AK: on Immediacy, Hypermediacy and Remediation and jennicam.com

Quotes and references from: Bolter, Jay and Grusin, Richard, 2000. Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation. In Remediation -Understanding New Media. Cambridge Mass.: MIT Press.

According to the definition published on the jennicam website, the definition of jennicam is two-fold; the first being a ‘real-time look into the real life of a young woman’, and the second, an undramatized photographic diary for public viewing esp. via internet.’

Although the internet archive of jennicam is now historical (no longer real-time, but a documentation of something that has been), it is interesting to think of it as a modern real-time digital media product of its era; and in fact, theories surrounding Immediacy, Hypermediacy and Remediation can be applied to jennicam with some success.

One important trait of digital media is the ‘logic of transparent immediacy’, in which virtual reality is ‘immersive’, so the medium by which it is presented is intended to be invisible. However, primarily due to the technical limitations of the technology, this seemless vision is in fact ruptured. Whilst Jennicam attempts to bring the life of a young woman to the viewer in real-time, in order to bring the viewer closer to the subject which is being portrayed, this is not seemless. One of the digital tools used to do this is the webcam, which offers audiences a real-time ‘window’ into the life of the subject who is in front of the camera. Whilst the objective of the immediacy being employed is to create a ‘transparent interface’, so that the viewer has a ‘direct relationship to the content of the medium’, in reality this is a goal which the technology strives to achieve, but falls short; the webcam has a limited frame rate and frame size, and is often displayed in a window; therefore, the technology used to bring the subject closer to the viewer is apparent and perfectly clear. And even if the image filled the screen, it is still bound by the edge of the frame (screen) and so the medium is still evident even though the digital technology attempts to deny its mediated character. Unmediated presentation is the ultimate goal, and it is the task of technology to progress towards that goal.

Although the goal of immediacy is to remove the medium, and create a ‘contact point between the medium and what it represents’, to do this also strives for the erasure of human agency; as the video image is being sent via the internet, human agency is present in all the tools of programming, and used to transfer the image from the camera to the computer screen of the viewer. These layers of human agency exist in the programming of the servers which relay the image to the viewer, of the code in the operating system and web browser software in the viewer’s computer, even as the high-level HTML coding embedding the web cam or images in the webpage itself. Therefore, whilst immediacy has a goal, the medium itself and the human agency required in order to make the technology work, as far as they can be made invisible, they can never be totally erased.

Jennicam.com

The Logic of Hypermediacy, on the other hand, presents a fascination with the medium itself; it revels in the fact that the content is mediated; in this example, it is presented in a web browser window on a personal computer. According to William Mitchell (1994), Hypermediacy “priviledges fragmentation, indeterminacy, and heterogeneity and… emphasizes process or performance rather than the finished art object”. Hypermediacy gives rise to a new kind of media experience combining, for example, TV and computer technologies; “its raw ingredients are images, sound, text, animation and video… it is a medium that offers ‘random access’; it has no physical beginning, middle or end.” This is evident when looking through the jennicam archive; there are text journal entries which emulate diary entries (even presented using the ‘courier’ typerwriter-style font; see: http://web.archive.org/web/20000510074437/www.jennicam.org/~jenni/journal/0410.html ), an image gallery taken from the webcam as embedded stills in a web page http://web.archive.org/web/20000510131824/www.jennicam.org/gallery/index39.html (in fact jenni even discusses the video and web programming elements of the site within her journal entries), and a text-based chat room which viewers are invited to use whilst the jennicam live stream (http://web.archive.org/web/20010508155231/thesync.com/jennistream/) is down. All of these areas are combined into one web site, and presented to the viewer via the safe and familiar means of the web browser.

Whilst hypermediacy operates as a ‘unified medium’, (even though its component parts are text, video, image etc), it actually offers a ‘window’ onto representations of other media. It makes apparent the ‘layers of programming’ by returning control to the user, who then initiates another action. To quote the text, the “Logic of hypermediacy expresses the tension between regarding a visual space as mediated and as a ‘real’ space that lies beyond mediation”; whilst the real space may be that in jennicam’s living room or wherever her webcam is situated or photographs are taken, the web interface provides a definite layer in between the viewer and jennicam’s living room. In fact, ‘modern art insists the viewer keeps coming back to the surface’; in this case, the web browser and jennicam.com web site. Furthermore, in the Logic of Hypermediacy, the artist (or web programmer) “strives to make the viewer acknowledge the medium as a medium and to delight in that acknowledgement.” This is somewhat in contrast to the Logic of Immediacy to attempt to erase the medium completely.

Jennicam Gallery Image

Moving onto Remediation, this is also apparent in the jennicam web site; live TV, photography, and journal entries have been absorbed into the new medium of the internet, as the new medium of the world wide web attempts to ‘refashion’ its predecessors. Jennicam’s typewriter-fonted journal entries have been refashioned into the medium of the HTML web page, as her photo / webcam ‘snapshots’ have been presented as a photographic album refashioned into a web page. And as for TV, this has been ‘windowed’ too. It is important to mention that remediation also works both ways; as the web refashions the older TV, so the TV has (more recently) tries to refashion traits of the internet, with interactive digital TV services, and even surfing the internet via an xbox plugged into a TV set. To end in a final quote from the text, “Repurposing as remediation is both what is unique to digital worlds, and what denies the possibility of that uniqueness”, as it can never make a complete break from the past. There are always the medium of previous technologies which are being referenced.

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3 Responses to AK: on Immediacy, Hypermediacy and Remediation and jennicam.com

  1. alex says:

    Great post!

  2. aaronwkay says:

    Thanks Alex, I actually found the reading really interesting and made loads of notes – I think I can apply the theories to my project too. Its the kind of stuff I can relate to as I work so much with technology, and the reading really has made me think about the topics discussed.
    Aaron

  3. Pingback: C64 Gaming on Nintendo Wii « Pixellate

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