page.*

Leigh Gruwell
Dr. Yancey
September 29, 2008

The Double Logic of Bubble:
A Case Study in Remediation

In early 2006, director Steven Soderbergh released the small, independent film Bubble. Bubble is a thriller that examines the relationships between three co-workers in a small-town doll factory. Although generally well-received by critics (earning a strong 71% positive rating on, the plot is not the most notable aspect of this film. Bubble received more attention than such a low-budget film lacking any big-name stars normally would; film critic Roger Ebert declared “everything about the film- its casting, its filming, its release- is daring and innovative” (“Bubble”). Not only did Bubble star a cast of non-professional actors ad-libbing off a rough ‘outline’, it was shot on HD video, and- perhaps most intriguing- was released in theaters, on cable TV, and on DVD simultaneously.
Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin’s 1999 book Remediation examines the seemingly ubiquitous process of remediation. Their theory of remediation, which is characterized by a “double logic” of immediacy and hypermediation, operates under the assumption that “no medium today, and certainly no single media event, seems to do its cultural work in isolation from other media” (Bolter and Grusin 15). Remediation is usually understood as an evolution: television is a repurposed radio with images; video games are a new and improved version of film, and all mediums constantly inform each other. Bubble is indeed an example of remediation, as it is one single movie released in multiple mediums, but most movies follow the process of remediation from theater to DVD to cable TV. What makes Bubble such a unique case of remediation is that it is one which is most deliberate; it removes and controls the element of time. The director recognizes and takes advantage of the “double logic” of remediation to draw attention both to his film and the mediums in which it is presented.
Bolter and Grusin continually refer to the “double logic” of remediation throughout their book. They introduce the concept with the claim that “new digital media oscillate between immediacy and hypermediacy” (Bolter and Grusin 19). Soderbergh’s release of Bubble is indicative of this paradoxical double logic of remediation. Bolter and Grusin write, “Our culture wants both to multiply its media and to erase all traces of mediation,” and it seems that Bubble has embodied this claim (5). On one hand, Soderbergh seems to be acutely aware of medium, and deliberately draws attention to the movie’s multiple mediums by releasing it in an unconventional way. Bubble is no doubt hypermediated. Conversely, this strong emphasis on medium suggests that medium is not in fact what is important to Soderbergh: through these multiple forms, the only constant in the content itself, the medium then disappears, and the audience experiences immediacy.
Bubble’s unusual release strategy appears to be an obvious example of hypermediacy, which operates through “opacity- the fact that the knowledge of the world comes to us through media.” (Bolter and Grusin 70-71). One cannot ignore the remediation of the formats themselves- the TV and DVD as a remediation of film, which is a remediation of photography. But what is most important here is the way Soderbergh has accelerated the usual remediation cycle of an individual film- from theaters, then to DVD, and finally to cable- and erased the normal delay between mediums. The consumer must then make a choice, taking the affordances of each medium into consideration, which, in turn, calls attention to the mediums, rather than the film itself. The film’s official website describes the simultaneous release of the film as “utilizing various media properties…with a goal of giving consumers a choice of how, when, and where they wish to see a movie” (
The element of choice, previously unavailable in regards to new releases, draws attention to the oscillation between hypermediacy and immediacy that Bolter and Grusin identify. Precisely because the film’s director insists on simultaneous hypermediation, it becomes clear that the medium doesn’t actually matter to him. Soderbergh told NPR host Terry Gross, “I don’t care what form somebody sees in my films in” (“Soderbergh’s ‘Bubble’ Changes the Rules”). This indicates that although Soderbergh is aware of each medium and their respective differences, he believes that the film’s content is completely independent of the form. The director’s decision to release in multiple mediums reveals his belief that the message is indeed separate from the medium- but the medium is nevertheless an important vehicle to bring audiences to the content. Immediacy posits that “a medium [can] erase itself and leave the viewer in the presence of the objects represented” (Bolter and Grusin 70). In this case, the “objects represented” are the story and characters themselves.
This concern with viewer choice leads one to question the director’s motives. Soderbergh is clearly not advocating one medium over another, suggesting that there is not one “best” way to view Bubble. The answer may lie in the issue of accessibility. Jonathan Bing of Variety Magazine observed, “the hope is that is films are available everywhere simultaneously, that the audience will expand” (“Will Soderbergh’s ‘Bubble’ Burst on Hollywood?”). It seems that Soderbergh chose a very appropriate film to experiment with- a low-budget independent film wouldn’t be widely distributed through traditional methods. His model virtually couldn’t fail, assuming enough interest was generated (Soderbergh’s new accelerated distribution strategy virtually ensured interest). Soderbergh’s production company, 2929 Productions, owns both the theater chain that showed Bubble, and the cable channel that featured the film. (“Will Soderbergh’s ‘Bubble’ Burst on Hollywood?”).
Soderbergh’s intentions may have had as much to do with challenging traditional methods of distribution as promoting his own work. Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers
proclaimed, “Bubble is out to kill traditional theatrical distribution” (“Bubble”). Critics agree that the simultaneous release model broadened Bubble’s audience immensely- Roger Ebert wrote, “That’s how movies like this can have a chance” (“Bubble”). Soderbergh, then, employed the double logic of remediation to let the content of his film shine through and create transparency for his audience. The director recognized the appeal of hypermediacy and used it to achieve the immediacy he desired. Once audiences sift through the variety of mediums in which to view Bubble, then the content of the film is free to become the focus. Bubble utilizes the double logic of remediation to its benefit- the quintessence of “the tension between looking at and looking through” (Lanham in Bolter and Grusin 41). lists Bubble’s total box office gross at a scant $70,000- which may not seem like a great success. But it’s hard to measure how much money was made from DVD sales, or how many sales were generated by subscription to the cable channel. Perhaps it’s best to view Bubble not as a success or failure, but as a single event in a movement away from traditional means of remediation. Bubble’s greater significance lies not in dollar signs, but in the way it re-imagines traditional methods of distribution. By taking advantage of viewers’ competing desires for hypermediacy and immediacy, Soderbergh not only generated interest in his own film, but prompted others to rethink the remediation of film. Shortly after the release of Bubble, the Independent Film Channel announced a similar model, which they called “First Take”, for distributing its own films through theaters as well as its cable channel (“Will Soderbergh’s ‘Bubble’ Burst on Hollywood?”). Soderbergh plans to continue his simultaneous release strategy- Bubble is just the first of six films he will produce and release in just this manner (“Soderbergh’s ‘Bubble’ Changes the Rules”). Perhaps Soderbergh’s attempts at remediating the process of remediation will, in time, be judged to be a novel failure. But there is also the strong possibility that Bubble will be just the first in a long line of texts to find new ways to appeal to audiences. Soderbergh has imagined the audience as highly media-literate consumers, and there is little doubt that his simultaneous release strategy is informed by the multiple processes and visions of remediation.

Liane said...

Pirates of the Caribbean: From Theme Park to Screen

In entertainment news last week, it was reported that actor Johnny Depp had signed on to reprise his role as “Captain Jack Sparrow” for a fourth installment in Disney’s successful Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, which has reportedly earned box office receipts topped only by the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The popularity of pirate lore has increased exponentially with the success of the three Disney films to date, spawning a number of multi-genred appropriations.
The Pirates of the Caribbean as a Disney property began as the vision of Walt Disney and Disney’s “Imagineers,” and was originally slated to be a walk-through wax museum-style exhibit depicting renowned pirates and scenes from pirate life. It opened as one of the most popular attractions at California’s Disneyland in 1967, just months after Walt Disney’s death, and was replicated in Florida when Disneyworld opened in 1973. Disney’s other parks in Paris and Tokyo included the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction when they opened in the following decades (“Disney Parks”). While the parks attraction was an original idea, it is no doubt inspired in part by the plethora of popular pirate fiction books, led by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, which Walt Disney reportedly enjoyed as a boy (“Disney Legends”).
When building the park attraction, Disney’s Imagineers® went beyond the original static, wax museum concept to create a ride based on their innovative “Audio-Animatronics” trademarked robotics system (“Disney Legends”). The attraction boasted lifelike, moving characters complete with recorded audio tracks for voices, allowing visitors to get the most authentic pirate experience possible at that time. The first Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, built at Disneyland in California, was modeled after privateer Jean Lafitte, and focused on his home port of New Orleans rather than the Caribbean, whereas Florida’s Disneyworld version was based on Jamaica where Captain Harry Morgan was based. The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction has been one of Disney’s most successful ever (“Disney Parks”).
Roughly three decades later, Disney commissioned the esteemed Hollywood screenwriting team of Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, who had penned the Disney hit Aladdin, to develop a script for a Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The ensuing success of 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, thanks in part to Johnny Depp’s Oscar-nominated performance, led to the development of the second and third installments, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. Filmed back-to-back, the second and third movies were released in 2006 and 2007 respectively. A fourth installment is due to start production in 2009 (“Disney Pictures”).
With the success of the remediation of Pirates of the Caribbean from theme park to big screen, Disney Books (a publishing division of the Walt Disney Company) created Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies, which illustrates how the attraction was developed and is presented at each theme park and chronicles the translation of the concept from theme park to the successful movie franchise.
Disney Books followed with the development of a young readers’ series of books, which feature “retellings” of the key scenes from the third film, from the perspective of various characters. A separate series of books captures the imagined youth of Captain Jack Sparrow, and yet another, Pirates of the Caribbean Guidelines, offers young readers the opportunity to learn pirate skills such as “how to lift and Aztec Curse,” “What to Do When Your Compass Doesn’t Work,” and the Pirate-to-English Dictionary (“Disney Consumer Products”).
Yet another iteration of the films, Disney’s official web site for the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy features a link to Pirates of the Caribbean Online, an interactive game geared to young fans (and geared to direct those fans to collectibles from the film that can be purchased at the Disney online store (“Disney Consumer Products”).
The online game is a milder, “teaser” version of the next iteration of the films, which is a fully-developed video game where gamers hunt for treasure and captain their own ship in unfriendly seas. Originally developed as “Sea Dogs II,” the Pirates of the Caribbean video game was repackaged and launched to coincide with the release of Curse of the Black Pearl, capitalizing on the marketing efforts for the film. The game is designed along the storyline from the movie, with users making choices that have them following cursed Aztec gold while evading “undead pirates.” The game is one of the most popular in its genre among its target audience, and was followed by the release of two additional games based on the second and third films (“Disney Pictures”).
Disney also developed Pirates of the Caribbean Multiplayer Mobile for mobile phones to keep fans intrigued by the franchise, which is apparently not an issue given the collection of wikis, both official and unofficial, devoted to all things Pirates of the Caribbean (“Disney Consumer Products”).
Others have been inspired by both the films and the original theme park attraction. Ron Gilbert, developer of the video game Monkey Island was partly inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction; his game features a key-carrying dog named “Walt,” a tribute to the late Disney (History). The Hasbro Toy Company re-released its board game, Battleship, in a Pirates of the Caribbean version, and there is a Pirates of the Caribbean version of Monopoly (Hasbro).
Two soundtracks have been released by Disney around Pirates of the Caribbean. The first was based on the audio tracks created for the attraction and featured the pirate songs visitors heard while riding through the exhibit, released much earlier than the development of the films (“Disney Parks”). The most popular song associated with Pirates of the Caribbean is “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)” which echoes the lyrics of a pirate ditty included in the pages of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (Gosse, 112). Each of the films inspired the release of a soundtrack with a full musical score, which have now been incorporated into the attractions as audio enhancements (“Disney Parks”).
In fact, all four of the theme park attractions have been enhanced significantly to capitalize on the success of the films (“Disney Parks”), and this is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the remediation of theme park attraction to feature film and the many other forms it has taken since the success of the movie trilogy. The inspiration for the movies -- the theme park attraction -- is now appropriating aspects of the movie that fans found most entertaining to increase its appeal to visitors and to update its 40-year-old concept.
While the Disney attraction has always been a park favorite at all four worldwide locations, the entire Pirates of the Caribbean line, from feature film to coffee mugs, has grossed more than $2.7 billion (“Pirates”). This is the kind of successful sales and marketing endeavor that can only work when timed to coincide with a culture hungry for its content, and Disney is experienced at both capitalizing on and creating these opportunities. Our culture is driven in large part by entertainment, and the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is based on a cultural need. Remediation and circulation, if they are to occur, are dependent on the cultural demand for the thing or the experience that is remediated. The combination of pirate lore, special effects, great casting and an unparalleled level of entertainment for the movie-going public ensured a successful remediation of Pirates of the Caribbean at a time in our culture when this piece of entertainment is needed and valued. Just as Bolter and Grusin use the example of CNN’s “windowed style” design as a remediation of a web page, CNN was reacting to or anticipating a cultural shift in our ability and need to manage information in a different way (Bolter, 55). It was a kairotic moment in our cultural history, and to a lesser degree, at least within the realm of entertainment, the Pirates of the Caribbean films and all its remediated forms represent a cultural shift in how entertainment is packaged. Consumers seem to want familiarity, the proven value of a piece of entertainment that is new and yet not new at the same time. There is comfort in the old characters and the familiar concept within a new storyline, and there is an expectation that the “ride” will be a delight.
Pirates of the Caribbean also represents the visual trend in literacy and textuality as well as the passive stance that we are engaged in as a culture. The theme park attraction is experiential but in a visual context that is not interactive and so requires no effort; it simply entertains. The movies are the same purely entertaining experience with the audience playing a completely passive role. Even the books that “retell” the story are designed for the visual consumer trend, more like picture books (with stills from the film) than traditional reading, requiring little effort and minimal literacy while providing increased entertainment value to the consumer. By contrast, the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy was based on the Tolkien novels, but many movie-goers for those films had not read the original print texts and were seeing the films not because of Tolkien’s writing but because of a groundswell of anticipation and a massive marketing campaign. Potentially, this cultural preference for a total entertainment experience on the part of the consumer reflects the “overmediation” of our everyday experience. We are inundated with information, which requires us to make choices about our lives -- from politics to groceries -- without having the time or energy to sift through all we are presented. Perhaps the total entertainment experience is a shutting down of this constant treadmill of information management we find ourselves running alongside and yet unable to master. We must rely on others to mediate information and package it for our consumption, like any product. An entertainment package that is visually-engaging, based on a familiar theme, set in a world of fantasy where our rules didn’t apply yet with characters we can embrace, and that allows us a few hours of escape from the constant demands of the modern cultural interface, is a critical factor in the way literacy is perceived today. Certainly the popularity of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise demonstrates that cultural need is being met.

Works Cited

Bolter, Jay David and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999.

Disney Consumer Products. Disney Books: Pirates of the Caribbean. 26 September 2008.

Disney Parks and Resorts. Pirates of the Caribbean Ride. 26 September 2008.

Disney Pictures. The Official Site for the Pirates of the Caribbean Movies. 26 September 2008.

Gosse, Philip. The History of Piracy. New York: Tudor, 1934.

Hasbro Toy Company, The. 27 September 2008.

History Channel, The. “True Caribbean Pirates.” 27 September 2008.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. Treasure Island. New York: MacMillan, 1911.

Walt Disney Company. Disney History: Disney Legends. 26. September 2008.

Kelly said...

