The Double Logic of Remediation via Alberti windows

Based on the above quote the “Alberti window” is frequently used as a metaphor to describe the sense of immediacy, and for some immersion, that users experience in especially virtual reality and virtual worlds as it points to the idea that it is possible – at least in a psychological sense – to “step through” the window and enter the space depicted.  Here I’ve taken the quote from Bolter & Grusin’s book “Remediation – Understanding New Media” p. 24-25. As part of my research on remediation I’ve spent the last couple of days studying their book in detail and this post will be the first in a series of trying to make sense of my notes combined with my experience in and examples from SL. But before getting to the point I wanted to make about Alberti’s window and the new shared media function in SL, let me just make some quick remarks on some of the key concepts in the book.

In the glossary Bolter & Grusin explain remediation this way:

Defined by Paul Levenson as the “anthropotropic” process by which new media technologies improve upon or remedy prior technologies. We define the term differently, using it to mean the formal logic by which new media refashion prior media forms.
Bolter & Grusin. 1999:273

Throughout the book Bolter & Grusin continue to elaborate on the concept, and an apparent distinction from Levenson’s definition is that they see remediation as a process that also can go the reverse way, meaning that older media also can remediate new media – i.e. Television incorporating social media like Twitter streams or text-message polls via cellular phones in live shows to enhance interactivity. Another important point for Bolter & Grusin is that there are a number of ways in which especially digital media remediate their predecessor – a spectrum that goes from respectful to radical remediation (ibid. p. 200). These ways can be divided into two main strategies depending on their foundational logic, something Bolter & Grusin call the Double logic of Remediation, which can be based primarily on

  • either immediacy (aimed at diminishing the users awareness the medium/mediation)
  • or hypermediacy (aimed at enhancing the users awareness of the medium/mediation)

It is, however, important to notice that the authors do not see these two forms of logic as contradicting, but rather as mutually dependent. According to Bolter & Grusin the underlying premise of all remediation is our “insatiable desire for immediacy” (ibid. p.5), which leads to the following paradox of the double logic:

Our culture wants both to multiply its media and to erase all traces of mediation: ideally it wants to erase its media in the very act of multiplying them. (ibid.p. 5)

Even though the book was conceived and published long before 3D virtual (and interactive!) media became mainstream (they do cover early “computer games”), I do find the concepts rather useful in explaining some of the phenomena I’ve experienced in SL. I agree that we strive for authenticity understood as quality in our interaction with new, digital media, and with the present changes in the SL viewer and most notably the shared media function, I think it is possible to give a contemporary example of the double logic paradox …

In short the SL Shared Media (SLSM) allows a wide range of web pages, including Flash and YouTube videos to be displayed on any surface of any prim (building block), among which  some also allow for real time collaboration such as my student PerSecond and I previously demonstrated with Google docs and Etherpad. Now, in my context of Distance Education this new function offers many interesting possibilities. A major argument for me as a distance educator to research SL stems from this particular media’s ability to provide the user with a sense of being embodied in a palpable place – mainly in opposition to conventional teaching and learning platforms, where the user typically finds himself disembodied in impalpable space. In the pictures below I’m represented as my avatar standing on my holodeck looking at a shared media prim displaying Facebook.

Looking at Facebook via a window in SL

Interacting with Facebook via a window in SL

These pictures were deliberately taken from within SL, and they illustrate how I – literally by opening a window and “stepping through” it – am able to not only look at, but also interact with “the space depicted”, which in this case is the world outside SL.  In doing so, it is my argument that I’ve been able to enhance the sense of immediacy through hypermediacy or to put it in other words: by multiplying the media I’ve been able to “erase” the sense of mediation in so far as interaction with the outside world can be regarded as a means to enhance the authenticity of my experience. But that’s not all. I’m able to add yet another dimension to my experience by changing my perspective as shown below:

By zooming out and taking a screen shot I’m able to show another reality of the experience; by watching myself as avatar looking and interacting in SL, I’m able to “step back or out of the window” and reflect on the experience from a meta perspective. This actually doesn’t depend on the SLSM function, but is one of the great affordances of SL as medium in general. There is, however, no doubt in my mind that the SLSM function via windows to the other worlds/parts of reality can contribute to the authenticity and quality of user experience in especially education and business, where our need for immediacy apparently is insatiable …


Google docs and EtherPad in SL Viewer 2

Yesterday my master student, PerSecond and I continued our test of Shared Media in the new SL viewer. When we first tried it out last week, we didn’t have much success, but my ever so helpful landlord, Doctor Asp had some ideas, and so I started off by testing it with him on my holodeck.

In Asp’s office – Asp is official Linden Lab SL solution provider and I highly recommend him :-)

Life in Beta = testing, testing, testing …

Later in the evening I met with PerSecond for our weekly session and asked him to set up a prim in his private home – not in his LL home, where nosy neighbours might disturb (none of us have yet found the time to check out privacy and security settings in our LL homes).

We succeeded in setting up both Google docs and EtherPad, writing in them real time (and seeing it without having to reload!), but ended up most satisfied with the EtherPad doc that loaded much quicker on our machines. PerSecond works in Windows, so we get to test both platforms. We continued testing some YouTube videos while trying to figure out what to do about security settings and discussing the most appropriate use in a teaching and learning situation.

Since the docs we tested were completely public our next step was to test security settings to see if in any way we could control access and interaction, and so we went to a sandbox, where both of us had building rights and set up new prims.

Under Customize in the Media Settings it is possible to change control of the prim, and we tried out several settings thinking it would be possible to limit control to our group.

In this phase of the testing we needed to bring in our alts; Placebo and Memo, who were not members of our group, and so we logged in and out several times trying out different combinations.

Despite our efforts we did not succeed in limiting control to our group. When the prim was controlled by Owner only, we found that Anyone and Group were restricted to clicking on links (but with automatic reload to the page chosen by Owner), but we had hoped it would be possible to set this for the group, so we’ll continue testing … Now, neither PerSecond nor I are experienced builders, so we may very well be missing out on some obvious points, so if anyone reading this has constructive advice it would be greatly appreciated :-)


Setting up for Shared Media test in SL viewer 2

This semester I have the pleasure of supervising, PerSecond a Master student from The Master programme on ICT and Learning (MIL). In his Master thesis PerSecond will investigate the possibility of using SL as platform in a Danish-Chinese PBL collaboration he and his colleagues at VIA University College are involved in. PerSecond and I are meeting in-world for our sessions and today I went in to set up for a test of the new Shared Media feature in SLV2.

For unclear reasons* SLV2 really runs slowly on my machine, so for a while there I had to work as a cloud – and let me tell you; that’s a bit distracting!

Anyways, I did mange to set up for a test of … though I seem to have a recurring “bad-hair-day” ;-)

I’m hoping the problems I experience won’t influence our test later tonight, so that I can get back to our experimentation in a future post …

*) I did read Gwyneth’s excellent post on improving Mac performance, but I can’t force Texture Memory beyond 128, and GL tot stays at 67/192 … so I’m thinking it may be a) a PICNIC error or b) my (still) malfunctioning Mac :-(