Wrestling with Remediation

Throughout our fourth module, the term remediation – and the concept of it – has stuck with me the most. In J. D. Bolter’s book, Writing Space, the inferred definition could be “change with some kind of clash or one-upmanship” – books remediated manuscripts, video games remediated movies, etc. (p. 24 – 25). A quick Google search for definitions of remediation are not altogether dissimilar: “act of correcting an error or a fault”, “set straight or right”, “the reconciliation of two opposing forces”. All imply that there is some sort of opposition or wrongdoing. In each case of remediation of media / text that we have looked at in our course, which side is “wrong”, and which is “right”? How can inanimate text take action upon other forms and remediate it?

Au Naturel?

At the beginning of this module, my initial thought was that hypertext and new forms of writing were not as natural as writing by hand or typing. Bolter noted that it is associative, multiple, and responsive, as are our own thoughts, which would seem more natural (p. 42). I was of the mind that “textual asides” – links / insertions of media – may not make complete sense to all readers – almost like an in-joke or a quirky sense of humour. Upon further reflection, however, the ability to create text in a way that can embed personal thoughts, visuals, references, ideas, and experiences has much more voice, is more “oral”, and is, therefore, more natural. Like others, I may have been taking a reactive response to modern methods of text creation – viewing it as an invasive species in the ecology of my sense of literacy as Zhao and Frank may have thought. Now, I view hypertext and modern forms of literacy as more evolutionary and natural than infiltrative.

Change Is Inevitable

So, if text is evolving, just exactly how is it changing? Marshall McLuhan believed that the medium itself was the message. I see technology as changing the forms or types of writing more than technology itself being the chief message; or, perhaps, that what technology affords us is the real message – interaction, collaboration, connecting, organization, etc. Texts are increasingly being created with branches to other sources of information. They are also being created with organization and categorization built in: tags, hashtags, links, labels, @ signs to connect to other authors. The meaning of these texts changes compared to standard text – it becomes richer, and more social.

In other terms of change, Bolter and Kress also noted that visual modes of representing were increasing at the expense of textual ones. This stands to reason, especially with descriptive forms of writing. As covered by Bolter when mentioning ekphrasis and a logocentric desire, we often want to fit the visual world into words. New methods of creating text that combine increasingly more visuals and other forms of text into one (video, audio, images, etc. – Glogster or Prezi for example) are coming into our textual world all the time. Since images, video, words, etc. are all forms of text, I would simply rephrase what Bolter and Kress said. New ways of representing are enhancing what can be conveyed with words – not at the expense of words, just the amount of them. It is not a decline in quality, just the quantity of one part of text overall. It was a bit morbid of Bolter to describe prose as a near-death host body that exists only because more recent forms of text need it to (p. 56) – the written word will not die, and other forms of text are not consciously trying to kill it. It just has to share some space on its page or screen.

How Does It All Work? Where Are We Going?

I would argue that, in places of remediation, where texts and technologies meet and compete, that the pre-existing technology or text is most often thought to be right – at least by those who resist change. Digital immigrants are more resistant to change, since they view newer technologies or methods as more of a challenge than do digital natives. If people could, while still maintaining a critical view, accept new text modes as potentially useful, there would be less need for resistance, tension, and remediation. I liked Kress’ idea that writing today is like orchestration (p. 160) – the writer, as a conductor, needs to know which instruments and voices (or tools and writing forms) to use at certain times, keeping them in a proper, harmonious balance. Cope and Kalantzis referred to the need of “multiskilling” (p. 169) – that modern writers need to be able to use multiple skills well to be able to deftly create quality texts in a multiliterate world. My only issue with this is the notion that people may not be able to truly multitask (Tough, 2011). If this is true, how can modern writers really use multiskilling effectively? If they can, perhaps they will become part of the world’s “new common sense”, as Kress put it. He said, “taking meaning and making meaning from many sources of information, from many different sign-systems, will become the new common sense” (p. 17). Since modern texts are often social and open to connection / collaboration, this “common sense” or common knowledge notion makes a lot of… well, sense. Perhaps if more people share in this common sense, and are skilled – at least functionally – in many text forms, there may be less of a monopoly of information as we have seen in the past, and enough critical thought to ward off a total technology takeover, or technopoly.

All that being said, where are we going? I cannot help but think of Ong’s notion of secondary orality – that many technologies rely on the written word to exist and function. Given text’s overall shift to include more images and fewer words, will we evolve into some “secondary literacy”? Where the notions of community and group thought continue, but are based on more visual texts than written words, and text-dominated works were not the most recent dominant form?



Bolter, J. D. (2001). Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print (Second.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Cope, B. and Kalantzis, M. (2009). “‘Multiliteracies’: New Literacies, New Learning.  Pedagogies: An International Journal.  4(3), 164-195. Retrieved November 11, 2012, from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/15544800903076044

Kress, G. (2005). Gains and losses: New forms of texts, knowledge, and learning. Computers and Composition, 22(1), 5–22. doi:10.1016/j.compcom.2004.12.004

McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media; the extensions of man. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Ong, W. (1982.) Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word. London: Methuen.

Postman, N. (1992). Technopoly: The surrender of culture to technology. New York: Vintage Books.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon. NCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001.

Tough, M. (2011, April 21). Multi-tasking doesn’t exist. The Change Leadership Company – Building Change Expertise. Retrieved November 11, 2012, from http://changeleaders.com.au/multi-tasking-doesnt-exist/

Zhao, Y., and Frank, K. A. (Winter, 2003) Factors affecting technology uses in schools: an ecological perspective. American Educational Research Journal, 40(4), 807-840.

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One Response to Wrestling with Remediation

  1. smyers says:

    Nice commentary on remediation. I like to think of it not so much as a competition or a fight to the death but rather as a newer technology taking all of the good from the previous technology and eliminating the annoying parts. Selective re-invention maybe.

    I like this part: “the written word will not die, and other forms of text are not consciously trying to kill it. It just has to share some space on its page or screen.”
    Well said!

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