Remediation: Crossing Discursive Boundaries

Central European Perspective

by Bogumila Suwara (Volume editor) Mariusz Pisarski (Volume editor)
©2019 Edited Collection 370 Pages
Series: Spectrum Slovakia, Volume 33


The aim of the monograph is to present the application and practical development of the concept of remediation. Two decades after its original proposal by J.D Bolter and R. Grusin, remediation remains one of the major tools of understanding new media. The authors of this book examine the subject from the perspective of Central and Eastern Europe. Examples are drawn from artistic and literary practices in Croatia, Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Slovakia and Slovenia. Theoretical frameworks solidify and extend the concept of remediation to new phenomena and areas of critical discourse, from biomedia and genetic transcoding to the remediation of textual media in Catholic Liturgy. As a result, the notion of medium, the nature of mediation and the essence of storytelling are redefined.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • 1. Bogumiła Suwara, Mariusz Pisarski: Remediation: Introducing voices and discourses from Central Europe
  • I. Contexts
  • 1. Pavol Rankov: Dematerialization and Datafication: Towards a Remediation of Everything
  • 2. Janez Strehovec: Moving Images, Moving Words. On Refashioning Film in Electronic Literature
  • 3. Peter Sýkora: Defining Biomedia: On the Importance of Transcoding and Remediation
  • 4. Jana Tomašovičová: Data Transformation in Heterotopic Space
  • 5. Bogumiła Suwara: On the Path to the Remediation of Academic Genres and Their Presence/Absence in Central Europe
  • 6. Agnieszka Jelewska, Michał Krawczak: Video Remediations: From Transmission Medium to Data Landscape. Three Phases of Video Remediations
  • II. Histories
  • 1. Jana Kostincová: The Russian Silver Age Literature as a Hypertext–Background Text–Subtext
  • 2. Karel Piorecký: Serialized Novels in the Context of Digital Publication
  • 3. Katarina Peović Vuković: Text and Téchnê
  • 4. Zoltán Szűts: The Aesthetics of New Media Art: The Nature of an Interactive, Real-Time, Interconnected, Hypermedia, and Augmented Artwork
  • 5. Kateřina Piorecká: Between the Book, the Image, and the Performance Pantomima by Vítězslav Nezval
  • 6. Andrzej Adamski: Sacrum in the Digital World: The Processes of Remediation on the Example of the Liturgical Books of the Catholic Church
  • III. Poetics
  • 1. Ewa Szczęsna, Mariusz Pisarski, Piotr Kubiński: Strategies for the Creation of Meaning in Digital Art
  • 2. Piotr Marecki: “Stoberskiade”, or Stickers as a Literature-Distribution Platform
  • 3. Martin Flašar: Poème électronique Remediated
  • 4. Dagmar Sabolová-Princic: The Radio Remediation of Umberto Eco’s Baudolino
  • 5. Zuzana Husárová: Cooking Obvia Gaude and Talis Quadra: On the Creative Cannibalism of the Slovak Baroque Wedding Wish
  • 6. Ivan Lacko: Remediating the Grotesque and Uncanny: The Cinematic/Television Art of David Lynch in “Twin Peaks: The Return”
  • Index

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Remediation: Introducing voices and discourses from Central Europe

In the 1990s hopes appeared that the Internet will provide a completely new form of existence for Russian literature, that books will look like this: you click a link, a new webpage opens, you write a chapter and submit it. Everybody will rejoice as well as write their contribution. I did it. It was interesting for me to see what was going to come out of it. Nothing came out of it.

Roman Leibov

The concept of remediation coined by Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin almost two decades ago seems to endure the test of time fairly well as it keeps reverberating on many levels of contemporary critical thought and artistic practice. Two theses, in particular, remain highly attractive: new media do not replace old media – as Bolter and Grusin proved – but draw from them in evolutionary process where certain elements are being transformed but other remain stable or are transformed later in a constant exchange of poetic and narrative strategies between the mediations of old and new. The second thesis highlights a double logic that governs the process of remediation. On one hand it is immediation, a tendency towards an unmediated communication, which obscures its media dependent status and technical aspects in order to achieve the transparency of immediate experience of the represented reality. On the other hand it is hypermediation – a tendency towards hybrid, auto reflective mediality of the representation in order to make it somehow closer to the represented phenomena by multiplication of forms and interfaces it is reflected in.

What this book aims to achieve is to examine the notion of remediation and concepts associated with it from the perspective of Central and Eastern Europe with broad and varied examples drawn from literary and artistic practices of last decades: from Slovenia and Czech Republic to Russia, from video art, happening and (analog) art installation to hypertext, cyberpoetry and works made for gesture and body sensitive platforms like Kinect or mobile phones.

