Remediated Struggle for Essence

Bolter and Grusin's understanding of new media as caught between the immediacy/hypermediacy dichotomy brings the essence of media to a tension. Each mediated environment is immediate, fostering "in the viewer a sense of presence: the viewer should forget that she is in fact wearing a computer interface" (5). Simultaneously, hypermediacy, which "offers a heterogeneous space, in which representation is conceived of not as a window on to the world, but rather as 'windowed' itself" (17) is unavoidable. While it is easy to see these forces as working in opposition, in fact, together they make the mediated experience both accessible and differentiable. Situated in an immediate mediated environment one has effective control and transparent presentation, but hypermediacy is necessary to permit the user a bird's eye view of the environment, giving him more oversight and overall direction. Thanks to this oversight, one can remove oneself from the immediate project and see the others available. If all the space available were homogenous, one could not separate oneself from the world presented when one needed to, thus the idea and presentation of heterogeneous space is necessary.

Curiously, the language used to describe this innate dichotomy and strife in all media resembles Heidegger's discussion of the rift between "world" and "earth" innate in all art. However, what first must be determined is if this innate mediated tension exists only for media as equipment or for media as art as well. Because of the repeated references to fields such as photography and digital design, I will assume Bolter and Grusin apply their theory to the working of digital art. In his essay, "The Origin of the Work of Art," Heidegger discusses how art as truth arises from the strife between the setting up of a world and the setting forth of the earth. This setting up of a world resembles immediacy by striving to surmount the earth, and bringing the nature of the world to a self-opening. The setting forth of an earth resembles hypermediacy by drawing the world into itself in a concealing heterogeneous space that "the work sets itself back into." This concealing is akin to the distant mediated window of hypermediacy.

Thus truth is attained in art by a constant struggle between the work being set into one's world, and being held back in earth's "self-secluding" concealment as "undiscloseable presence." Bolter and Grusin's theory of the essence of media can be seen as a reworking of Heidegger's concept of art. Immediacy sets up the mediated art in one's world in a transparent disclosed manner, while hypermediacy keeps that art at a distance in that "heterogeneous space" seen through a window. Looking at Heidegger's views as the origin of Bolter and Grusin's is, however, dangerous. The philosopher himself considered technological reproduction and remediation as obscuring one's understanding of art, the Being of truth, and most importantly one's own Being. The similarities, though, are evident. Perhaps Heidegger would have termed this mediated "art" as something much closer to his idea of equipment and immediacy akin to equipmentality's transparency. The core argument becomes whether or not art is really possible in a technologically and digitally mediated environment.