Kelly Keener
Dr. Yancey
ENG 5933
27 September 2008

The Wizard of Oz: A Case Study in Remediation

A book, musical, movie, television series, ice show, and so on, The Wizard of Oz, in its original form a children’s book entitled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum in 1900, is one text that shows the interconnection between remediation and a social agenda as the agent of change (“The Wizard of Oz”). Over a century old, this text is one that demands examination due to its success as not only a book, but also many other remediated forms. In this case study, I plan to examine the remediation of The Wizard of Oz in its transformation from the book to the musical film starring Judy Garland forty years later to the more urban film rendition, The Wiz, starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. Of course, there are numerous, perhaps hundreds, of remediations of this text, and I am very aware of the fact that this text did not directly evolve from a book to a film. In fact, the movie version of The Wiz is a remediation of the Tony award winning Broadway performance entitled the same (“The Wiz”). Nevertheless, what I aim to examine here is not every act of remediation, but the key points of remediation in which the medium itself is reconfigured as a result of a social consciousness acting upon the text to create new meaning in mainstream culture (which is why I chose to examine the more mainstream renditions of the text). It is through these transfigurations of a timeless text that we can read America and its shifting moral consciousness.

L. Frank Baum’s success was rooted in the desire to construct a children’s “home-grown fairy tale,” a fantasy intermixed with real-life elements. The book portrays pride in the American culture and value systems, which becomes evident when The Wizard explains that he is from Omaha, the heart of Midwest America (“An American Fairy Tale”). According to the Library of Congress, a “review, (reprinted from the New York Times) hails the book for having ‘a bright and joyous atmosphere’ and ‘not dwell[ing] upon killing and deeds of violence’ and claims that ‘it will indeed be strange if there be a normal child who will not enjoy the story’” (“To Please a Child”). Certainly, these “deeds of violence” are prevalent in the text, but it is how the violence is used that is so striking (and perhaps why this book immediately became so successful). Violence is not a subject deemed appropriate for children, yet in this text, it is used to direct children to the belief systems and norms of mainstream America. In fact, it is the comfort of home that Dorothy yearns for, a place where evil and hatred are non-existent. Not only is this book successful for a children’s tale, but the success is also a reflection of the nationalistic pride of the social conscious during this era. To view America as anything other than a place of hope and dreams was to be considered unpatriotic and un-American, and Baum’s text represents those social values in a form that can be examined as a device, a tool of sorts, for reinstating the same values upon the future.

And those values of American pride carried over thirty years later in the 1939 film rendition (“The Wizard of Oz”). Judy Garland is perhaps even today considered to be “the Dorothy” in all refashioned Emerald Cities. When imagining The Wizard of Oz, we are still captivated by Garland’s long braided pigtails, ivory skin, and enchanting voice singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Garland is an icon for what constitutes the wholesome, morally driven Dorothy. As much as Garland’s looks and talent draw in the crowds, the film is still a favorite for many children through its lovable characters and magical landscape while still reaffirming the good wholesome virtues of the American family, the difference between right and wrong, and the value of the home in America. One may even go a step further to claim that this film instills what is American and un-American more so than the book simply because of its remediation; after all, it is only in the unfamiliar, foreign land that scary and malicious events occur, and what better place to massively produce such ideologies than on the big screen where millions of people will come into contact with it? The magical landscape presented in the movie creates an escape for its viewers, children and adult, a means in which the values of the “ideal” American society drive the text without the constrictions of real-world interference. Adhering to and understanding such values in this 1939 creation are easy tasks for all viewers in that era. So, what made this film such a success? Why did Judy Garland warm our hearts so? She is the epitome of the American personification of wholesome values and ideals. She offered a more real and authentic sense of morality than Baum’s book in that she was real. By offering a sense of realism in the remediated Dorothy, our images of the character no longer refer back to the illustrations present in his text; thus, a real Dorothy allows for the indoctrination of mainstream moral directives even further into our real homes.

So, why has Dorothy transformed if we love her so? Has her nostalgia diminished? What was she missing, and what did a newer and vastly different Dorothy contribute to the text that she could not any longer? Perhaps examining the African-American movie rendition of the Broadway musical spin-off, The Wiz, could lead us to an answer. The setting is no longer a fantasy, but the hard, real world of New York City in the mid-seventies. More importantly, Dorothy is no longer the image of a singing Snow White in braids, but an African American woman with an afro, and the yellow brick road is a lit up disco-inspired path (think Saturday Night Fever meets The Wizard of Oz). Not only has Dorothy changed but also the lion, tin man, The Wiz himself—they are all African American, and they are played by very well-known African Americans. By incorporating famous African Americans like Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and Richard Pryor, the film becomes a tension-filled interplay between the original ideologies inherent in both Baum’s book and the film (aka “white” ideologies) and the struggles of real African Americans in real America. Using already famous, extremely successful African Americans asserts a claim to that sense of American pride, one that they were not included in the earlier renditions of this text. They are a part of the same moral fibers as any other American—and they sure aren’t from Kansas and Omaha. The changes do not stop there, though. The music no longer focuses on heart-felt ballads and cheery nursery rhyme songs, but rhythmic beats that make you want to “ease on down, ease on down the road.” The audience is no longer required to passively consume the film; instead, they want to be an engaged member of the movie, singing the catchy tunes even after it is over. Just as much as the music and dancing is meant to leave the audience humming and shaking, the overt message of a marginalized society as represented in an American classic is one that lingers with the audience even after the beats leave their heads. “Home” as an ideal construct is no longer a commonality, and the once-cherished value system of the thirties is now shifting. What better way to say this then to create an African American Dorothy?

So, how did this happen? What happened to our precious Judy Garland, and what does Diana Ross offer that she never could? There is something more to The Wiz, though, than its famous cast and upbeat tempos (although it is interesting to see Richard Pryor as The Wiz). Remediation occurred here, but in a way in which the medium did not change at all. In their text, Remediation, Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin acknowledge the social construction within a medium:

New digital media are not external agents that come to disrupt an unsuspecting culture. They emerge from within cultural contexts, and they refashion other media, which are embedded in the same or similar contexts. (19)

However, this acknowledgment is oversimplified in that media changes “within cultural contexts” instead of because of these constructs. This oversimplification leads to a rather lacking definition of the act of remediation as “the representation of one medium in another” (45). Bolter and Grusin do not examine why a medium transforms. They do not address for whom the medium is most accessed and accessible--the consequences and effects of remediation in the social realm. The social strains imbedded in the ever-changing medium are as much a part of remediation as the medium itself. So, perhaps Bolter and Grusin would not view the shift from the Garland film to the Ross one as an act of remediation because it is, technically, the same genre. (But, even if I wanted to look at remediation in its most basic form, remediation is still present with its elaborate sets of neon lights and a digitally enhanced yellow brick road crossing the Brooklyn Bridge.) However, the need to represent Dorothy as something other than a white girl from the Midwest is what fueled remediation within the same genre. It is based on the same need that drove Victor Fleming, the director for the 1939 musical, to create a more real, relatable-for-all-ages Dorothy from Baum’s children’s book (“The Wizard of Oz”). The social implications imbedded in the earlier medium fueled the need for a more current film—the same social implications that drive changing media. The Wiz is reliant on the value systems implicated in The Wizard of Oz to construct its meaning and The Wizard of Oz on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, just as newer forms of media rely on the older for its value and use. Thus, remediation is an inherently social act in which the byproduct is a shift in the medium.

Just as an oversimplified definition of remediation can be detrimental to social dynamics, a simple version of literacy is one that cannot be offered either. Literacy begins with the reading of a text from left to right, top to bottom, but that does not define true literacy in light of the ever-evolving media and our ever-evolving moral codes. To be literate, we must understand the needs and desires of the culture for which both the medium and the message was constructed and how the medium’s purposes evolve to fit the possible demands of future cultures as well. Literacy is a social act in which we not only acknowledge the rhetorical constructs but also understand the rhetorical situation of any given text. If we are to be literate in all texts, we must understand the social implications within them. Because remediation is a social act, literacy can be loosely defined as the reading of texts, in which “reading” refers to the words on the page in relation to the words’ construction and the connection between who is holding the page and who should be holding the page. Furthermore, if we examine texts as more than a medium but as social constructs, whether they are books, songs, DVDs, grocery stores, automobiles, one’s own home, we are one step closer to understanding what it means to be literate.

Remediation is much more than a shift in structural form. To see remediation so simplistically removes the sense of agency of the social conscious, a fault of Bolter and Grusin that we have discussed at length in class. Media does not simply shift because it is better. Media shift because there are needs and desires that are no longer met by the older medium. And, if we look at remediation in its most basic sense as a medium changing to fit the needs of a new audience, all of these texts are indeed remediated forms. A medium’s change does not have to be simply physical to be remediated. If it is the needs and desires that create the demand for change, it is the same needs and desires that create a shift within the medium. To say that The Wiz cannot be a remediated form of The Wizard of Oz just as The Wizard of Oz remediates L. Frank Baum’s text is to cast aside the social implications of the movie. It is, indeed, remediated in the sense of a change to meet the needs of the newer audience with different value systems.

Kelly said...

Sorry...I had to remove my Works Cited. For some reason it wouldn't let me put the links of my sources.

Katie said...

Katie Bridgman

This is a delicious evening, when the whole body is one sense, and imbibes delight through every pore. I go and come with a strange liberty in Nature, a part of herself. As I walk along the stony shore of the pond in my shirt sleeves, though it is cool as well as cloudy and windy, and I see nothing special to attract me, all the elements are unusually congenial to me. The bullfrogs jump to usher in the night, and the note of the whippoorwill is borne on the rippling wind from over the water. Sympathy with the fluttering alder and poplar leaves almost takes away my breath; yet, like the lake, my serenity is rippled but not ruffled. (202) “Solitude” Walden

Fluid Place: The Constructed Authenticity of Navigated Space

Geographer William Siddall comments in “Transportation and the Experience of Travel” that, “nothing predates walking as a mode of personal transportation, and the walker certainly has an unrivaled opportunity to form an intimate acquaintance with the countryside that he traverses” (310). This intimacy, reflected in the text of Thoreau’s Walden, is marked by the seeming transparency of the traveler’s experience as he moves through space enjoying what might be considered an unmediated encounter with place. While “Solitude” is arguably a Romantic Transcendentalist performance – the authenticity of his experience is marked for Thoreau by the sense of immediacy he feels with the natural world.
It is this unmediated sense of transparency that is sought by travelers navigating unfamiliar spaces. Stepping outside of the domestic sphere, travelers seek authenticity in their experience of the spatial other. As travel technologies have developed the form and content of the visited place have also changed. As this process of remediation has occurred so too have the form and content of the traveler’s gaze been changed. This is perhaps to say that what the traveler sees and how they do this is remediated by the remediation of place itself.
Public destinations operate under the logic of immediacy in much the same way as virtual reality does. Like virtual reality the remediated space of the travel destination provides its own “self-authenticating” experience (Bolter165). In doing this, the remediation of actual space goes one step further than virtual reality as the traveler is allowed to physically pass through Alberti’s window, seeming to bypass the mediation of perspective completely. It is in this way that the remediated spaces of travel construct a claim to authenticity.
The physicality of space and constructed place acts as a tangible intermediary to an intangible end. The kitchen is constructed not for the sake of having a kitchen, or even really for the sake of cooking, the kitchen is constructed because we need to eat and this requires a place in which to do it. The pilgrim visits the Holy Land not just to visit or to exist in this place. Instead, there is an intangible goal that is only achieved through the prescribed navigation of this place. It is in this way that place becomes a fluid means to an end and is constantly remediated by the demands imposed by cultures and the users of space.
A local illustration of remediation as the constructed authenticity of navigated space is Lake Ella. Constructing a fictional narrative of this space I will begin with the land as it was once forested and uninhabited by humans. Before this space was settled it may have been repurposed by hunters roaming amongst the trees. This early repurposing would have left the original form of the forest intact and changed the content only slightly as hunters passed through and took some game with them.
Then, once the lake was constructed the land was remediated as it went from forest, to stripped land, to public lake. Once an intermediary space for wildlife, the land was repurposed and remediated as both content and form changed. With the erasure of the wilderness the space took on a new form. Within this form came a change in content. Suppose that initially there was only a narrow dirt track worn around the perimeter of the lake by local fishermen. As more people were attracted to the lake the narrow dirt track was remediated. Leveled, widened, and paved the path took a different form and the content shifted as the cement sidewalk serves a different end, but not necessarily a different purpose, than the path.
Today, the visitor to Lake Ella encounters a self-authenticating experience. Few visit the lake and question the presence of the large body of water in what was once a forest. Even fewer will wonder what was there before the lake. Instead, a community has developed in the context of this constructed environment. The very presence of the community that gathers around the lake illustrates the accepted authenticity of this remediated space.
Political and social scientist Judith Adler contemplates the experience of the tourist in her essay “Travel as Performed Art.” Here she frames travel as an art “whose performance entails movement through space in conventionally stylized ways” (1366). These “conventionally stylized ways” of navigating space are components of spatial literacy. These literacies are dependent on a dominant cultural narrative and the individuals who ascribe to and promote this narrative – individuals who are able to place themselves within it. Thus, remediations of public destinations will only achieve their desired degree of immediacy when visitors isolate the remediated space, read the form, and incorporate its content into the context of their own narratives which naturally operate within the larger narrative that they are engaging.
James Bossemeyer, former vice president of the National Association of Travel Organizations, illustrates in “Travel: American Mobility” that in the grand scheme of things the American narrative of travel has not been very long in the making (113). Our Western, ethnocentric narrative generally begins with the arrival of Christopher Columbus and the infiltration of other explorers such as Lewis and Clark who carved their way through the North American wilderness claiming new territory. It is in this way that the American narrative of travel has been deeply rooted in the interests of capitalist consumerism.
As the population of early European settlers increased post roads developed and rivers were frequently used for long distance travel. By the second half of the nineteenth century, however, the railroad had almost completely taken over the transportation of goods and people. This influx in rail passenger travel presented the railroad companies with a unique problem. Although there were apparently plenty of passengers who wanted to take the train and go on vacation, there were not enough destinations. At this point the “domination [of rail] was so complete that many of the railroads built and operated large resorts to provide suitable destinations for vacationers served by their lines” (Bossemeyer 114).
The popularity of the automobile was clearly established by the middle of the 1920s. The car enabled tourists to have increased mobility and to make more choices about where and at what pace they traveled. It was in response to this increase in car travel that municipal tourist camps, hotels and motor courts began to appear in large numbers. As the United States ascended to its status as a world power, travel became an increasingly critical part of business. Big business not only used this new mobility to its advantage as business professionals began to travel more and further than ever before, big business also lobbied to move the observance of certain major holidays to Monday. The Major Holidays Plan ensured five long weekends a year that are evenly spread out and always include Sunday (Bossemeyer 115).
William Siddall reflects on another means of travel that became increasingly popular during the twentieth century – the airplane. Initially introduced with an appeal to sightseeing, the 1913 twelve passenger Sikorsky allowed passengers to look through a clear floor and enjoy the scenery below. This appeal was lost by the second half of the century with the development of what Siddall refers to as “hermetically sealed jet airplanes” (315). Today the Concord has windows that are only slightly larger than a library filing card and travels at speeds creating the sensation of travel through space and not time. While this look at rail, automobile, and plane into American society may be limited in scope, it reflects a larger trend in the remediation of navigated space as our culture seeks to create an authentic experience of “non-home” places.
Trains remediate space in terms of re-forming place, reframing the traveler’s gaze and consequently the perceptions of travelers. The construction of the railroad transformed the landscape of North America as railway crews reshaped mountains and bridged rivers. These cleared corridors of remediated space meant that rail passengers looking through the frame of a glass plate window would experience new content as they traveled through old lands. It is in this way that the margin of land around the train becomes an environment in itself. Clearly delineated from what lays beyond the rail grade, this constructed margin determines the rail passenger’s experience of place. This margin is key to the self-authenticating experience of a train ride. Removed from the context of place, the margin eliminates a broader frame of reference and thus passengers have no choice but to accept its authenticity.
William Siddall quotes Southern writer Edith Wharton who mourned “the villages that we missed and yearned for from the windows of the train” and then deplored “the bondage to fixed hours on the beaten track” (312). Here Wharton reflects an awareness of the remediated space through which she is traveling. It is because of her unwillingness to accept the narrative presented in the margin that she gazes into from the train that she denies the authenticity of this remediated space.
Just as Steven Johnson wrote that the “computer fundamentally transforms the way we conjure up our sentences, the thought process that runs alongside the writing process,” so did rail travel force early passengers to change the way they focused on the passing scenery, a process that runs alongside the process we undergo in positioning ourselves within the world (142). These early experiences of rail passengers were frequently accompanied by “severe disorientation” as new rail travelers had not yet learned to avoid focusing their eyes on the immediate foreground. Thus, the shifting form and content engineered by the railroad required a new “reading” skill from passengers as their way of viewing the world was literally forced to change.
The introduction of the automobile into the American landscape entrusted travelers with a sense of agency in determining both the pace and path of their sojourns across the landscape. Judith Adler writes that early motorists regarded the car as a “means to recapture some features of the coaching experience by avoiding mass railway transport” (1375). A more literal remediation of coach technology, automotive travel was explicit in its claims to reconnect the traveler with the landscape. Siddall comments that not only were early cars open, but “roads were at first narrow, winding, individual, as yet largely unaffected by motorists” (314). The popularity of the car skyrocketed and “municipal auto camps” sprung up along early routes allowing motorists to get even closer to the landscape.
Over time, automobiles became increasingly insulated from the surrounding environment and autocamps were largely replaced by hotels. This increase in traffic meant that the roads were also widened and soon lined with motor courts and other services for travelers. It is in this way that roads no longer meandered, but instead sliced across the landscape forming margins of remediated space not unlike those of the railroad. This brings us to contemporary automobile travel that is distinguished by what Siddall describes as “the enclosed, air-conditioned automobile, equipped with tape cassettes and tinted glass, [that] insulates its occupants from the environment as effectively as a train or airplane” (314).
Vehicular travel is perhaps the most obvious example of remediation through the constructed authenticity of navigated space. Passengers can travel hundreds of miles across major US highways and witness little more than the mere replication of one chain establishment after another. The broader effect of this capitalist remediation of place is homogenization. As margins become channels of broader cultural values the products of this remediation of place are authenticated by prescribers to the dominant cultural narrative. Just as virtual reality remediates multiple medias, the roadside environment remediates place in its continual reiteration of experiences that have come to be canonical within the American experience.
It is in this way that the experience of authenticity in contemporary travel is often validated by replication and reiteration. One business that has perhaps been built on this approach to authenticity has been Cracker Barrel. Reiterating the existence of the “Old Country Store” throughout the nation, patrons are promised that this experience will be consistently repeated no matter what the location. It is in this way that space has been remediated as this environment becomes a medium through which patrons reach a desired authentic experience. The texts of these constructed authenticities lose meaning once a traveler refuses to buy into the dominant cultural narrative thus, rendering these remediations of place meaningless.
Perhaps one of the most ritualized remediations of space, air travel is the last means of navigating space that I will address. While providing a new perspective on place, place as experienced from the window of a plane is constructed through the remediation of the space below. This frame brings not only a new form to what is seen from the window, but the content shifts. It is a matter of seeing what is not really there (change in form) and then not knowing what it is that we see (change in content). Looking down at the ice caps of Greenland from the small window of a jumbo jet the traveler sees what Roland Barthes describes in reference to photography as an “emanation of the referent” (Bolter 110). Thus, as sight is all the traveler has to go by in a decontexualized setting, the distorted view is necessarily going bring a change in the content of the passengers’ experience of the remediated space below.
Maxwell McLuhan wrote: “In a culture like ours, long accustomed to the splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message” (McLuhan 151). My question here has been to think about how the modern individual sees space and place in a culture where we no longer simply “see” anything. In a remediated world messages pelt us from all directions. However, when we experience place, perhaps one of the few remaining elements of the concrete is this age of digital media, how do the remediations circulating around us engage and shape this experience of the concrete. The answer I arrive at is that space is absorbing the fluid characteristics of media caught in the process of remediation. Thus, place has become an interlocutor speaking between a concrete existence that we may never be able to experience and the tourist’s search for immediate authenticity.
Navigating fluid space in the modern age suggests a literacy of place. If this literacy, as it seems it may, requires that the individual ascribe to the larger cultural narrative, then the individual’s literacy of place may in fact hinge on his/her status in a capitalist economy. While this certainly holds water in the North American context, access to cultural literacy more broadly depends on the individual’s access to and identification with cultural narratives. This is because the text of spatial literacies, while certainly not immaterial, may exist only in metaphor.