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The voices comprised in this monograph come from parts of the world which – understandably – were not even mentioned in the original works on remediation. At the time when the first edition of The Writing Space (Bolter, 1990) was published, followed by Remediation (Bolter, Grusin, 2000) Central Europe was undergoing historical transformations, and the benefits of technological changes that were apparent in the U.S and the West were not clearly visible. Yet the emergence of new media and the Internet did accelerate changes in the region, first and foremost in the field of artistic production and distribution. It was the Internet that made Russian avantgarde artists turn into net artists and connect with the global network of new media art to play a prominent role in it. The technological changes allowed also for rediscovery of local traditions and art movements marginalized or even banned by communist regimes, like Russian Silver Age, Czech avant-garde from before World War II, Croatian Quorum generation from nineteen eighties etc. – new writing spaces were a natural ally to those marginalized movements and today their ideas and techniques could be remediated in new digital platforms and cultural contexts. In countries where censorship institutions were not able to totally control the samizdat literature and alternative distribution, Internet allowed for altogether different kind of alliances that brought together artists of digital age with representatives of avant-garde and neo-avant garde movements of the 1960s and 1970s, marginalized – in this case – by anti-communist and politically oriented players in the dominant cultural field (Poland).

Similarly to Bolter and Grusin, who supported their pioneering findings by plethora of examples – from medieval cathedrals through Baroque architecture to instances of VR technologies for storytelling – authors of this volume apply concepts of remediation to processes taking place beyond the most often discussed transition from print to digital and frameworks of analogue and digital media. The medium in question is sometimes understood as technologically indeterminate: sound, movement, body, and space. The remediation, in this context, is not always synchronic, evolving from old to new (Husárová, Flašar, Lacko); at times, it is diachronic, formal, and intersemiotic (Piorecká, Marecki, Sabolová-Princic), and at other times remediation processes take place beyond new media altogether and relate to biomedia: hybrids of living organisms and machines, DNA and computer code, which launches the theory of remediation into a totally new field (Sýkora, Tomašovičová) or traces seminal accelerations of remediation processes during the last decade: the decade of selfie, Guitar Hero, increasingly successful implementations of Virtual Reality (VR) for mass audience, and Big Data (Rankov). The varied perspectives are fur←8 | 9→ther emphasized by several different theoretical frameworks that remediation can be examined: from structuralism (Szczęsna, Pawlicka, Pisarski) to postmodernism, from deconstruction (Strehovec) to post-colonialism in its post-soviet rendition (Kostincová) and a whole spectrum of disciplines that serve as their context, that is, from literary theory and film studies to philosophy and bio ethics.

The volume is divided into three parts: Contexts, Histories, and Poetics. It starts with a sobering look at evolution of technology and its impact on society, cultural heritage, and human condition as presented by Pavel Rankov. His reflection on dematerialization of cultural and technological tools – and “massification” of technology in the process – introduces an ethical perspective remediation in a world where the real and the virtual merge into a single convergent environment, where simulacra overflows reality in a “remediation of everything” with the self in the middle, creating its mirror image via Big Data with enormous mass of information about itself but with perhaps not so much knowledge, and even less wisdom.

Further in the first part Janez Strehovec situates new literary forms of e-literature and the process of remediations that they employ in a broader horizon of film history and theory. It is a text put in motion and interfaces of interaction that engage user’s body, which Slovenian scholar scrutinizes in order to devise a phenomenology of perception founded on Bolter’s theory of immediacy and hypermediacy.

By examining developments in the user interface construction and function of the reader, Strehovec prepares a future-proof theoretical framework, where mimesis is replaced by poiesis, representation of the world by construction of virtual worlds with user and its need for multi-sensory motor stimuli at its center. This “post-remediation” model, which focuses on movement, feelings and affection, body, and biopolitics, is even more apparent in ever evolving interfaces of recent years, including newest instances of VR and voice recognition interfaces for conversational bots.

Taking, as a starting point, the two concepts of bio media, as convergence (Hyesook Jeon) and as transcoding (Eugene Thacker), Peter Sýkora moves the reflection on remediation in the direction where computer and genetic codes intersect, and the DNA is treated as a programmable digital code. Remediation and transcoding that take place through the manipulation of DNA can result in fascinating and mind-boggling experiments in bioart (GENESIS by Eduardo Kac) where biomedia cease to be passive “wet media” and “become autonomous agents in some kind of reverse remediation – from biomedia to old media”, and where the remediated works can take a form of a living poem that in turn can be transcoded into a 3D ←9 | 10→sculpture (Xenotext by Christian Bök). The author concludes that the state-of-the-art technology of DNA sequencing and synthesis takes us closer to a future where DNA is the most important medium, as equally important will be this medium’s remediations.

