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In this classic Bolter and Richard Grusin develop a theory of mediation for the digital age that challenges the assumption that new media needs a new set of aesthetic and cultural principles. They argue instead that new (visual) media achieve their cultural significance by reusing and refashioning earlier “new” media, such as perspectival painting, photography, cinema, and television. Their theory of remediaton recalls that earlier media have also refashioned one another: photography remediated painting, film remediated stage production and photography, etc.
The authors define medium as “that which remediates” (19) and claim that all media work by remediating--or translating, reshaping, refashioning and reforming other media in both form and content. The authors claim that new media will never be new, that we will not invent a new set of aesthetic and cultural principles to negotiate it. Instead, like its precursors, “digital media can never reach this state of transcendence, but will instead function in a constant dialectic with earlier media, precisely as each earlier medium functioned when it was introduced” (50). Here the authors claim that what is new about new media lies in their particular strategies for remediating television, film, photography, and painting” (Bolter 50). Bolter and Grusin state “In collage and photomontage as in hypermedia, to create is to rearrange existing forms” (p. 39). Consequently, to bring something new into existence--to create--is to rearrange forms/media which already exist. Notably, Lev Manovich takes up Bolter and Grusin’s idea of remediation but also extends their notions of what the aesthetic is to new media.