Works Cited:
Adler, Judith. “Travel as Performed Art.” The American Journal of Sociology 94 (1989): 1366-1391. JSTOR. Florida State University Lib., Tallahassee, Fl. 23 Sept. 2008.
Bolter, Jay and Richard Grusin. Remediation. Boston: MIT Press, 1999.
Bossemeyer, James. “Travel: American Mobility.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 313 (1957): 113-116. JSTOR. Florida State University Lib., Tallahassee, Fl. 23 Sept. 2008.
Johnson, Steven. Interface Culture . New York: Basic Books, 1997.
McLuhan, Marshall. Essential McLuhan. Eric McLuhan and Frank Zingrone eds. New York: Basic Books, 1995.
Siddall, William. “Transportation and the Experience of Travel.” Geographical Review 77 (1987): 309-317. JSTOR. Florida State University Lib., Tallahassee, Fl. 23 Sept. 2008.
Thoreau, Henry. Walden. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1892. Google Books. 24 Sept. 2008.

Leah Cassorla said...

TO See the original with visuals, go to my blog at:

The Last Lecture: A Study in Circulation

Randy Pausch

On September 18, 2007, a professor at Carnegie Mellon gave a lecture that turned out to be a whole lot more. Though described in the press as “beloved” at Carnegie Mellon, Dr. Randy Pausch was certainly as unknown as professors generally are. Even so, a crowd of 400 attended the lecture. It was recorded for the few who could not be there. Within days, Pausch’s lecture would become an internet phenomenon—a rare occurrence for any lecture. Pausch was giving his Last Lecture.

As he explained a month later on Oprah, the Last Lecture is a genre of lecture in which a professor is invited to give the talk she would give were it to be the last thing she could say to the world. It is intended as somewhat of an intellectual exercise, to allow a thinker to condense his understanding of his years in the field into one hour (or so) long speech. As the Wall Street Journal column about Pausch’s lecture said, “Dr. Pausch’s speech was more than just an academic exercise…[he] has pancreatic cancer” (Zaslow, “Beloved Professor” prs. 4). His lecture was, it turned out, the real deal. Pausch, in fact, began by showing CTs of his tumor-riddled liver and explaining the facts of pancreatic cancer; it is the fastest, most painful, and deadliest of cancers, with an average life expectancy of three to six months for most patients. Nearly a year past the original diagnosis, Pausch had just been given the three to six month prognosis when he chose to give his lecture. He told the audience he was one month into the prognosis. He went on, however, to talk about life, dreams, and having fun.

The Circulation of the Last Lecture

Pausch’s lecture was posted on the web the same day he gave it. He had asked that it be filmed so his young children would be able to view it when they got older. It was first circulated for the students who couldn’t attend. But then all 76 minutes of the lecture were uploaded to YouTube is an interesting phenomenon as far as circulation is concerned. Because of its vast stores of video, uploaded by anyone who chooses to become a member, the chance of “hitting big” on YouTube are rather hit or miss. It could just as easily have been viewed on YouTube by a handful of people and stayed there in obscurity. Zaslow’s inclusion of the video in the online column on the lecture—and his inclusion of it in the follow up to the column a week later—may have also helped, but by the time Zaslow wrote his second column, he was writing as a result of the stacks of email he was receiving to pass on to Pausch.

By October 24, 2007, more than 6 million users had watched the YouTube version of The Last Lecture. Pausch was on Oprah. According to his homepage and the later book’s homepage, Pausch asked for 10 minutes of Oprah’s time to deliver a miniature version of his lecture as a precondition for appearing on her show. He got it. The Oprah Show, put the 10-minute speech on her web page. The page now also links to follow up shows, and one show in which a rabbi who comes on Oprah as a regular commentator on family and life discusses the book. Yes, the book.

By this time, Pausch had asked Carnegie Mellon to not copyright the lecture. Carnegie Mellon agreed. Following a $6.7 million deal, however, Hyperion published a book version of The Last Lecture. Described as an extension of his thoughts in the original lecture, the book was written by Jeff Zaslow, the columnist who helped put Pausch on the internet stage. The book was released on April 4, 2008. Pausch was still alive. On April 11, 2008, Pausch was featured on a Diane Sawyer special. By this time, according to a USA Today story, “[b]ecause Pausch had lived longer than expected, some bloggers…claimed he [wasn’t] sick at all” (Wilson prs. 39). As a media sensation, Pausch was now also an active conspiracy theory. The book has also given birth to a website—a fairly common practice in book publishing—which includes a page of “extras” including a “lost chapter” and an “exclusive” video of Pausch discussing his book. The site also has a message board. Readers are still posting today with names and levels of ability in English that indicate readership from around the world. The media page on the site includes links to the dozens of pieces of coverage. Pausch passed away on July 25, 2008. The media page of his book includes links to media tributes and obituaries as well.

The next question, once the book was out, seemed obvious; now that Pausch had a YouTube video, an Oprah appearance, a book, a Diane Sawyer special and several news stories, would there be a movie? Pausch’s refusal can be read as a commentary on remediation and on circulation: “There’s a reason to do the book, but if it’s telling the lecture in the medium of film, we already have that,” he told USA Today (prs. 32).

In Circulation

Besides being an homage to the brilliance of his last lecture, this story is a telling description of the movement of a cultural phenomenon into and through media. This is not, however, a story of remediation, though it could be told as one, I think. It is more a story of circulation. Watching Pausch’s Carnegie Mellon lecture, his Oprah mini-lecture, and his Diane Sawyer special, one gets the same message—and in very much the same way. The text may be truncated for time, and in the case of the special, it is interspersed with interview footage, but Randy Pausch is, as many professors are, a consummate performer, and his performances contain the seed of his work throughout.

I have not read the book. It might be considered a remediation because it was written primarily by Zaslow. But when one looks at Zaslow’s columns and at the vast amounts of information on the book’s webpage, one gets the sense that Zaslow’s work was as organizer and editor more than as ghost-writer. The book, according to Zaslow, is the outcome of hours of taped interviews which Zaslow transcribed and rearranged. As such, I would argue that the book is a matter of recirculation of the lecture—a story of a boy whose parents allowed him to write math equations and draw pictures on his bedroom walls, who learned to dream and followed through on those dreams, and was now trying hard to get the world to do the same; dream, and follow those dreams—and in each version of the lecture, he also begs parents to allow their children to write and draw on their bedroom walls so that perhaps they, too, will become dreamers and professors.

In addition to the faithfulness of the many faces of the Pausch story in its different media, one must also take into consideration the speed with which the story—and its versions—spread. Within a week of delivery of his first lecture, Pausch’s video had been viewed over a million times. Within a month, he was on Oprah. The longest lag was the seven months from lecture to book. I suppose that’s a necessary outcome of pancreatic cancer. My uncle died of pancreatic cancer two years ago. His disease process lasted fewer than ten months. But the speed of movement through media also affects the way in which a story is told. There seems to be less of a “telephone” effect. The message remains what it is, or as Pausch told USA Today in refusing to create a movie version, “Besides, you lose control” (prs. 32).

Works Cited

“Confronting Death.” The Oprah Winfrey Show. Harpo Productions. Chicago. 24 October 2007. Web. 27 September 2008.

Pausch, Randy. Interview by Diane Sawyer. “The Last Lecture.” GoogleVideo. 11 April 2008. Web. 27 September 2008.

Pausch, Randy. “The Last Lecture.” YouTube. 20 September 2007.Web. 27 September 2008.

Pausch, Randy with Jeffrey Zaslow. “The Last Lecture.” Hyperion. 2008. Web. 27 September 2008.

Wilson, Craig. “Professor Pausch’s Life, ‘Lecture’ go from Web to book.” USA Today. USA Today. 8 April 2008. Web. 27 September 2008.

Zaslow, Jeffrey. “A Beloved Professor Delivers the Lecture of a Lifetime.” Wall Street Journal. Wall Street Journal. 20 September 2007. Web. 27 September 2008.

Zaslow, Jeffrey. “The Professor’s Manifesto: What It Meant to Readers.” Wall Street Journal. Wall Street Journal. 27 September 2007. Web. 27 September 2008.

Jill said...

A full version with visuals can be found here:

Jill Gordon
29 September 2008
Dr. Yancey

It All Started with a Painting:
The Girl with a Pearl Earring, Novel, Film, and Soundtrack

With Bolter and Grusin’s pages of textual circle-talking still fresh on my mind, I couldn’t help but view almost everything in the light of remediation. I wanted to choose something unique for my case study—not a direct remediation—a more subtle connection that wouldn’t normally and automatically be thought of today. Most things I looked to, however, I second-guessed whether it was remediation or not. Then, when I did some research online, I found what I was looking for and was sure it was indeed remediation. Not only is this remediation in one sense, but three. *cue hallelujah music now* And it all started with a painting…

This journey of remediation all began around 1665 when a Dutch painter named Johannes Vermeer painted oil on canvas in the form of a young girl with a pearl earring (Wadum 1994), a painting that would still be recognized and appreciated hundreds of years after its inception. Much mystery surrounds this work of art due to the fact that little is known about the artist himself. It is not clear whether this painting was commissioned or whether Vermeer created it of his own volition. Who is this girl? Why is she wearing a pearl earring? Why is she wearing that headdress? How old is she? What is her expression? Is she happy? Sad? Seductive? Lonely? Did Vermeer know her? If so, what was their relationship? These unanswered questions and many more have contributed to the painting remaining in the cultural spotlight today.
An interesting bit of information about the Girl with the Pearl Earring is that it was “rediscovered” in 1882, 200 years after Vermeer painted it. This has also contributed to the mystery surrounding this work of art. It was then retouched and restored at interval periods between 1882 and 1994, with the most significant change being the color of the background; the current background is black, while Vermeer painted it a deep green. Why this change? This subtle change, however, is not the remediation I alluded to in the introduction.

