MIT Press

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has for a long time been on the crest of the technology/culture wave, and its Press has helped keep it there. In addition to Remediation, recent publications include Janet Murray's magnificent Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace (1997) and Peter Lunenfeld's Snap to Grid: A User's Guide to Digital Arts, Media, and Cultures (2000).

As a printed book, Remediation remediates hypertext with its integration of visual material throughout the book, but mostly with its use of wide margins and the notes that on occasion fill them, as sidebars or diversions that can be read as double-voicing. Bolter and Grusin are especially careful to integrate discussion of the visual material into their book at the right spot. And the Press has seen fit to include both black-and-white versions as well as color plates so that readers can see the detail more clearly.

Unfortunately, the price of leaving such a wide margin for notes is high. The font size is so small (about 8 pt., with 39 lines per page) that I was often tempted to reach for the magnifying glass that came with my miniaturized version of the OED or to readjust my font size in my browser preferences. The Press has used a 7-inch page, with an inner margin of 3/4 of an inch and an outer margin of 2 1/2 inches. That leaves 3 3/4 inches for the text itself (barely over half the page), and to keep the book under 300 pages, apparently the typesetter had to reduce the font size drastically. I only mention this because given the subject of the book, I find it surprising that MIT Press would cut corners at the most immediate interface, the printed word. If you have to strain to simply decode it, the printed word won't mediate anything. (I have 20-15 vision, by the way.)

I mention this not simply to gripe about some bad typesetting decision, but to point out the problem that develops when agency (or the interface) is fetishized, which we see happen all of the time on the WWW (though thankfully the era of animated gifs has almost passed). There are fundamental rhetorical questions one should bring to bear on our selection of mediating forms. Media does more than remediate other media. It also communicates to people, or not.

Works Cited