Mark R. Johnson
     
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When CD-ROM first came on the scene with its ability to store vast amounts of information on a single five-inch disc, it was heralded by many to be the future of print. In addition to having the capacity to store an equivalent of 100,000 pages of text, that text could be indexed, hyperlinked, and shuffled by author, category, or subject matter. For many, it just seemed to be a better way to do text. Many publishers, with stacks of existing literary content, jumped on the bandwagon right away, making large investments in the technology. Projects such as combining all of the works of William Shakespeare onto a single, searchable CD-ROM, and creating vast anthologies of literature and corresponding criticism were begun. But, simply re-purposing the existing texts by dumping them onto CD-ROM not only failed to revitalize the texts, but in many cases resulted in tremendous losses for the publishers. Ever since that time, publishers have, for the most part, remained skeptical of new media technologies.

It is my belief that the mistake was not made in entering the CD-ROM market or even in using existing print content. I believe the primary mistake was one of mapping -- translating methods of representation from the medium of print to that of the computer. Repurposing content, as it is currently practiced, is driven by issues of expediency -- moving the content with the least cost in time and effort. However, good mapping cannot be achieved without careful consideration of the benefits and limitations of both the target and source media. It also requires the acceptance and understanding that the mapping will not be perfect. The result will be a new and different work that, though it may resemble the print-based original, leads to a fundamentally different experience. This is not to say that the resulting work would be any less valuable -- only different. In short, I am suggesting re-mediation instead of re-purposing.

The term re-mediation stems from the understanding that the medium through which one conducts a dialogue has a direct and significant influence over the meaning of that dialogue. As Marshall McLuhan has suggested, "the medium is the message." Therefore, re-mediation is the process of transforming existing content from one medium to another, while taking into careful consideration the differences between the media throughout the process. In many cases, re-mediation more resembles redesign than appropriation. Successful re-mediation requires that a balance be struck between the benefits of the new medium and the losses incurred in the translation to it.

24 Hours, the CD-ROM, is an experiment in re-mediation in which a story is transformed from its original comic book form into a multimedia CD-ROM. The purpose of this experiment is to determine if re-mediation can, in fact, result in a meaningful and engaging experience for the reader. It also serves as an opportunity for me to engage in the practice of re-mediation and to subsequently explore that experience. If successful, the project should help to show that re-mediation can be beneficial and that the potential is there for future work, as well as to provide personal insights into the process. However, it is important to note that re-mediation is not always extensible. It operates at such a focused level, taking so many aspects of the source and target material into consideration, that some of the techniques and practices may not be applicable to other situations.

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    [Return to Top] Copyright 1997, Mark R. Johnson.
Last modified 6/11/97.