Fast forward to 1999 and we see Tracy Chevalier, a writer who silences her writer’s block with some artistic inspiration. As Chevalier, herself, put it:
“ The idea for this novel came easily. I was lying in bed one morning, worrying about what I was going to write next. (Writers are always worrying about that.) A poster of the Vermeer painting Girl With a Pearl Earring hung in my bedroom, as it had done since I was 19 and first discovered the painting. I lay there idly contemplating the girl's face, and thought suddenly, "I wonder what Vermeer did to her to make her look like that. Now there’s a story worth writing." Within three days I had the whole story worked out. It was effortless; I could see all the drama and conflict in the look on her face. Vermeer had done my work for me.” (Chevalier)
Chevalier had taken a remediated poster of a canvas painting, remediated it herself and invented a story surrounding it. Chevalier sought to answer those mysterious questions that were posed for hundreds of years. Her invention created a closure of sorts, by envisioning what “really” happened. Chevalier’s book was an instant success and it received numerous positive reviews. But back to the remediation at hand…

Chevalier took the visual text, interpreted the visual rhetoric present, created a written text to complement and supplement the canvas painting, and then had it printed with the same title as that painting. This novel was presented as historical, even though fiction—historical fiction. An interesting spin on remediation, indeed. So, how do the painting and the novel coexist?

As already stated, little is known about the painting or the artist Vermeer. Chevalier had to fill in those holes, creating a story by inventing the context surrounding the painting. Chevalier’s own description of her plot is as follows:
“ Girl With a Pearl Earring tells the story of Griet, a 16-year-old Dutch girl who becomes a maid in the house of the painter Johannes Vermeer. Her calm and perceptive manner not only helps her in her household duties, but also attracts the painter's attention. Though different in upbringing, education and social standing, they have a similar way of looking at things. Vermeer slowly draws her into the world of his paintings - the still, luminous images of solitary women in domestic settings.
In contrast to her work in her master's studio, Griet must carve a place for herself in a chaotic Catholic household run by Vermeer's volatile wife Catharina, his shrewd mother-in-law Maria Thins, and their fiercely loyal maid Tanneke. Six children (and counting) fill out the household, dominated by six-year-old Cornelia, a mischievous girl who sees more than she should.
On the verge of womanhood, Griet also contends with the growing attentions both from a local butcher and from Vermeer's patron, the wealthy van Ruijven. And she has to find her way through this new and strange life outside the loving Protestant family she grew up in, now fragmented by accident and death.

As Griet becomes part of her master's work, their growing intimacy spreads disruption and jealousy within the ordered household and even - as the scandal seeps out - ripples in the world beyond.” (Chevalier)

This detailed, impassioned, and twisted plot shows just how much liberty Chevalier took in creating a story around the painting, the context. Rich character descriptions, detailed context, poignant conflicts, cultural and religious implications, and the like…all inspired by a solitary painting of a young girl.
The remediation did not stop there, however. As society likes to adapt novels into films, this was no different. Chevalier states, however, that she was approached before the novel was ever popular and so she gave the rights to a lesser-known film company. Chevalier is content with that turn of events, however, as she thinks that company stayed true to her novel, whereas others may have taken more liberty.

“I said yes to Archer Street because it is a small British production company whose producers demonstrated integrity (a rare enough quality in the film industry) and a desire to remain faithful to what they called the “emotional truth” of the book. I wanted to avoid “Hollywoodizing” the film – stuffing it full of inappropriate famous actors, changing the ending, using intrusive music, sexing up scenes. In that sense it was probably just as well that I sold the rights before the book did so well.” (Chevalier)

Chevalier had absolutely no role in writing the screenplay or the making of the film. She felt she should stick to novels and thus let others interpret her work and remediate it on the screen. So how does this separation of interpreters result?

“I love the film. It is like and yet not like the book, rather in the way sisters resemble each other yet also have distinctive personalities. Of course there have been changes made – primarily trimming away some subplots and combining others. I had thought that the book was short and spare, but the film has shown me that it could have been even shorter! The cuts may surprise readers but I don’t think it will be upsetting. The important scenes are intact, and some subtle reshuffling of scene order has made the story line even stronger.” (Chevalier)

The film version stars Scarlett Johnannson and Colin Firth and was released in 2003. Although not identical to the novel, Chevalier felt the spirit of the story was intact and she even wished, at times, that she had thought of certain scenes or moments that were added in the film.
TIME magazine said of the novel that, “…Chevalier brings the real artist Vermeer and a fictional muse to life…” This bringing to life was continued in the remediation in film form.
But does Chevalier feel the film took away from the “life” of her novel?

“Whole subplots and characters were shed, and with them some of the subtleties of characterisation and ambiguities in relationships. What it gains, however, is a focused, driven plot and a sumptuous visual feast. The changes have not bothered me. For one thing, the grammar of a film is very different from a book. I wrote Girl with a Pearl Earring for readers to interpret and make their own. When I published it I also let it go. I can't control what readers think, or how they picture scenes and characters; nor do I want to.” (Chevalier, Guardian)

Chevalier seems to view the remediation of her novel as a natural and personal change. She is highly aware of the individual interpretations and welcomes their contributions to the conversation.
Along with the film came another remediation: the soundtrack. This musical score that accompanied the film is representative of yet another interpretation of the film, of the novel, and of the painting. The context is made richer with additions, or so that is the goal. Is the new improved?

So what do we learn about remediation through the Girl with a Pearl Earring?
1) remediation takes liberties. There is a certain poetic license and freedom that is inherent in a remediation. If the goal is to improve or enhance the predecessor, then some changes must be made. Sometimes these changes are not necessarily connected, but are instead invented (like Chevalier’s novel).
2) context for remediation is relative to the individual. Each person saw different things in the painting, interpreting it to their own purposes. Although convergence is possible, so is dissention.
3) ambiguity aids in continual remediation and circulation. The unknown drives us crazy. Just like the Mona Lisa has been discussed all these years, so the Vermeer painting is still in the conversation due to unanswered questions.
What does this tell us about literacy and textuality?
1) Everything is a text. In this case, a painting was a text. The visual rhetoric spurred all sorts of conjecture about the implications of the colors, the pose, the facial expression, the clothing, and yes, the earring.
2) Different audiences are more receptive and “reachable” to certain remediated versions. There are people who saw the film who never read the book, there are people who saw the film who never had heard of the painting. Remediation has the opportunity to reach audiences that might not otherwise be affected with the previous versions.
Girl with a Pearl Earring has lived through time, more vibrant today than ever. It is continually remediated and revisited due to the ambiguity of the context surrounding its creation. Remediation of this artistic piece inspired creativity, invention, conversation, and thought.

*references on hard copy

S. Andon said...

Stephen Andon Case Study

The Mixa: Just Like the Old Mixtapes - Only Better

Bolter and Grusin identified medium as “that which remediates…it is that which appropriates the techniques, forms, and social significance of other media and attempts to rival or refashion them in the name of the real” (65). This definition forces us to consider how new media, like Amazon’s Kindle, impact the process of remediation by appropriating older media. Thus, much like the Kindle appropriates the book, this case study will examine another medium that directly attempts to refashion an older counterpart – the mixtape.
Gradually, and with the proliferation of compact disks and mp3s, the cassette tape has become an ancient medium. Once the primary domain of car radios and boomboxes, the cassette inches closer towards existing solely as nostalgia. As an example, the walkman, Sony’s breakthrough cassette device and once a cultural phenomenon (sound like an iPod, anyone?), is now a forgotten relic. All that remains for the cassette is the 1980s nostalgia that has been ascribed to it in the past several years by various websites, books, and newspaper columns – the true diehards hanging on and celebrating an earlier, simpler time (remember when soda cost a nickel?). Much like the recently cultural currency that has been assigned to vinyl records (vinyl record sales spiked in 2007, sales were up 46% from the previous year (Van Buskirk, 2008)), there is some essence to cherish in the cassette.
One of the essential elements of the cassette, the mixtape, has also been replaced today by new forms. The mixtape is an intentional ordering of music in any one of a variety of formats – cassette, compact disk, or a digital (iTunes) playlist. When placed on a cassette tape, however, the mixtape had a power that only a physical presence could provide. It transcended the compact disc because, unlike the nonlinearity of digital files, analog cassette tapes had to be crafted in real time. A mixape, therefore, was potentially the most heartfelt, meaningful, and revealing gift one person could give to another. It not only shared something unique and personal, but the gift of a mixtape had to be recognized as something that took a great deal of time and consideration to prepare. As an example, music critic Rob Sheffield’s book Love is a Mix Tape chronicled the use of mixtapes as essential in his courtship of his true love at college in the late 80s. Additionally, from a music blog on The Guardian:
Rubbish at talking to women as a teen (I'm brilliant at it now obviously) I'd compile endless tapes of songs all of which contained the none-too-subtle sub-text "fancy a shag?" It never worked but I'd like to think that it did for somebody out there.
Thus, the mixtape was a designated and intentional attempt to communicate a wide possibility of messages (as designated above). With the disappearance of the cassette, however, the mixtape has subsequently followed, reducing the prevalence of purposely-designed short-length music compilations.
The question is, then, what medium can possibly attempt to remediate the mixtape as the Kindle has attempted for books? Enter the Mixa mixtape. A digital USB storage device, the Mixa is shaped and designed to approximate the look of the 1980s cassettes. Like most USB storage devices, the Mixa has just one gigabyte of storage space, limiting its contents to a smaller amount of data than today’s popular mp3 players. The limit of storage capacity speaks to the limits placed on the ninety-minute cassette tape, but it is the physical shape and look of the Mixa, as well as its stated purposes, that attempt to refashion the mixtape.
The official website describes the Mixa as a “USB cassette for your digital stuff,” a maxim that structures the Mixa experience. Every inch of design is intended to hearken back to the authentic experience of a mixtape. The Mixa is the same shape and structure of a cassette tape, with a small USB port that slides out of the cassette frame at your command. Given this “blank cassette,” the user is able to design the color of the tape housing, as well as the outside sleeve with personal photos or Mixa templates. The templates have a decidedly retro feel to them and, coupled with a number of stickers to place digitally on the sleeve (the Mixa is shipped with a sheet of the same stickers for placement on the tape), the Mixa has created an authentic cassette viewscape. The stickers are able to add to the authenticity of this viewscape, espousing phrases like “Dead Media Rocks,” “Undigital your Digital,” as well as utilizing the familiar “A” and “B” letters to designate the different sides of the tape. In a way, the stickers add a certain level of reflexivity to the “USB cassette,” both connecting and celebrating the original mixtape with the Mixa.
In addition to the physical look and design of the Mixa, the purposes of the device remain connected to the original mixtapes. On the Mixa website, the creators prompt your purchase with a series of “inspirations” – appropriate avenues for use: “Make a holiday Mixa, a party Mixa, an ‘I love you’ Mixa, a last night Mixa, or a ‘did I ever tell you I used to be a woman’ Mixa.” The website then offers a range of designs and more detailed explanations that fit these appropriate purposes. For example, the holiday Mixa: “Why don’t you immortalize your holiday memories on a Mixa. If you danced all night in a Spanish tapas bar or drove through the mountains with the wind in your hair remember what made you want it to last forever.” These descriptions attempt to inspire memories and messages to be placed yet again in the physical form of a mixtape, albeit a remediated one. Mixa capitalizes on memory and the power of music to remember a moment, send a message, profess your love, or be the ultimate DJ.
Further adding to the purpose of the USB mixtape, when the Mixa is shipped to your home, it comes with a detailed list of instructions. After the basic, insert, load, remove functions that define any USB device, the instructions take an intriguing turn:
5. Give to someone
6. Watch said someone get VERY happy
7. Relax and become popular

These instructions underlie the cultural currency formerly associated with cassette mixtapes. What once could be transferred on ninety-minute cassettes can now, even moreso than an mp3 playlist or a compact disc, be transferred using a remediated form of the ninety-minute cassette. As Lenny Nero might say, this is not like the cassette only better.
The example of the Mixa mixtape serves to support Bolter and Grusin’s logic of remediation in that the Mixa “depends on prior media for [its] cultural significance” (56). As it stands, the Mixa is no different, nor any better, than any other one gigabyte USB storage device and yet it costs over three times as much. Simply stated, it stores digital files. Only its form informs its function, but that form is tied to the cultural significance attached to the original cassette mixtapes. A second concept from Bolter and Grusin lists remediation as reform, or, a refashioning of old media. Certainly the Mixa, as has been previously stated, is a refashioning of old media but, is it truly improving on its predecessor? As Bolter and Grusin state, “each new medium appears because it fills a lack or repairs a fault in its predecessor, because it fulfills the unkept promise of an older medium” (60). This seems to be a revisionist way of understanding the relationship between new media and old media – a notion Bolter and Grusin acknowledge. However, the Mixa fits into this diagnosis only if the evolutionary connection between the cassette and the Mixa is eschewed. It was the compact disk first and then the mp3 that refashioned the cassette, which can be viewed as the refashioned medium of the 8-track. Therefore, the Mixa is considered a reforming media by its capacity to refashion USB drives, compact discs, and digital playlists. The Mixa offers meaning as well as nostalgia in the gift of sharing music; it implants meaning in an unfriendly and unfeeling computer device in order to establish a more human connection. This human connection, this nostalgia, and this meaning, lost in a world of cold storage devices and file transfers, is restored via the cassette shape.
The result of the Mixa bears two important conclusions for our interpretation of remediation. First, it appears that even as media evolve, develop, and reform, humans still seek the ability to connect with other humans on emotional levels. This is why Bolter and Grusin’s fascination with virtual reality, to me, seemed so absurd. Unless it is able to connect humans in a meaningful way, there is no chance of it succeeding no matter how transparent it becomes. The Mixa is able to connect humans by remediating an older form of connection and applying it to a new medium. This connection stems not only from the personal elements of mixtape giving, but also reprioritizes the physical over the digital. In an era where decades of music can be stored in a hard drive, users are seeking the physical presence of their music in new ways. As previously stated, vinyl records sales have increased substantially within the past year as compact disk sales continue to plummet. While the Mixa is no vinyl album, it does recall the analog and physical presence of cassette tapes, cashing in on the “cool factor” associated with retro media (Stewart, 2008).
Second, in class we briefly mentioned the popularity of the remix, especially in regards to the Kindle and the iPod. In the Mixa, the remix is more finite than either of the two aforementioned media in terms of storage space, but it is equally dynamic in terms of re-writability. The question then becomes, what is a remix? Is it simply a form, or a media, that can only be altered by content? Then the Mixa, the iPod, and the Kindle are just structures that house content for a while until the content is eventually replaced. Therefore, remixes lack permanence; they lack the physical library that exists in your basement and can be circulated. However, I would argue that unlike the Kindle or the iPod, the Mixa cassette can be circulated. Even though it seems that the Kindle and the Mixa are identical in many ways – in emulating the shape and look of an older media – the Mixa is different in that it is designed to be circulated, according to the website, “just like the old mixtapes.” There is some sense, then, that an original still exists in a digital library and that the Mixa is just a shared slice that communicates a message. This is something that neither the Kindle nor the iPod can do and yet, the Mixa can accomplish while maintaining nostalgia, evoking memory, and communicating interpersonally. Again, as Lenny Nero would say, the Mixa is just like the old mixtapes only better.

Gil said...