Treating digital technologies as Foucauldian heterotopias, which secretly undermine the “syntax” of language and the ways words and things are “held together” (Foucault 2002, xix), Jana Tomašovičová analyses the disruption that a database paradigm inflicts on science and culture. It changes pre-fixed forms of order and preference: images, sounds, and words are loosened from their original indexicality and are converted into numerical code, which enables the modification and combination of the obtained data. Database thus represents a new type of space which subverts the standard organization of signs. As such the database paradigm can be treated as a sort of meta-remediation, a breeding ground of all subsequent transformations where one medium is reshaped and extended by another, while the borders of all involved media are gradually wiped out. The associated transcoding processes that take place within digital heterotopias result in new representations of scientific objects unattainable before the digital disruption. Tomašovičová presents telling examples from the field of bio-medicine, where the algorithmically enhanced art of mapping of the human body reveals visual representations so novel and unseen that the molecular system of the human body can be considered itself a unique form of heterotopia, ready to transform other areas of science and culture.

Apart from delivering a framework for understanding general rules of perpetual transformations at the crossing of culture and technology, Bolter’s remediation was also tasked with projecting a change in academic discourse and knowledge sharing. The projected underlying structure of alternative, digitally enhanced academic argumentation was a multi-modal hypertext, represented in the 1990s as by media rich CD-ROM. Looking at the current developments in progressive scholarly publications one could conclude that the future as seen by Bolter and Grusin surpassed most expectations. Cutting edge academic publications draw their arguments and conclusions from vast big data resources and present them in a much more procedural, generative and scalable way informative for skilled professionals as much as appealing to a larger audience (thanks to their visual attractiveness big data exhibitions are often shown in popular gallery spaces). Yet the distribution of skill, practices, and availability of digital infrastructure that could accommodate the novel ways of knowledge sharing is spread unevenly. Bogumiła Suwara demonstrates that scholars in Central and Eastern Europe display a much more conservative approach ←10 | 11→towards the new “interfaces of science”. Although visuality as an aspect of structuring and designing information is an increasingly important aspect of academic production, the institutional environment in Slovakia, Czech Republic, or Poland steers scholars towards more “analog” expressions. A survey among researchers carried out by Suwara invites for some sober conclusions: a natural “zealous curiosity” of an academic research is toned down by formality and rigidity of peer review obsessed academic guidelines which do not encourage experimenting with academic video or procedural “infovis” (L. Manovich). Paired with the concluded failure of academic hypertext essay, and the lack of digital infrastructure, which would encourage big data research and text mining, scholarly Central and Eastern Europe may at times seem to reside in a perpetual pre-remediative state where born-digital publications are few and far between and a classical pen on paper research is still the main platform of valuation.

Agnieszka Jelewska and Michał Krawczak reflect on the impact of video and video art from the 1960s, when the format was remediating the reality of TV and film production and initiating a democratization of the medium, till the 1990s and further, when video itself got remediated into digital media platforms of YouTube and its clones. Video, they argue, started a revolution that emancipated digital devices after which they themselves became a part of a digital world in which we live in. From then on remediations happen not only within the media, but – as Jelewska and Krawczak suggest – on a deeper, interconnected levels of digital reality. If one cannot talk about mediations without remediations, then every mediation is always already remediating the mediated world.

The concept of remediation might have had its big initial impact in theorizing the future and delivering a key for understanding the plethora of cultural changes accelerated by digital technology, with its promises of ultimate immediation in form of VR, but its lasting impact is more universal thanks to foregrounding processes that are taking place for centuries. The double logic of hypermediation and immediation is one of the constant forces shaping the flow of cultural paradigms and art movements.

The articles from the first part of the book propose insights that can be applied in various ways by media theory everywhere in the world, regardless of geographical or cultural dependencies. A different but equally crucial contribution is made by the authors of the second part, in which remediation is reflected through a local, historical prism of art and literary movements from Central and Eastern Europe, specifically Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. Jana Kostincová, Karel Piorecký, Kateřina Piorecká, and Katarina Peović Vuković are making use of reme←11 | 12→diation as a tool for re-examining and re-evaluating the literary and artistic tradition of the respective countries. Theoretical potential of remediation in this case is directed not towards the future but towards the past. Poetics of Russian avant-garde movements pre-dating the 1917 revolution and its rediscovery by Internet artists of the 1990s; popular serialized novels published in Czech newspapers before the Second World War and their pioneering, proto-hypertextual and collaborative potential; collaborative and intermedial “picture poems” created by artists from the avant-garde Devětsil group; old opposition of high and low art as reflected by tendencies towards immediation or hypermediation in Croatian literature from 1960 to 1990 – all of these are analyzed in the following chapter. What’s interesting is the journey to the past with remediation as a comparative tool prompts our authors to distance themselves from some of the claims made by proponents of new digital-born literary forms. Peović Vuković finds some ideological dependencies in the very definition of electronic literature (N. Katherine Hayles), which explicitly mentions utilization of new media as its goal and implicitly suggests that e-literature might be “better” than traditional literature just by the virtue of employing the computer code. In a similarly distancing manner, Zoltán Szűts reflects on under representation of e-literature in contemporary critical discourse and tries to find reasons for a perceived failure of hypertext as a storytelling device.

