Remediated Spaces, Actors and Animatronics
The second installment of Remediation by Bolter and Grusin explored how several media reform, refashion, improve on older media. This list of media included virtual reality, computer graphics, and remediated spaces such as Disney World. When I was a child, I wanted to work with audio animatronics when I grew up. That is, until I realized I had zero interest in learning the principles of electronics (which you probably should have if you’re going to work in that field). Nonetheless, the idea of a remediated space such as Disney World, offering remediated figurines of actual persons in history or actors from films is pretty mind-boggling. Add to that, the A-100 animatronic figures they are using now are “just like A-1 animatronics, only better!” “Compliance” (the body’s ability to absorb shocks and sudden gestures, yet still maintains its balance) is what makes the A-100’s better than the original A-1 figures developed for the World’s Fair in 1964. The geek in me absolutely loves this video:
As Bolter and Grusin say, the two logics (of transparency and hypermediacy) “are alternate strategies for achieving the same goal of the real or authentic experience” (233). So when Uncle Walt (Disney) decided that there needed to be a 3-D experience of animated characters, and the goal was to expand on that “illusion of life” in his animated films, he was remediating earlier media, such as 2-D animation, film, photography, audio recordings, and even wax figures which didn’t offer the 3-D, life-size, moving and talking illusion of the person standing in front of you, not on a screen.
The Remediated Self
The last section of Remediation brought Bolter and Grusin’s ideas to how new media impacts the concept of the self, especially the Networked Self, The Virtual Self and The Remediated Self. This of course echoes questions brought up in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? where the main thing that differentiated humans from androids was empathy. What makes a human perceived to be genuine or artificial?
The Remediated Self mentions how some people have come to view their bodies as a canvas to use as a form of expression, much like putting on a particular style of clothing. However, these individuals often make more permanent changes to their physical bodies, through plastic surgery, bodybuilding and/or tatooing. Their examples of people like Orlan demanded that I find out more about what Bolter and Grusin were talking about:
Bolter and Grusin’s chapter on The Remediated Self, was very interesting but it also displayed the drawbacks of traditional books. When the whole discussion is about visuals and multimedia, and there aren’t any actual examples you can see in the book (not even a photo), one needs to turn to another medium. Thank God for Youtube.
That led me to find this comparison of before/after plastic surgeries which is interesting because I hope it echoes a growing sentiment that plastic surgery doesn’t always yield a natural appearance, “only better.” Unfortunately, those that pay for it seem to be the last to know since they often go for repeated surgeries, remediating the aging process. And yet most of the time if the person is trying to look younger, the surgery doesn’t make them look like they did when they were younger. Bolter and Grusin talk about the extremes of hypermediacy which creates a more “artificial life” (218). This artificiality definitely can be seen in the surgically-altered faces of many celebrities and socialites.
Uber-Hypermediacy leading to Artificiality
The idea of plastic surgery conjured up a scene from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil that has haunted me ever since I saw it. As it’s from a Gilliam movie, it’s not a pretty picture, but I think he makes his point quite well.
Next, a word from a self-proclaimed “dude” who argues that culturally gals wear too much makeup because they have forgotten who they are and think the makeup is what they look like. He’s forgetting that a lot of this idea comes from the stupid women’s magazines that make money on making their readers feel inferior so the advertisers can sell more products. Did I mean to stay “stupid?” You bet I did! You’ve GOT to love this kid!
I haven’t worn makeup since the week I got married nearly 22 years ago because I married a guy with a similar opinion. I personally don’t view my body as a canvas, so I think the only thing I lost was opportunities to spend more money. I can live with that.
Finally, returning to the idea of hypermediacy and extremes, a video from the classic show Mystery Science Theater 3000 which warns against the extremes of technological advancement. As McLuhan says in Laws of Media, any medium becomes the antithesis of itself if given enough time and resources (McLuhan):
For instance, I’ve seen “==” and “===” but now I know that “=” merely assigns something and is not meant to calculate a tally. “==” means equals in the way you’d expect. “===” means that for the script to work, there has to be a STRICT equality of one thing to another. Little things like that and “!=” (meaning “is not equal to”) are going to be very helpful to make heads or tails out of any script I come across.
Bolter, J.D. and R. Grusin. (2000). Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
McLuhan, M. (1989). Laws of Media. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.