Gilman Page
Dr. Yancey
Case Study

The Golden Compass: Remediating Children’s Literature and the Importance of Textuality to Immediacy

In many ways, our hyper-mediated society bares resemblance to the early stages of our planet’s cataclysmic growth. Just as elements bonded with elements and new biological “technologies” redefined previously accepted norms, so has the digital revolution empowered new media to redefine and recreate the media that came before them. This empowerment, the translation of one media through the lens of another for the purpose of making it more accessible/believable/immediate, is known as remediation. While the term itself has no inherent boundaries or guidelines, it is generally accepted as “[...] the formal logic by which new media refashion prior media forms” (Bolter and Grusin, 273). In this case study I examine the remediation of Philip Pullman’s children's book The Golden Compass into major motion picture. By studying the remediation of this text, I will uncover the unfortunate truth that remediation, and the immediacy that it affords, is not always viewed in a positive light. That is, as in the case of The Golden Compass, occasionally the remediation of a text loses the fundamental principle inherent in the work while attempting to please an audience, thereby displacing the original text.

I. The Text
The Golden Compass, book one in author Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy, was released by Knopf Publishers in the United States in 1996. The book was originally released in England by Scholastic in 1995 under the name Northern Lights. The trilogy follows the story of a young girl named Lyra Belaqua. Lyra inhabits a parallel universe where each person’s soul is represented by an animal companion or “daemon”. Lyra lives and studies at Oxford University where she is guarded by the school scholars—who have adopted her as their own. Lyra’s uncle, Lord Asriel (later revealed as her father), is one such scholar who travels their world in search of a substance known as “dust”. This dust represents the life force of each individual on the planet and its source lies heavily in the connection between a person and their daemon. The protagonist of the story is embodied in two devilish entities which attempt to sever the connection of an individual from their daemon in order to harness the energy of the dust. One of these entities, The Magesterium, exists as the ecclesiastical body of Lyra’s universe. The Magesterium has a vested interest in the severing of child from daemon in that by doing so, each child is spared the “horror” of puberty and the influx of “dirty thoughts” associated with adulthood. The second entity, Ms. Coulter, is Lyra’s mother who works for the Magesterium and runs the facility responsible for the severing of child-daemon ties.

With the help of a “Golden Compass”, known as an “Alethiometer”, Lyra is able to use the naturally occurring dust of the universe to find answers to challenging questions that plague her along her adventure to the North. Lyra hopes to find Lord Asriel and give him the compass so that he may restore the balance within her universe and prevent the Magesterium from controlling not only her universe but a wide range of parallel universes which are accessible through the manipulation of dust. The book claims the rejection of ecclesiastical thought and a denial of a “senile God” as the ultimate goal of all opponents to the Magesterium-- our heroin Lyra being one such opponent.

A children’s book which insists that its main characters reject the notion of a supreme ruling religious body (even in today’s society of liberal literary exploration) could not go unnoticed by critics who would claim that the book is a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate children with atheistic and agnostic ideologies. While the book has grown in popularity over the years, it has yet to reach the widespread notoriety of such recent hits as Harry Potter or the Twilight series and its critics are markedly less publicly prominent that the critics of those two works. However, the critics do exist and, as we will see with the remediation of the film, their voices shape the final form of the remediated text.

II. The Remediation
The conversion from book to film was announced in February of 2002 by New Line Cinema and it became one of New Line’s most expensively produced films, tipping the scales at $180 million. Much of the cost was due to the unbelievably high degree of special effects embedded in the film. Not only was New Line required to produce a film set in a parallel universe where animals and people conversed regularly, they also had to animate an army of speaking armored polar bear, create never-before-seen flying devices, and convince the audience that witches do exist and fly perfectly well without brooms.

The production of the film had its ups and downs which included a menagerie of directors and arguments over the final length. The screenplay and script of the film went through numerous revisions before the final score was set and, even then, changes were constantly being made. One reason that so many changes were constantly being made to the film is the critical involvement of Catholic and Christian proponents who made comments such as;

"Atheism for kids. That is what Philip Pullman sells. It is his hope that ‘The Golden Compass,’ which stars Nicole Kidman and opens December 7, will entice parents to buy his trilogy as a Christmas gift. It is our hope that the film fails to meet box office expectations and that his books attract few buyers. We are doing much more than hoping—we are conducting a nationwide two-month protest of Pullman’s work and the film. To that end, we have prepared a booklet, ‘The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked,’ that tears the mask off the movie." (Catholic League)

This sort of involvement, from the personal attack on Philip Pullman to the outright urging that parishioners protest and avoid the movie at all cost, obviously had some bearing of the delay of the film. Furthermore, I argue that in favor of revenue, the film successfully “dumbed-down” the religious aspects of the film.

By remediating the book into film the producers of The Golden Compass obviously enhanced the immediacy of the text. No longer is the reader required to move line-by-line down the page to develop a personal image of the scene being described, he need only look at the screen and view the world of Philip Pullman brought to life with stunning visual affect. Because this world seems to have made a trade, continuity for money, is this really the world of Lyra Belaqua, remediated to the screen? I argue, of course, that this is a remediation but one that has been so consumed with the capabilities of modern technology and so afraid of public reaction that it has ultimately failed to reenact the story as told in the original text of The Golden Compass. I believe that the production of a filmed form of The Golden Compass makes too immediate the fact that Lyra is ultimately fighting against God, and too much immediacy resulted in the failure of the film to convey the text overall.

III. The Point
While I argue that by remediating and dropping the anti-catholic/Christian overtones of the text, the remediation failed to capture the full scope of the novel, I do not do so for the sake of the author. Philip Pullman himself has said in response to a question during an interview with FilmChat Blog which addresses the apparent lack of religion in the film;

"There are two ways to make a film: one is to spend several hundred million dollars, and the other is to spend about twenty thousand. Each imposes its own constraints. In the case of an expensive film, the people who put up the money obviously deserve to have their concerns taken into consideration. [...] So I have no problem with the way the film has put the emphasis; it could hardly have done otherwise."

So, it is not in the author’s defense that I remark that from this remediation we can learn that remediation occasionally sells-out meaning for visual tantalization, but in defense of the fan of the book. I disagree with Pullman and argue that the film could have presented itself as an exact remediation of the book and still have attracted the audience that it did. As it is, by the time that the final cuts of the film had been made, the damage of the Catholic Union’s wishes and protests had already taken their tole. Their complaints were not based on the movie but on the book which inspired the movie, a book which could not escape its anti-religious shading no matter how hard New Line may have tried.

In this case study I have presented the remediation of Philip Pullman’s novel The Golden Compass to film. I have argued that New Line and Pullman together remediated the book in such a way as to reject the original meaning behind the story and did so in favor of gaining a larger audience and a larger return. From this case study, I believe that we can uncover a subtle truth about remediation That is-- through remediation it is possible to convert a text from one media to another while leaving behind key and important elements of that text, thereby making the final remediation nothing more than a bastardization of an original idea. In the case of Pullman’s book, this abandoning of key points is a direct result of the immediacy provided by film, in which the anti-religious tones would have been too prominent and forced New Line and Pullman to rethink the film.

*Works Cited on Hardcopy*

Jennifer O'Malley said...

Jennifer O’Malley
Professor Yancey
29 September 2008

Case Study: Remediation of a Text—“The Little Mermaid”

When celebrated fairytale writer Hans Christian Anderson wrote a children’s story titled “The Little Mermaid” he unknowingly began the initial movement towards remediation. “The Little Mermaid” is a prime representation of remediation. According to Remediation authors Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, remediation is “the formal logic by which new media refashion prior media forms” (273). Since the initial delivery of the original text, technology has progressively improved and acquired new media. As a result, the favored children’s story has been introduced to new technology and has accessed new forms of illustration, description, and interpretation. As the following examples demonstrate, “The Little Mermaid” has successfully refashioned itself into other media and therefore is still a well-liked, unforgettable tale.

In 1837, Anderson wrote his version of the fabled little mermaid (Benson). Throughout his story, Anderson relies on descriptions of vivid imagery to illustrate his characters. He craftily paints a contrast between the ocean’s depths and the land’s terrain with colorful words and lively prose. In addition, Anderson ignites his audience’s imagination with clear, simplistic language. Depictions of the bright red hues of water flowers and the glittering spectacle of fireworks provoke his audience, presumably young children, to imagine their own underwater world.

“The Little Mermaid” narrates the adventure of a young, “quiet and wistful” mermaid in her quest to find love with a human prince (Anderson par. 6). The story begins with an introduction to the young mermaid; her father, the sea king; her grandmother; and the young mermaid’s six older sisters. Not until their fifteenth birthdays can the mermaids swim to the surface to witness the “upper world” of the humans. After the little mermaid celebrates her fifteenth birthday, she encounters the ship of the Prince. Barley surviving a tumultuous storm, the Prince and the ship’s crew struggle for survival in the ocean’s rippling surges. Courageously, the little mermaid saves the drowning Prince and rests him on the seashore until someone recovers him. The remainder of the story documents the efforts of the little mermaid to become human and to secure the Prince’s love. She befriends a sea witch, loses her melodic voice, and exchanges her fish tale for a pair of human legs; however, the witch informs her, “Every step you take will feel as if you were treading upon knife blades so sharp that blood must flow” (Anderson par. 58). Although the little mermaid vigorously attempts to find love with the Prince, her efforts remain unrewarded. The Prince marries a neighboring king’s daughter and the little mermaid, lacking an immortal soul, is forced to become a “daughter of the air.” Now, she depends on the good deeds of children to award her an immortal soul through which she can experience heaven.

With his enticing vocabulary, Anderson creates an inviting atmosphere of happiness, love, and adventure—an atmosphere where young readers want to journey, experience, and be a part of. He successfully manipulates words in such a way as to force his readers to take his written expressions and create their own imaginary scenes of water witches and royal castles. A leading example of Anderson’s talented handling of unadorned, uncomplicated vocabulary appears early in the story’s progression:

She saw dry land rise before her in high blue mountains, topped with snow as glistening white as if a flock of swans were resting there. Down by the shore were splendid green woods, and in the foreground stood a church […] here the sea formed a little harbor, quite calm and very deep (Anderson par. 34).

With simplistic ease Anderson utilizes one of the main affordances of the text medium to communicate with his audience: words. He relies solely on language and the craft of the written word to execute his intentions. Shedding dependence on visual imagery, Anderson carefully chooses appealing phrases and appropriate language to showcase his mythical mermaid tale. Successfully, he tempts his audience to conjure their own visual imagery with their imagination. In this way, he grants his readers authority in creating scenes and characters in their own way.

The popular acceptance of “The Little Mermaid” allowed the story to continue its influence throughout the progression of history. As different media evolve, so does the story of the little mermaid. In 1956, Gilberton Company published volume number 525 of their Classic Illustrated Junior Comic Book: The Little Mermaid. For fifteen cents, readers could experience the little mermaid’s adventure in thirty-two pages of cartooned illustrations. In this version, both visuals and text interact within individual panels (“The Little Mermaid”). Although the comic book technically is still a part of the print medium, the incorporation of visuals and illustrations separate the comic book from Anderson’s original text-only version. Therefore, the comic book version is a true remediation of Anderson’s original text.

Another remediation of “The Little Mermaid” occurred in 1961, when Shirley Temple showcased a version of the story as one of her storybook movies. This series features Shirley Temple alongside famous actors and showed televised versions of celebrated fairytales and children’s stories (“What Exactly” par. 1).

American culture eagerly adopted Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale of “The Little Mermaid”. As a result, the story continues to thrive in today’s media. One of the most popular remediations of “The Little Mermaid” appeared in movie theatres in 1989 (“The Little Mermaid 1989”).

Audiences flocked to experience Disney’s animated film. Anderson’s original characters—the little mermaid, the sea king, and the sea witch—made their debut in film with the help of Disney animators. The animators utilized the older medium of Anderson’s original text as inspiration to create their own visually appealing characters and scenes. They used the vivid descriptions and colorful imagery of Anderson’s words to convey a similar story on screen. The audience is able to see Ariel’s vibrant red hair and hear her melodic voice instead of having to imagine what the little mermaid’s hair color might be or how her voice might sound. By incorporating imagery, color, animation, and sound, the film allows more immediate access to Anderson’s original story.

In 1991, Capcom, a video game manufacturer, created another remediation of “The Little Mermaid” by producing a video game adventure starring Ariel and her pals (“The Little Mermaid Game”). Although the original video game generates low resolution graphics and journeys unexcitedly through underwater passageways, the game puts the player in control. The game allows immediate access to Ariel. The player decides whether or not Ariel swims left, right, up or down. Again, with the advancement of technology and the production of newer media, the audience, or in this case, the player, gains more authority, more control, over the medium and increases immediacy.

Immediacy is a key factor in the remediation of “The Little Mermaid”. How can the audience experience even further immediacy? In 2007, Broadway producers answered this question by staging a live version of “The Little Mermaid” (Gans par.1). Live actors play the roles of Anderson’s original text, of the comic book’s illustrations, of Shirley Temple’s televised characters, of Disney’s animations, and of Capcom’s virtual icons. On stage, the characters literally breathe, talk, sing, and dance. The audience can experience the story without the aid of imagination. With the Broadway show, the audience need not rely on imagination to construct characters and scenes. The producers have imagined the story for the audience.

Through this case study of “The Little Mermaid,” we learn that as technology progresses and advances, an opportunity arises for original texts to appropriate other media. As a result, remediation occurs. Authors, illustrators, composers, and artists utilize their talents to remediate the original text. They produce the content of the original text in another media in order to experience the same content in a different way. Why do this? As Bolter and Grusin note, “Each of these technologies repairs the inadequacy of the medium or media that it now supersedes. In each case that inadequacy is represented as a lack of immediacy” (60). The audience is asking for immediacy. They desperately search for a media that will bring them closer. “The desire for immediacy,” Bolter and Grusin observe, “is the desire to get beyond the medium to the objects of representation themselves” (83). Remediations of “The Little Mermaid” provide the opportunity for audiences to encounter new feelings, emotions, and experiences. As opposed to the original text, they can see the color in the comic book, hear Ariel’s voice in Disney’s animated film, and control Ariel’s movements in the video game. Subsequent remediaitons trigger additional sensory reactions, thus allowing for a more immediate experience.

Furthermore, from this case study we learn that as new media develop, we must acquire a new literacy and reexamine the manner in which we look at and define literacy. Literacy, for the purpose of this paper, is the ability to acquire and access the means necessary to understand, experience, and interact with media. In order to understand, experience, and interact with new media we must learn how to employ this new literacy. For example, Anderson’s original audience needed not only the text, but also the ability to read and the skill to interpret the text. However, the audience of the Disney animated film needed money to go see the film, a community that had a theatre that showed the film, transportation to the theatre, and the ability to see the film on screen and relate the visuals with the accompanying audible sound. How does this change? The audience of the video game required much more in order to experience the little mermaid: a Nintendo video game system, a controller, the video game itself, a television, the money to buy the technology, the electricity to run the technology, hand-eye coordination, and the ability to see. From the previous examples, it seems as though money is an underlying factor in acquiring a new literacy. As our culture attests, literacy is no longer just the ability to read and to write. To successfully engage in new media and experience remediation of media, we must acquire (purchase) the means necessary to access modern literacy.

This case study is an accurate representation of remediation because it successfully shows the transformation of the original text refashioning itself into new media. As the aforementioned examples demonstrate, Anderson’s text-only print continues to penetrate new media. As a result, audiences fulfill their desire of immediacy for the original “quiet and wistful” little mermaid (Anderson par. 6).

Brittney said...