The impact of new digital formats on established “media” environment is discussed from a unique and unusual point of view (at least to English, French, or German speaking countries) by Andrzej Adamski who reflects on prospects of remediation of liturgical books within Catholic Church. The Bible has been adapted to plethora of new writing spaces since the very beginning of computer use in education and elsewhere: from diskettes and CD-ROMs of the eighties and the nighties to today’s smartphones or Twitter. Wherever there is a new way of delivering the scripture, the Church, as a general rule, welcomes it. But this is mostly the case with private or educational use. When it comes to liturgy, so central in Catholic Church, where in a series of established ritualistic steps during a Church service the elements of faith and theological dogma a combined with a shared sensory experience – any remediation seems completely out of place and chances are really thin that Church authorities would ever allow for it. Adamski gives a striking example: one moment during the Catholic eucharistic celebration when the priest or deacon rises a book with excerpts from New Testament and kisses it before reading aloud. Due to the historical, linguistical, and symbolical connotations between the artifactual aspects of the book format and the word of God, it is virtually impossible (at least ←12 | 13→at this stage) to replace the elaborate liturgical printed version of the New Testament with a mass produced tablet or smartphone, even if the same content might be accessed in a perhaps more convenient way. The priest cannot kiss the tablet!

While new perspectives on remediation and its historical applications are the main focus of previous chapters of our monographs, a more hands-on and practical approaches are presented in the third part – “Poetics”. It begins with an outline of semantic and semiotic transformations crucial to interpretation and comparative studies of “born-digital” works of art and literature. Ewa Szczęsna, Piotr Kubiński, and Mariusz Pisarski introduce three categories for describing processes of transitioning from page to screen: atomization, kinetization, and modulation. All of them greatly influence the ontology of text starting from the smallest units of meaning, both in the text and within its paratextual navigational frame. The processes in question are exemplified on Polish e-poetry and categorized further into secondary analytical entities applied to computer games. This way a semantically oriented bridge is built between Lev Manovich’s enumeration of major characteristics of the language of new media and Bolter and Grusin’s theory of remediation.

Some fascinating examples of new forms of remediations, in which digital and analogue spheres are bound by multidirectional connections, far from the obvious, historically imposed order. Piotr Marecki examines how the concept of space and spatial reading of a chose-your-own-path model of works can be refashioned and greatly amplified in his sticker biography Stobierskiade: a geo-locational, distributive type of writing with elements of augmented reality but incorporated back from digital to analogue domain. Stobierskiade (2013) takes Bolter’s idea of writing space and notion of collaborative writing back from computer screens to urban and natural landscape, where the work is distributed in form of stickers with textual and visual segments of its narrative and QR links to additional content online. Recontextualising Dadaist experiments in distribution of artistic content and Situationist psychogeographic strategies of inscribing artistic message into urban landscape, Marecki’s project sets stage for an intermedial play between different semiotic orders, physical and virtual space, analogue, and digital media.

Similar approach is taken by Martin Flašar, who analyzes complex transcoding relations represented by Le Corbusier’s seminal Poème électronique (1952) in the later day being itself remediated in contemporary digital environments (Second Life) and within their affordances. Once again it becomes obvious that remediation processes do not follow ←13 | 14→some one directional flow from old media to new media, but quite often go across or back, making a digital artifact not necessarily better version of the analog, or new media a better representation of old. New and digital can sometimes deliver only a faint, distant copy of its old original.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2021 (March)
textual media genetic transcoding interactive storytelling media semiotics e-literature adaptation
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 370 pp., 29 fig. b/w, 1 tables.

Biographical notes

Bogumila Suwara (Volume editor) Mariusz Pisarski (Volume editor)

Bogumiła Suwara, PhD, is a lecturer and researcher at the Institute of World Literature Studies of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava. She teaches, publishes and leads collective projects on literary texts/hypermedia artefacts, art, e-literature and comparative studies in post digital age. Mariusz Pisarski, PhD, is a digital literature specialist, research associate at Intersemiotic and Intermedia Lab of Warsaw University and a postdoctoral researcher at Centre of BIioethics of University of Sts. Cyril and Methodius (UCM) in Trnava.


Title: Remediation: Crossing Discursive Boundaries
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370 pages