In Remediation – Understanding New Media, Bolter and Grusin state that “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 a medium. Thus, immediacy leads to hypermediacy” (p. 19). At the same time, “hypermedia applications are always explicit acts of remediation: they import earlier media into a digital space in order to critique and refashion them” (p. 53). Most examples of new media technology cross the borders of immediacy, hypermediacy, and remediacy, as they always try to refashion older technologies, often times incorporating more than one technology into a new enhanced object, and they all generally tend to strive for a more immediate or authentic experience.
I found an interesting example of immediacy in the movie Victoria by Sebastian Schipper (GER 2015). Digital cinema has seen huge improvements over the last few years: image quality has gotten closer and closer to the professional standards of film, while portability and data storage have way surpassed the technical impediments of film cameras. This has allowed German filmmaker Sebastian Schipper to film a nearly 3-hour long thriller in one single take, without any edit whatsoever. As a result, Victoria is void of many of the technical artifacts that characterize cinema and offers a really immersive experience: without cuts, the viewer feels like constantly being in the action, in the presence of the characters, over a linear timeline without any jumps in time or space. On the other hand, Victoria is also an interesting instance of a sort of reverse-hypermediacy: while eliminating technical artifacts in favor of a more immersive experience, the absence of these artifacts that are so characteristic of the medium makes us aware and fascinated with the technological improvements that allow this filming technique. The technical peculiarity of the movie was possibly the main reason why I decided to watch the movie in the first place. I did feel immersed in the narrative while watching it, but at the same time I was constantly brought back to noticing the seamlessness of the camera movement, the expedients used to avoid boredom in between-action time, and so on.
Virtual Reality is a good example of hypermediacy, in that immersion is achieved through the use of a number of different and very noticeable media: a visor, headphone set, often even a sort of 360-treadmill for movement, and other types of handheld devices meant to simulate weapons, etc. The fascination for this combination of media plays a big role in the immersive experience that this technology offers. At the same time, the audio, visual and tactile technologies that make up the VR experience strive for immediacy through transparency, as they try to imitate reality as closely as possible: graphics tend to be more and more realistic, while new types of 3-D sound headphones surpass the limitations of stereo to represent a more immersive and realistic sound experience, etc. Finally, VR technology is a remediation of more traditional computer videogames. It refashions this older medium in a new form, and “justifies itself by improving on a predecessor” (p. 59) to achieve a higher degree of immediacy than the traditional computer screen and controller or keyboard.
The Apple Watch and other “smart watches” are also examples of remediation. They refashion not only traditional watches, but many other functions and technologies, mainly specific to smart phones and music players (in turn, other remediations of other technologies…) into a new medium that incorporates them all. This technology aims at immediacy and a more authentic experience, as it allows a user not only to see what time it is, but to choose a song to play, read a text or email, track their physical activity, and perform other actions without having to take their smartphone out of their pocket or bag, unlock it, etc. On the other hand, a device that incorporates so many different functions is an obvious example of hypermediacy. I’ve never actually tried on an Apple watch, but the idea of having so many functions into one tiny screen on my wrist seems a bit clumsy and uncomfortable to use. At the same time I am fascinated by the progress of the technology that makes such a device possible, and I’m sure this same fascination is the reason behind the users’ immersive experience and the relative commercial success of this type of products.