I. Primary Medium

A. Orality/ Aurally- Sound
Music is an art form achieved in the medium of sound. Consider yourself on the streets of New York or New Orleans and you hear the beating of trashcans as you walk along. You could ignore it, but the sound gives off vibrations and rhythms that are pleasing to your ear. You realize that the sound has a pattern and a purpose. Can you hear it?
In the simplest terms, music is organized sound, and the following will not portray the history of music, but show what I found to be its greatest transitions in relation to remediation and the world.
Thinking about the ancients, like orally, music was meant to be heard. With the acknowledgement of chords, rhythms, instruments, pitch, among others, musicians played to audiences so they might hear beautiful songs and chorus, like the songbirds.

B. Text

Comparable to oral culture to manuscript culture, though the timeline may not be consistent to one another, sound was translated unto paper as symbols. Like manuscript, the text was written for the purpose of hearing out loud. As a reproduction method, the text allows for other musicians to produce the same sound if the text is interpreted the same. Reading words and reading music was an intellectual practice.

Text also allowed a place for lyrics. Text accompanied music simultaneously through song. the music provided the rhythm, pitch and sound in which the words are presented out loud. Like the movie Music and Lyrics, many artists arrange sounds to make instrumentals and then arrange words to place on top of the instrumentals, where it is hard to choose which one is most important: the music or text.
II Hypermediacy

A. Genres

Not limited to that of eras (medieval, renaissance), genres taken on all kinds of transformations. Music may be categorized by a group of people, a nation, a subculture. There is function music for specific audiences. Looking at music from a more westernized standpoint we are most likely to categorize music in that of country, rock, gospel, metallic, r&b, soul, rap, pop, jazz, blues, just to name a few. Of all these possibilies, what should we call “mixing.” Mixing is technique used create new genres. If we parallel genres like frames, much of the music we hear consist of various frames or styles of music. For instance, Elvis was known to mix that of rock, country and r&b (which is a mix of rhythm and blues). Ray Charles was criticized for repurposing the gospel sound with secular text.
GEORGIA Ludacris and Jamie Foxx

Technological advances, like the studio, make these mixings more possible. We can cut tracks and beats within the same frame and smoothly transition into another. Composing not on paper, but with the convenience of nobbes and buttons, recordings and computer transcribing.

B. Networks

As it moved from primarily oral to the idea of reproduction, other networks were formed because of the studio and technology. Networks, social and economic, helped to transform music into that of a music industry. From disks to tapes to CDs to Ipods, internet and from home entertainment to radios to concerts, music reached more ears and became more assessable. Studios not only provided hypermediacy in regard to sound, but also remediated the public experience to one that could be private and vice versa. Now your hometown church choir could reach the worldwide and your favorite concert artist could be heard in the privacy of your own home.
As a social experience, music began to define a cultural experience. Similar to that of genre, music spoke to the kind of person you were. What you kind of music you listened to was just as important to that which a person read. It became a text in this sense, demonstrating character, popularity, and style.

III. Message and Remediation

A. Music and Video
When we watch a movie, we all notice that music is played in the background. It’s usually very subtle and highlights the mood of the story viewed. When we discuss the music video, the music is the focus. The story is that of the background, the music is the focal point. As suggested by the title “music video” remediate music and the video. The short story is presented as a featured visual (various scenic frames) to assist in the message of the music

B. Music and Text
At a FAMU football game, fans come to see the band more so then the team. Fans want to see the halftime show. The Marching 100s, among other bands, remediate music and text. The field is repurposed from paper and acts as a site for message. The band configures symbols to correlated with selected musical selections. Moreover, it can take on text to speak to audience. Just this weekend, this band after a brief dance performance (marking the popular moves and dances to songs), marched to form the word VOTE, and then the announcer overhead restated the necessity of voting before the band transitioned to something else. Bands in this popular space have the power to occupy the whole page and control the message, either to entertain, inspire, or educate.

-The text has changed. The author has changed. The context has changed. Like mediation, music changes as the world changes. The author changed as people learned to read music and appreciate it as an art. The context has changed as the need has, either to take a social, economic, or political stance.
-Remediation and circulation seem to work together to include the public, more specifically in this context of industry.
-Literacy and textuality, here, is not limited to words, but learning a different way to read and analyze text. It’s such a great art that teaches creativity and a different way of composing. I wonder what can be transferred from that of learning music to that of learning in other subjects.

Ruth Kistler said...

In 1972 an original story written by Richard Adams was published by Rex Collings Ltd., a modest publishing house in London, in the form of a 413-page hard cover novel entitled Watership Down. Given that the lengthy and complex story’s principle characters were bunny rabbits and the fact that seven different publishers had already rejected the manuscript when Rex Collings agreed to take it on (Adams, “Interview”), it is not hard to imagine that both the author and the publisher had some questions as to what kind of reception awaited the work. Recent reviewers have noted that the novel “really wasn’t a children’s tale, nor adult literature” (Merritt), and the publisher had few resources with which to promote the book even if the target audience had been clearly defined. What he could do, however, was get “a review copy onto every desk in London that mattered” (“Interview”), and reviewers for both children’s and adult fiction loved it. The book became an instant classic, one that has been in print continuously ever since. At this point, 300 different editions have been produced, millions of copies have been sold, and various editions are now routinely included on the syllabi for middle and high school English literature courses (Middleton). According to the International Companion Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature, it has been beloved by children as well as adults, has won many prestigious awards, and can be considered “the most successful single post-[WWII] animal story” in print (Hunt 292).

Adams, a British civil servant in his mid 40s when this book was published, says moving the story from his family’s oral tradition into print was not a simple or obvious progression for him. Although he had always thought of himself as a storyteller, he didn’t originally envision himself as a novelist (“Interview”). It was only because of the insistent urgings of his daughters, for whom he had first created and orally related the tale, that he set himself the task of turning his spontaneous musings into what Walter Ong might call a physical literary “object” (Ong 125). Given that this was Adams’s first novel and one from which the author admittedly “was not expecting very much” (“Interview”), how might we account for the stunning success of this literary tour de force?

According to Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin, a remediation, or “representation of one medium in another” (45) is successful when it allows the audience to experience an “immediate (and therefore authentic) emotional response” (53). Although Adams had certainly elicited this kind of response from his young daughters when he first told them the tale, the story had to be refashioned considerably in order to allow his reading public to achieve a similar feeling of immediacy. When his daughters were listening to him speak, Adams could rely on the use of hand gestures, shifts in the tone of his voice, and non-verbal sounds, in addition to careful word choice to elicit an authentic emotional response. None of these avenues were available to him when using the medium of print to tell the story, however. Ong points out that “writing moves words from the sound world to the world of visual space” (121), and perhaps without even realizing it, Adams made the successful transition not only by using language to create a sense of the sound of the story but also by taking advantage of the visual imagery and spatial options the print medium afforded.

One way that he did so was by including a set of onomatopoetic “lapine” vocabulary words (i.e. hrududu, the rabbits’ word for motor vehicles) and not only introduced them within the context of the story but also included a “Lapine Glossary” in the back of the book. Adams said, “the creation of [a completely consistent, three-dimensional fantasy] empire was what I wanted to do” (“Interview”). In order to accomplish this goal, Adams needed to invent a strong sense of place as well as of sound. He approached this task by developing vivid and extensive descriptions of the spaces in and through which his characters lived and moved. The first paragraph, for example, is completely devoted to this task:

"The primroses were over. Toward the edge of the wood, where the ground became open and sloped down to an old fence and a brambly ditch beyond, only a few fading patches of pale yellow still showed among the dog’s mercury and oak-tree roots. On the other side of the fence, the upper part of the field was full of rabbit holes. In places the grass was gone altogether and everywhere there were clusters of dry droppings, through which nothing but the ragwort would grow. A hundred yards away, at the bottom of the slope, ran the brook, no more than three feet wide, half choked with kingcups, watercress and blue brookline. The cat track crossed by a brick culvert and climbed the opposite slope to a five barred gate in the thorn hedge. The gate led into a lane" (17-18).

Adams also included a black and white visual representation of those places, in the form of a map, which synthesized and graphically represented the world he described in his text.

Adams employs his ability to produce highly descriptive prose, a skill that he undoubtedly employed effectively (although perhaps not quite so extensively) in his original oral mediation as well, to produce vivid images in the reader’s mind of the multitude of individual personalities who made up the populations of each warren as they interacted with each other in various circumstances. These episodes provide readers with enough sensory detail to feel by the end of the book as if they “know” these characters, can relate to them, and have experienced some pivotal moments right alongside them, thereby invoking the necessary authentic emotional response despite the fact that no such anthropomorphic creatures exist in real life. Near the end of the book, during a time when the rabbits of Watership Down are under attack from the forces of the Efrafran rabbits, led by General Woundwart, Adams provides just one of many such scenes:

"In the faint patch of light below the ragged hole in the roof, a rabbit was standing – no Efrafan, a rabbit unknown to the General. He was very small and was looking tensely about him – wide-eyed as a kitten above ground for the first time – as though by no means sure where he might be […].
'Who the devil’s that?' asked General Woundwort.
'It must be the rabbit that’s been lying there, sir,' answered Groundsel. 'The rabbit we thought was dead.'
'Oh, is that it?' said Woundwart. 'Well, he’s just about your mark, isn’t he, Vervain? That’s one of them you might be able to tackle, at all events. Hurry up,' he sneered, as Vervain hesitated, uncertain whether the General was serious, 'and come on out as soon as you’ve finished.'
Vervain advanced slowly across the floor. Even he could derive little satisfaction from the prospect of killing a tharn* rabbit half his own size, in obedience to a contemptuous taunt. The small rabbit made no move whatever, either to retreat or to defend himself, but only stared at him from great eyes which, though troubled, were certainly not those of a beaten enemy or a victim. Before his gaze, Vervain stopped in uncertainty and for long moments the two faced each other in the dim light. Then, very quietly and with no trace of fear, the strange rabbit said,
'I am sorry for you with all my heart. But you cannot blame us, for you came to kill us if you could.'
'Blame you?' answered Vervain. 'Blame you for what?'
'For your death. Believe me, I am very sorry for your death'" (458-49).

(*According to the Lapine Glossary, “tharn” means “stupefied, distraught, hypnotized with fear” (483).)

In 1978, movie producers at Goldcrest Films remediated the story again in the form of a feature-length animated film. As Bolter and Grusin explain, when highly successful media ventures such as Watership Down are remediated, the intent is not to replace the original text but rather to gain access to markets that the original media hasn’t captured (68). Like the book, the film strove to create a sense of immediacy and authenticity of experience for the viewers, but the limitations and affordances of film demanded a reshaping of the content in significant ways. On the one hand, the film was able to reintroduce the auditory voices and sound effects Adams was able to employ in his original oral presentation of the story and to go beyond his capabilities by employing multiple speakers and sound tracks that produced a more realistic and expansive sound experience than a single storyteller can ever do. Additionally, the genre allowed filmmakers to show with pictures, rather than describing with words, the setting and action of the story. This format, therefore, provided a different kind of authentic experience, one more accessible to younger audiences in particular.

As is almost always the case when books are remediated into films, however, the plot had to be simplified and the number of characters reduced in order to produce a film that could be viewed in a two-hour time frame. The visuals the animators of the 1970s were able to produce were also quite limited compared to what they might be able to produce today, so that the film did not appeal to adult audiences to the same extent as did the novel. Without the depth of characterization Adams was able to provide in the book, the animation could not invoke the same sense of empathy and connection to the character that teens and adults felt when reading the printed text. The Disney-esque portrayal of what were really still very adult themes regarding the inevitable class between culturally constructed power structures and the rights of individuals compelled some critics to question the appropriateness of the remediation. Nevertheless, the film was generally well received and is still available today on DVD.

Because of the commercial success of the book and, to a lesser degree, the animated film, more remediations of the story inevitably followed. An animated television series based on the novel ran for three seasons in Canada and Great Britain between 1999 and 2001, and the entire series is now also available on DVD in the UK. In this version the producers made a conscious effort to refocus the content on more youth-friendly themes, however, and by the end of the series, the storyline diverges significantly from the one in the book and feature film. Although these adaptations undoubtedly presented a very different (and some might say diminished) emotional experience, these changes reflect the repurposing of the content for the children’s television medium. “Where the aim of film is to make us briefly forget the world outside the theater,” Bolter and Grusin point out, “the aim of television is to remind us of and to show us the world we inhabit” (194). The television show refashioned elements of the book and the movie in order to provide such a model for children.

That the highly successful novel, Watership Down, was remediated first as a feature-length animated film and later a television series should not be surprising to anyone living in the Western world today. Bolter and Grusin point out that “media are continually commenting on, reproducing, and replacing each other, and this process is integral to media” (55), and evidence to support this claim is ubiquitous in our culture. While it is clear that successful media ventures are chosen as subjects of remediation for commercial reasons, less clear is how accurate it is to consider these remediations as “reforming or improving upon” (59) the earlier media forms. In the case of Watership Down, the novel clearly outshines the film and the television as a piece a literature with depth and substance. I suppose one might think of the later versions as failed attempts to improve upon the original. It might be more accurate, however, to think of them as improvements for a particular audience (young children, for example) or as adaptations better designed to meet a new aim that was not an intended function of the novel. Regardless of how we conceptualize remediation, though, it seems clear that remediation of a given media form should not necessarily be seen as an attempt to replace the forms already in circulation. In the case of Watership Down, the remediated forms took on a different role than their predecessors, extending the reach of the story but not eliminating the need for the earlier versions to continue to be available. This suggests to me that there is really no need to resist remediation or to feel threatened by the ever evolving media forms. As long as media forms serve a useful and unique purpose, they will not be replaced but simply enhanced by new remediations, and if the new media forms do usurp and better fulfill for us the old media’s aims, then we will not miss them when they fade from our everyday lives.

Works Cited
Adams, Richard. “Richard Adams Interview with Don Swaim” CBS Radio. 1985. Wired
for Books, Ohio U. 27 Sept. 2008. <>.
---. Watership Down. New York: Avon. 1996.
Bolter, Jay David and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000.
Hunt, Peter, ed. “Animal Tales.” International Companion Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature. London: Routledge, 1996. 281-94.
Merritt, Byron. “Review: Watership Down.” 25 Feb 2005. Reviews at FWOMP.Com. 29 Sept. 2008.
Middleton, Christopher. “Family Book Club: Watership Down.” 2 March 2007. 27 Sept. 2008.
Ong, Walter. “Print, Space and Closure.” Orality and Literacy. London: Routledge, 2000. 117-38.

Scott said...

Scott Gage
ENC 5933-05
Kathleen Yancey
29 September 2008

Remediating Spider-Man via the Logic of Hyperimmediacy

In Remediation: Understanding New Media, Bolter and Grusin define hypermediacy as any remediation that “acknowledges multiple acts of representation and makes them visible” (33). This means that hypermediated forms emphasize their existence as medium; they make no effort to create the illusion of immediacy, or unmediated experience. In highlighting mediation, the logic of hypermediacy creates an awareness of medium that not only asks viewers to “acknowledge the medium as a medium” (Bolter and Grusin 41), but to celebrate the very fact of mediation. This logic operates in many of our modern forms, including the pages of the World Wide Web and the interfaces of television news channels such as CNN. The logic of hypermediacy is likewise prevalent in mediated spaces such as malls and theme parks. In fact, Bolter and Grusin write that “the logic of hypermediacy predominates” in such spaces (170). More specifically, “[t]he mall patron is surrounded by media as well as merchandise” while theme parks “surround visitors not only with the pure hypermediacy of electric light and sound but with specific references and remediations of particular […] films, songs, and animated characters” (Bolter and Grusin 175 and 170). While the logic of hypermediacy may very well predominate in theme parks, the integration of “narrative elements” invites visitors to pass through Alberti’s frame “either by taking rides that reenact moments of a film […] or by meeting the incarnations of famous characters from the animated films” (Bolter and Grusin 170 and 171). These elements infuse the hypermediate with the immediate, thus blurring the distinction between the two and, in turn, suggesting a third logic, the hyperimmediate, a combination of hypermediation and what Bolter and Grusin would refer to as psychological immediacy. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride at Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure would appear to exemplify this third logic through its remediation of Spider-Man: The Animated Series.
Before discussing this series and the ride’s ultimate remediation of it, it’s important to acknowledge that Spider-Man: The Animated Series is not the only source from which the ride could have borrowed in shaping its remediation. For example, Spider-Man first appeared in animation in the late 1960s (“Spider-Man In Animation”). Between the premiere of the first series and the opening of the Islands of Adventures ride in 1999, Spider-Man subsequently appeared in three animated series: Spider-Man (1981), Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, and Spider-Man: The Animated Series (“Spider-Man In Animation”). Despite this history, I am suggesting that the ride is a remediation of Spider-Man: The Animated Series because evidence suggests a direct relationship between the two. First, while waiting in line at The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, visitors watch an animated film providing the narrative context of the ride. The animation of this is film is strikingly reminiscent of the animation seen in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. Second, the voices of certain actors from Spider-Man: The Animated Series likewise appear in the ride. For example, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. served as the voice of Dr. Octopus in both the animated series and the ride (“The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man”). The most important reason for my claim, however, is that the ride represented the next—and still most effective—step beyond The Animated Series toward a more immediate rendering of Spider-Man, especially since the wildly popular Spider-Man films had not yet been released (Wieners).
The remediation of Spider-Man from the comic book page to the animated television screen provided audiences with a more life-like—and, therefore, more immediate—experience of the famed web slinger. As a result of television’s affordances, Spider-Man, as well as his many friends and foes, achieved a movement that was not possible on the printed page. Television also provided the characters with the ability to speak by way of voice actors, thus providing audiences with an auditory experience not allowed by the affordances of a comic book. In addition to movement and sound, I might add that improvements in animation between the first series and Spider-Man: The Animated Series likewise contributed to greater immediacy. Take, for example, the following images:

The image on the left comes from the 1960s Spider-Man series while the image on the right comes from Spider-Man: The Animated Series. If immediacy results from a medium’s ability to resemble unmediated experience, then the image on the right would create a greater sense of immediacy in the viewer. For example, Spider-Man’s body is more defined both in terms of its muscularity and its skeletal frame, physical characteristics highlighted by the shadowing effect. As a result of the advanced animation, Spider-Man appears in The Animated Series to be moving within a three-dimensional world rather than atop a seemingly flat, two-dimensional surface. Even though advanced animation creates the sense that we are looking at a more realistic—and, therefore, more immediate—representation, the fact remains that watching The Animated Series is still a hypermediated experience. To begin, animation highlights the fact that we are looking at images created either by the hand of a cartoonist of the mouse click of a computer animator. Moreover, watching The Animated Series on television—or via web sites such as YouTube—draws attention to the medium through which the show is broadcast; it draws attention to the frame outside of which we stand. Earlier I wrote that The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, through its remediation of The Animated Series, creates greater immediacy for the audience. It does so by guiding us through this frame and immersing us in a hyper-immediate experience.
The brainchild of Scott Towbridge and Thierry Coup, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is a thrill ride that combines simulated motion with both 3-D and special effects to create an experience that “whisks you smack in the middle of a life-and-death battle between Spider-man and a gang of […] menaces to society” known as the Sinister Syndicate (Wieners). The ride’s technology is largely responsible for its affect. “For the first time in thrill-ride history,” writes Brad Wieners in a Wired article about the ride’s innovations, “each car will move in sync with computer-generated 3-D images that flash onto huge screens.” He continues, “[T]he animation in the ride film adjusts to your perspective every step of the way, even as the Scoop mercilessly twists, pivots, and spins you. Add sound (with sonic vibrations under you) and moving sets and props (including a bridge that nearly flattens you), and the result is something close to that long-forsaken dream: truly compelling virtual reality.” The technical elements of the ride contribute to its hypermediacy. No matter how immediate we may perceive our experience of the ride to be, the barrage of sensory experience highlights its technical elements. Put another way: The thrill ride as medium never disappears entirely, even during moments such as the free fall that concludes the ride, for it’s the technical elements, i.e. it’s the physical affordances of the medium, that are ultimately responsible for creating the sense of immediacy (the technical elements and the manner in which they stimulate our sense perception). As such, the ride exists always as a hypermediated form even during those moments in which the medium would seem to disappear (as soon as they disappear, they are quick to reappear, especially in our post-ride conversations in which we discuss how the ride operates and, more importantly, how it deceives us into reacting as though the experience were “real”). Just as the ride’s technical elements create a hypermediated experience, they are likewise responsible for our belief—however fleeting it may be—that The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is an unmediated experience.
In its remediation of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, the physical affordances of The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man create immediacy by stimulating physical and psychological reactions. The affordances stimulate physical reactions in the sense that the viewer can actually feel splashes when Spider-Man punches Hydro-Man, she can feel the heat of the Hobgoblin’s burning jack-o-lanterns, and she can experience real sensations of vertigo as the Scoop twists and turns in unison with 3-D animation mimicking flight. The viewer can also see the animated characters as they leap from the screen. Compare, for example, this image of Spider-Man with those cited above. No longer is Spider-Man confined to the television screen, and no longer is the viewer a passive observer looking at a pixilated surface. Instead, she is a participant (even if she is still technically passive) who has passed through the television’s frame into an experience that would appear unmediated as a result of the physical sensations just identified, for the sensations remediate the viewer into “an immediate relationship to the contents of [the] medium” (Bolter and Grusin 24). As a result of this relationship, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man “involv[es] the viewer more intimately in the image[s]” and thus inspires psychological reactions that range from emotions such as fear and excitement to a “feeling that the medium has disappeared” altogether (Bolter and Grusin 28 and 70). This psychological aspect of the experience—the belief or feeling that what one experiences on the ride is unmediated—is key to the creation of immediacy, yet one cannot experience a psychological reaction without the assistance of the physical, i.e. without the assistance of the medium’s physical affordances. In this way, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man suggests a third logic at work in remediation: the hyperimmediate.
Bolter and Grusin acknowledge throughout Remediation that the logics of hypermediacy and immediacy exist in a fluid relationship in which one often bleeds into the other. No where is this more apparent for the theorists than in the efforts of new media to create greater immediacy from the old: “Although each medium promises to reform its predecessors by offering a more immediate or authentic experience, the promise of reform inevitably leads us to become aware of the new medium as medium. Thus, immediacy leads to hypermediacy” (19). As The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man demonstrates, the hypermediate can also lead to the immediate. In fact, an experiencing of the immediate may not be possible without a simultaneous experiencing of the hypermediate. This suggests the possibility of a third logic, one which describes the logics of hypermediacy and immediacy as operating not in turns but at an intersection we might call the hyperimmediate. If hyperimmediacy exists and functions as such, it would suggest that all remediation is advancing paradoxically toward greater immediacy by way of greater hypermediacy. The questions for me then become the following: Is there experience without mediation? If not, then are all of our experiences essentially hyperimmediate in nature?

Works Cited
“The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.” IMDb. The Internet Movie Database. 28 Sept. 2008.

Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. New York: MIT Press, 2000.

“Spider-Man In Animation – A Retrospective.” Marvel Animation Age. Marvel Comics. 28 Sept. 2008.

Wieners, Brad. “Scream Machine: Inside Universal’s multibillion-dollar push to kick Disney’s theme park ass.” Wired. 28 Sept. 2008

emily said...

*Better Late Than Never!*

Case Study—Moses Through Time: A Remediation

While the definition of remediation remains ambiguous, as defined by Bolter and Grusin in their text Remediation, a remediation is the gathering, borrowing, and altogether synthesis of media. In Bolter and Grusin’s words, remediation is media’s method of coping with the anxiety of influence, a nod to Harold Bloom’s claim that poets create a current rhetorical situation for themselves by revising, adding to, and transforming previous poets’ works. In this anxious way, remediation fulfills the “inadequacy” of a previous medium creating a sense of immediacy that makes new—and by way of influence—old media current by making the thing represented as tangible as the thing itself in the same manner as Baudrillard’s simulacra. As Bolter and Grusin suggest, “Photography was supposedly more immediate than painting, film than photography, television than film, and now virtual reality fulfills the promise of immediacy and supposedly ends the progression” (60). So, when applied to rhetoric, remediation thrives off of the concepts of immediacy and transparency in order to perform new tasks that suit current demands.

The parable of Moses and the Ten Commandments as taken from Biblical text provides a tangible example of a remediated situation. The parable’s origins are situated in a Biblical context. Though the context of the parable could be debated, for argument’s sake I will situate the parable in the Judeo-Christian religion, specifically in the book of Exodus where Moses was charged with communicating God’s laws to the people of Israel. The parable has become a cornerstone for the Christian church as it outlines common values, and its representation in the media is pervasive. Though the text’s original author is disputed, representations of the parable appear in oil paints and in comic strips, on screen and on stage, in woven tapestries and on carved reliefs.

The parable, though perhaps originally oral, is traditionally considered a print text. Sources approximate the Bible as a 2000-year-old work, meaning the text version would most certainly predate more current iterations of the parable. The original text appeared in the book of Exodus in roughly 20 versus. From this origin, the text was adapted in a variety of media, many of which were on hallowed ground.

Religious texts have been interpreted in a multitude of variations throughout history. Since literacy has long controlled accessibility to texts—especially to those of a religious nature—those in power relied on visuals to communicate the Bible to followers. One such visual representation can be seen in tympanums. Tympanums, the carved reliefs above cathedral portals, communicate—rather accessibly—a message to all who pass by or under them. Rather than inscribe a story on a church exterior, artisans would chisel stone reliefs and place them on cathedral walls. The church leaders of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Chartres, France (built from 1145 to 1220) must have felt the import of the Moses parable. A narrative relief is carved directly above the west portal entrance where every church patron could—and assumedly would—observe the parable in visual form. It may be sufficient to claim the tympanum as the predecessor to modern billboard advertising, though, admittedly, for quite a different purpose.

In a similar style, stained glass became the church’s medium for reaching patrons inside cathedral walls. The stained glass panel in York Minster’s Great East Window in York, England (built from 1338 to 1408) is a more narrative medium than the tympanums that adorn cathedral walls, though much more complex. In contrast to a single tympanum image, stained glass windows are divided into multiple panels, each of which displays a scene that collectively reveal a parable. The stained glass on the Great East Window follows the entire story of Moses from birth and abandonment, to reign over the Egyptian people, and finally to the Ten Commandments. The series of 10 panels (two columns of five) is more thorough in communicating the entirety of story in a style similar to a picture book. Since cathedral space is designed with height in mind, the stained glass panels are distanced from the viewer and, since the scale of the images is relatively small, to complete the parable viewers are forced to rely on surrounding panels to make complete sense of individual panels. Distance would remain the norm for centuries until artists shifted control of religious icons away from church leaders and towards church patrons.

Harmensz van Rij Rembrandt, in 1659, transformed images traditionally reserved for spiritual space by painting an oil representation of “Moses with the Tablets of the Law” on canvas for mass distribution. As one of the most influential Dutch painters, Rembrandt’s exploration of religious themes, influenced by the Jewish population of his native Amsterdam, meant widespread exposure to the masses. The success of Rembrandt’s painting caused an influx of religious images depicted not exclusively in the church, but also in the home, allowing church goers accessibility to, for one of the first times, iconography without trekking to a distant cathedral. This advancement calls to mind photography-type print images that
adorn many homes.

In more recent times, the parable of Moses has admittedly taken on a campier image. Charlton Heston, in the 1956 movie The Ten Commandments, reached an entirely new audience that was not necessarily seeking enlightenment but rather entertainment. The movie begins with Moses’ birth and, much like the stained glass in the York Minster, culminates with the Ten Commandments parable. The movie version brings to life the events depicted on the Notre Dame tympanum but with such life that the text’s religious context is all but removed.
For the modern-day viewer who finds The Ten Commandment’s ’50s style archaic, the 1995 made-for-TV movie Moses starring Ben Kingsley may be more realistic. The movie follows the same story depicted in The Ten Commandments, but at 188 minutes, is 40 less than the original film version, and is seemingly more accessible as it is a TV format. Rather than winning an Oscar, this version walked away with an Emmy for Outstanding Miniseries. Perhaps Kingsley’s Oscar-winning performance in Gandhi adds some clout to this relatively under-respected medium.

But film and made-for-TV is not enough; the evolution of Moses does not end with these mainstream media. The parable of Moses is mocked in comic strips, and the Moses enthusiast can purchase a talking Moses doll complete with detachable commandments for $13.99. A true Moses-lover can even trek to Brooklyn to catch Moses: The Black/Jewish Concert, a stage production of the Moses parable. This version of Moses is a contemporary telling of the Moses story if Moses were a black slave living in the late 1800s who was well versed in traditional African dance. In this version of the parable Moses wears a baseball jersey and Nikes. These remediations, though modern, transform the meaning of the original Biblical text away from sacred parable by making Moses a commodity.

The Ten Commandments, as a remediated story, has endured significant change over centuries, each change reflecting a particular cultural ideology that demonstrates temporally prevalent attitudes towards religion and accessibility. In its first iteration as a Biblical text, the parable was limited to those who were literate. As the parable become subject to visual media, the parable’s audience was expanded to those who attended church and could interpret the narrative structure of tympanums and stained glass windows. As soon as the parable became a form of high art, however, the structure of the story transformed into a commodifiable art object. The accessibility of Rembrandt’s “Moses with the Tablets of the Law” increased accessibility to a broader audience, allowing non-church goers to own the image, and, as a consequence, eliminated much of the mystery that had previously dominated the visual narrative versions. The secularization of the parable only continues as the parable is remediated in modern media. Patrons have transformed into consumers, meaning those who once experienced the parable visually as the gratis work of God, though it still exists in its previous mediations, now experience the parable by purchasing it in a modern media format (DVD, doll, musical tickets).

The remediation of the Ten Commandments reveals one greater truth about media itself: everything is subject to consumerism. As the masses became increasingly literate, consumption of the Ten Commandments increased. The religious context has been left behind in favor of a localized context within people’s homes—on TV, DVD, or in a child’s bedroom. The Ten Commandments consumer need not leave his or her home in order to take in the parable’s tale. Patrons, rather than trek to a holy sanctuary in order to, assumedly, hear the word of God, are now consumers of a secularized tale. While accessibility to the parable has increased, the parable has lost much of its original intended value by becoming a glamorized and Hollywood-ized function of capitalist consumer society revealing the simple fact that, these days, everything is for sale. The case study exhibited here proves that even though this parable has been remediated in nearly every media (many examples of which were omitted from this study), consumption does not dwindle even though a text had been relentlessly remediated.

Therefore, if we return to Bolter and Grusin’s idea of immediacy as a function of remediation, the parable of Moses has over time become the simulacrum Baudriallard suggests is a result of postmodern culture. As each remediation has taken place, the parable has become increasingly more immediate, meaning the viewer/consumer’s role is more involved and interactive with the new medium. Each remediation gives the parable more life and human similarity than its predecessor resulting in the immediacy that Bolter and Grusin bring to the forefront of their theory. To viewers of Moses-type movies, the parable of the Ten Commandments seems to have happened to a fictional character represented by Charleton Heston or Ben Kingsley rather than to an actual man more than 2,000 years ago. Nevertheless, the modern image of Moses is embodied by the way he—complete with anglo features, gray beard, sandals, and crooked staff—is represented in media post release of The Ten Commandments or even of Moses the made-for-TV movie. The fantasized image of Moses has replaced the literal image of Moses in such a way that the fantasy image is the accessible simulacrum that represents the Biblical parable. Thus, the continual remediation of the parable over the last 2,000 years, in becoming more accessible to its audience, has effectively diluted its original purpose; the story has been repurposed through continual remediation.

rory said...

I'm later, Emily.

To Oz and Back: A Journey of Remediation and Repurposing

We’re off to see the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. There it is! That chorus. Upon hearing it, some of us may cringe in irritation, while many of us might let the sweat sensation of nostalgia sweep over our bodies. Others, perhaps, just feel indifferent. Yet regardless of our reactions, we each have a reaction because we all know this chorus—it has been inculcated into our brains since youth.

The culprit: MGM’s 1939 movie classic The Wizard of Oz.

This movie, however, is not the original version of this iconic story—though it is the most popular. The Wizard of Oz film is actually a remediation of the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Furthermore, these are not the only two versions of this iconic narrative. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a story that has endured the ebb and flow of remediation, oscillating between mediums such as print and film but also popping up in other mediums, such as theatre. Remediation, however, is only part of the equation. A good deal of repurposing has gone on as well. But before elaborating further, let us first construct a framework for both remediation and repurposing.

Bolter and Grusin’s Remediation provides a robust theoretical framework for understanding remediation, but it seems to have its ambiguities—or at least areas of contention. Therefore, rather than use their framework, I will establish my own definition of remediation and repurposing, though admittedly Bolter and Grusin’s work is influential in these definitions. Henceforth, I will use remediation in two ways: (1) taking the feature(s) of a particular medium and transferring them to another medium, and (2) taking the content of a particular text within a medium and transferring it to another medium. In this case, transferring includes a sense of refashioning. In other words, the transfer of a feature or text from one medium to another will not always be a fluid and clean one. The refashioning inherent in remediation results in a new set of affordances: what a particular feature or text is capable of doing in one medium will be different in another medium.

In looking at the first definition of remediation, we can say television remediated the radio’s ability to not only broadcast to multiple viewers but also provide those viewers with a variety of channels. In this case, television took a feature of radio (broadcasting) and refashioned it within a different medium (television). On the radio, channels can be broadcasted on either AM or FM frequencies, and the ability to listen to those channels is controlled by deixis—your location determines what channels have good reception (e.g., a person in New York City cannot listen to a local radio broadcast out of Tallahassee). In addition, the radio can only broadcast sound. The projection of any visual element is not available in radio’s mediated version of broadcasting. Once transferred and thus remediated to television, however, broadcasting has different affordances. While there are still a variety of channels broadcasted, one can receive both sound and (often times moving) images. In addition, deixis has less influence: a person in New York City can watch the same television broadcast from a channel at the same time as someone in Tallahassee.

Obviously, there have been minor adjustments and additions to these mediums as we have continued to increase our technological capabilities. For example, Sirius Satellite Radio affects the deixis component in radio’s broadcasting feature—with Sirius, people can listen to almost any channel they went regardless of location. As such, Sirius alters the affordances and thus remediates what we consider normal radio. Satellite TV (e.g., Direct TV) and technology such as TiVo have also remediated the medium of television—as viewers, we now have more options and agency in how we experience the television medium, and as such, the affordances of broadcasting have been remediated. Therefore, the first definition of remediation can include refashioning the features of a medium within another medium as well as taking new technology and applying it to a medium, therefore altering the affordances of the old medium and making it new.

The second definition of remediation is content specific. For instance, the Batman franchise manifests itself in numerous mediums: graphic novel, television, film, video game, etc. However, each time the content of the Batman narrative is transferred to a new medium it is refashioned. The content is subjected to a new set of affordances—those made available by the medium—and changes accordingly. A nice example would be the remediation of the Batman graphic novel The Long Halloween into this summer’s blockbuster film The Dark Knight. The content in one medium is transferred into another, and in doing so, the content is changed because of the medium’s affordances (e.g., a graphic novel has still frame images and written text, but a film has moving images and verbal—rather than written—communication). In these cases, the author also has the agency to make artistic changes to the content (and with our example of Batman, Christopher Nolan only selected particular portions of The Long Halloween to remediate in The Dark Knight), but the extent of changes and how they manifest themselves in the text are nonetheless limited by the medium’s affordances.

Repurposing, on the other hand, is similar to the second definition of remediation but yet slightly different. While remediation can involve taking the content of a text and altering it between mediums on account of a medium’s affordances, my definition of repurposing involves taking the content of a text within a medium and altering that content while staying in that same medium. For example, the Rosie the Riveter poster was located within a static print image medium, meaning it was a still image available for print and distribution. In 2007, Time magazine put an altered version of Rosie the Riveter on their cover. This Rosie is both more feminine and contemporary than the original: she has long flowing brunette hair, a more pronounced bust line, a less rigid jaw and bone structure, less professional clothing (i.e., not a collared shirt), a tattoo, a watch, and an iPod. While people can debate whether the message differs between the two versions, the medium is still a static print image. Therefore, since the text remains in the same medium, it is allotted the same affordances. The content (and perhaps the message) of the image was altered—repurposed—but it was not remediated. It was not transferred into another medium and given different affordances.

With this framework in mind, I will now show how the narrative of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been remediated and repurposed over the last one hundred plus years. In providing this brief account, I will work chronologically. Time and new knowledge give birth to new technology, mediums, and, thus, remediation. Consequently, as we move forward, our ability to remediate expands—as does our ability to repurpose. As such, it seems appropriate to start at the beginning and see how both time and technology have (or in some cases, have not) resulted in remediation and repurposing of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. However, this short synopsis will not be exhaustive, as I will only touch on the four most popular remediations—not counting the original as a remediation. Thus, let us begin with a little children’s book by L. Frank Baum that put the land of Oz on the fantasy map.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a children’s novel written by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by W.W. Denslow, and published in 1900 (“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”). This text, placed within the medium of print, had the affordances of still images and the written word. It also had the affordance of accessibility if one had a personal copy—in other words, one can read a book almost anywhere. Twenty-five years after its publication, however, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz appeared within a different medium: silent film.

In 1925, Larry Semon directed “the first major film adaptation of L. Frank Baum's 1900 novel” The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (“Wizard of Oz (1925 film)”). The silent film was different from the original novel in multiple ways—for starters, the title was cut to just Wizard of Oz, and furthermore, the plot deviated heavily from the original. However, these alterations were more the result of artistic agency than the medium’s affordances. Even so, the medium of silent film still had different affordances than print that affected the content of the text, and as such, this constitutes a remediation. For instance, rather than have still images, the silent film had moving visuals. However, this medium lacked verbal communication. In the original novel, there was a semiotic means of communication in both the still images and the written text. In the silent film, the semiotic communication was different. There are no verbal words, but there is the existence of the written word. However, the written word appears on a black screen by itself. In other words, the written text acts as a transition between scenes—between the moving visuals of the film. Consequently, the means of communication came through both the characters’ interactions and gestures and the written words. It seems worth noting here that there is a tacit sense of improvement inherent in remediation. Although this is not always the case, most remediations intend to improve on their predecessor(s). In this case, however, that remediation seemed to fall short. Wizard of Oz the silent film is one of the lesser-known versions of the iconic narrative. The next major remediation, however, did improve on its predecessor in terms of popularity. I am talking, of course, about the version I quoted in the introduction of this text: the 1939 film version The Wizard of Oz.

Although both Wizard of Oz and The Wizard of Oz are based off Baum’s original novel and are stationed in the medium of film, the two are disparate remediations. Obviously, there are the alterations based on artistic agency: for example, unlike the 1925 silent film, the 1939 version makes a more concerted effort to follow the original plot of the novel. However, when looking at a remediation of a text’s content between two mediums, we look to the affordances and how those in turn refashion the text. In this case, the 1939 film remediation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was similar to the 1925 remediation in that it had the affordances of moving visuals; however, the 1939 remediation also had the affordance of language—verbal communication. Due to the affordance of the spoken word, The Wizard of Oz was able to include a component not found in the two prior versions: music. The Wizard of Oz is a film, but it is also a musical, equipped with both singing and dancing—an affordance that has certainly been imperative to the film’s lasting popularity.

The 1939 remediated film version carried The Wonderful Wizard of Oz narrative through multiple decades of pop culture. As technology expanded, slight enhancements were made to the original film, mostly just to improve the picture quality, but otherwise, the film just went through a slew of circulation (e.g., being re-released in 1949 and 1955, being broadcast on television for the first time in 1956, being the first video-cassette released in 1980, being released on DVD in 1997, etc.) (“Wizard of Oz (1939 film)”). This continued circulation as well as the transparency provided by the medium of film (another one of its affordances) made the 1939 remediation The Wizard of Oz the staple of the franchise—when one referred to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz narrative, they were almost always referring to this film, not the silent film or the original novel. However, in 1995, Gregory McGuire published Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, which continued the narrative’s popularity in a different way but through a familiar medium—print.

Wicked is a parallel novel that takes place during the same time as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz but is told from an alternative perspective. Thus, rather than the narrative be from the perspective of Dorothy, it follows Elphaba, also known as the Wicked Witch of the West. Categorizing Wicked becomes tricky if one does not know the inspiration for the novel. For instance, does McGuire use Baum’s original novel or the 1939 film as his context for setting up this alternative look into Oz? Perhaps he uses both?

In an online interview with Byron Merritt, McGuire confesses his “love for the film [while] growing up,” noting it was the “one thing that [his family] allowed [him] to watch […] every year” (Merritt). However, copyright laws impeded Wicked from being a direct remediation of the film. While it was safe to say that the 1939 film acted as inspiration for Wicked, McGuire had to tread lightly in his “references to the film, […] as Ted Turner’s company still owns the rights to that” (Merritt). Lucky for McGuire, however, “Baum’s books came out of copyright protection right at the time” he finished the manuscript, making it easier for him to market the novel as an alternative version to the original (Merritt). From this information, then, Wicked seems to straddle the lines of remediation and repurposing. Wicked would be an example of repurposing in that McGuire took the content of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz—the original narrative—and altered it within the same medium. In other words, both texts fall under the medium of print and as such possess the same affordances. On the other hand, while McGuire may not reference the film remediation of The Wizard of Oz for legal reasons, it is nonetheless obvious that it was a source (perhaps the primary one) for the development of Wicked. In other words, McGuire used the content of the film as inspiration but he did not take the content of the film and remediate it within another medium.

From McGuire’s Wicked came the birth of Wicked the Musical in 2003. Once again, we see instances of artistic agency at play, as the musical deviates somewhat from the original plot in Wicked. Some of those deviations, however, are due to remediation, which is what the musical is an example of: it takes the content from one medium (print) and transfers it to another medium—that of theatre. Some of the new affordances in the medium of theatre, then, are verbal (rather than written) communication, moving visuals (i.e., the people performing on stage), and, of course, singing and dancing. What complicates this remediation, however, is that the novel Wicked does not appear to be the lone text remediated in the musical. For instance, the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz was a musical as well—not to mention the various theatre adaptations that came before and after that film, none of which were mentioned due to the sheer number. Is Wicked the Musical, then, not also a remediation of The Wizard of Oz as well as a repurposing of those other theatre versions within The Wonderful Wizard of Oz narrative franchise?

It is okay to be confused.

As we move forward, it seems that sufficiently documenting an example of remediation becomes entirely complex—perhaps futile. The remediation of Wicked the Musical is multifaceted, and to say that it is a remediation of McGuire’s novel Wicked is on one level true but on another level too simplistic. The affordance of the moving visuals (the performance aspect) is itself a tricky concept to grasp firmly. This performative aspect of the theatre medium provides the affordance of transparency—at least more so than the medium of print—but it also provides the affordance of liveness. Wicked the novel is concrete—solidified within the medium of print. Wicked the Musical is a live performance, one that will vary (though perhaps slightly) with every remediation—because each performance is simply a remediation of Wicked the novel, which, of course, is a repurposing of the original novel. But even saying that sounds too reductive, for it does not permit us to compartmentalize the minutia in each of these mediums. For instance, how do we codify the music, the lighting, the stage crew, and the other myriad of technological additions that have contributed to the evolution of theatre as medium?

As such, the four examples and explication of remediation and repurposing provided above (novel to silent film to film to novel to musical) are incredibly reductive. These four remediations and repurposings only provide a few examples (not all) of how the affordances of one medium refashion the content of a text when placed within another medium. More important, perhaps, is that each of those affordances could (read should) be unpacked further. To say that the medium of film provides The Wonderful Wizard of Oz narrative the affordance of moving visuals is a pretty obvious and surface level observation. What needs to be analyzed critically and in more depth is how this affordance affects other elements of the text—for instance, the performative or experiential aspect. In other words, reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is an entirely different experience than watching The Wizard of Oz. Yes, the affordances of the two mediums still dictate (at least to a degree) that experience, but those affordances are not the only component at play. What about, say, context? How does perhaps where I read the novel or at what time (and age) I read the novel make a difference? In addition, how does remediation factor in sequence when it comes to context (personal or otherwise)? In other words, does it matter if I watch the film before I read the novel? Does it change the influence of the affordances on the text and then the reader?

All of these questions and more prove why remediation is simply a difficult concept to understand. As noted earlier, Bolter and Grusin’s laudable effort in Remediation still seems somewhat insufficient. Remediation, it seems becomes more difficult by the day. With the constant influx of technology—not to mention the remediation of old technology, which is more or less one in the same—tracking a text such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and determining how the affordances of the remediation of a medium becomes overwhelming. The problem, perhaps, is that it is difficult to separate mediums from users. As standalone mediums, perhaps we could more easily judge the affordances. However, without a person, a user, to utilize or interact with that medium’s affordances, it essentially ceases to exist. We, as users, make the affordances come to life.

What appears safe to say, however, is that remediation, while still slippery and enigmatic, is everywhere. We may not be able to articulate in full every aspect of a remediation, but the examples of remediation are still plentiful and discernable to a degree. Perhaps it would behoove us to concede that remediation is dynamic—always changing and (although Bolter and Grusin do not exert much time to this idea) contextual. As such, we come to see literacy and textuality the same way. If we define literacy as our understanding of and ability to aptly interact with particular mediums and textuality as the characteristics of a text determined by the affordances of the medium within which it is located, then they, like remediation, seem also to be contingent, contextual, and, most importantly, evolving. Thus, in undertaking this idea of remediation further, it seems as though we should explore the connection between remediation, literacy, and textuality.