“The presentation is the content”
Immediacy: A theory of media (re)presentation.
25th June 2003
Senior Dissertation 7.306
Tutor: Peter Avison
Mediation occurs whenever an event is represented through the media. The desire to present an event as accurately, truthfully, and as live as possible, is called immediacy. This method has an influence in how we perceive the media and our environment. Our current society has a substantial interface with media, and consequently how we respond to media presentation is particularly important.
Immediacy is a strategy for media representation, which has influenced representation for many years. From the emergence of Renaissance perspective, through the development of photography and the ever increasing networks, links, and journeys of the internet, our media technologies have desired to show us their immediacy. As we pass through another media revolution, it is timely to consider how one of the elements of mediation, effects ourselves, our culture, our perceptions, and our society. Immediacy is a form of mediation where the media attempts to remove itself from subjectively covering the event. Its aim is to become transparent, allowing the viewer to believe that the representation is indeed the event. Immediacy is often seen, where events are portrayed as being ‘live’, such as in sports programming, or on news channels. Immediacy is defined in relation with another method of mediation, called Hypermediacy. According to Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin in Understanding New Media: Remediation, Hypermediacy is the process whereby the event is represented through multiple forms of media (p.5, 2000). Hypermediacy can be thought of as immediacy with the media. While immersed in the process of chatting online, a guest may watch, listen, read, or type with other users in various spaces online. This multiple interaction, fulfils a desire to be immediate with the media, generally in an attempt to be at one with the other person or event. We want mediation because of our desire for immersion in the event. Immediacy is seen as a desire to be ‘at one’ with the real, the event, person or media
In representation, there is a distance between what is real and what is presented. In semiotic terms, this is the gap between signifier and signified. The signifier of a media event is the representation or mediation; the signified is the viewers’ concept of the event. Immediacy is the desire to perfectly erase any distance between signifier and signified (Blakesley, n.d.). In this situation there would be no difference between the representation and the real. To be immersed in a perfect signification, and swim within the transparent environment would be a mediagrapher’s dream. The concept of virtual reality offers a glimpse into the possibility of a perfect immediacy.
Mediation occurs whenever an event is presented. There are many elements that make up its representation, and it can be in any media, as language and our body also mediate experience, however I will focus on mediation through our media technologies. The depiction of an event goes through many stages before an audience views it within the media. For example, in the production of any given news article, the story maybe: selected as noteworthy enough to be covered; constructed in order to communicate the action; the market audience is considered; sponsors and advertising allowed for; the implications of the cost of covering the event, the type of media used is considered, e.g. television, internet, or newspaper; plus many other considerations that contribute towards the overall production of the story. Mediation exists as a multiplicity of views and technologies; this can be seen in the finished product of the media. All of the factors of presenting become part of the framework, and construction of media. These factors are subjective; they are determined by the people who work within the industry. This means the media are not merely objective or neutral, but that the stories, events and media technologies are tied in together, to form a subjective mediation. The concept of immediacy emerges as a subjective fascination with the real. This desire of knowing reality however is also the desire of avoiding any subjectivity in the mediation.
No media remain objective, or neutral. As all media present in different technologies, these different technologies dictate unique patterns of recognition. A newspaper represents through the linear logic of language, the constructed arguments of subject, predicate, clause, sentence, paragraph and the like. This composition is a style and therefore prejudices readings for the audience. This use of style provides a barrier for effective communication. The viewer begins to expect certain types of outcomes from the content of the newspaper. This limits the variety and the number of possibilities of communication within that technology. Effective communication relies on the clear interpretation of the signified and signifier. The producer then has the responsibility to compose the newspaper article in the manner in which he wants it to be interpreted by precisely presenting the signifiers. The audience will read meaning into the story, often incorporating societal, cultural, and their own prejudices. An article is read in a context, not in total isolation, it’s meaning is unique to each and every reader. Television on the other hand represents predominantly through the visual, the power of the image to communicate feelings and ideas, after all ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’. Television (as all media are) is read, also in context, as it provides visual and audio input it could argue it presents a truer vision, or is more immediate than a newspaper. However, consequently there are more factors in the mediation process, and it could be argued that this allows for more distance between the event and the viewer, because of the added layers of constructed mediation. The gap between signifier and signified allows for individually unique interpretations of representation. Media present within their own language, conventions, and characteristics. Distorting the relationship between the viewer and the event. This is a barrier to perfect immediacy.
As media present, they automatically distance the event. This displacement always exists in mediation. Media who claim immediacy attempt transparency, but like a glass lens they change the view for the audience, of the world. They are the spectacles of society! The distance of mediation is the interval between the event, the signifiers and the signified. These elements do not escape the viewer’s subjectivity. And thus the real, which is something that actually occurs, or exists (Thompson, 1999, p.749), is not immune from the gaze of subjectivity. Even when events are ‘real’ for the viewer, they exist and are mediated within the frameworks, expectations, and laws that govern our experience. Within the media, the many views taken of any single given event, demonstrate the ability to see the same reality in different ways. The real exists independently but it’s meaning exists in the subjective interpretations, multiple mediations and viewed representations of its observers. The potential for perfect immediacy lies in eliminating the event, thus the signifier or representation and the signified can unite as one to become the event. This is an important element in creating effective and convincing illusion.
Our desire to be at ‘one’ with the event through mediation has been within society for a long time. It is associated with our drive to define the real, and a wish to understand our environment free from illusion. Different thinkers have expressed this notion for many centuries. St. John indicates the desire to completely understand our representations by describing the word, a form of mediation, “and the word was with god, and the word was god… and the word was made flesh” (as cited in Appignanesi & Garratt, 1999, p. 77). This is an ancient aspiration for immediacy, describing the wish to present an event, “to an observing subject, who could speak of it with complete certainty” (Appignanesi & Garratt, 1999, p. 78). Rene Descartes described the desire for immediacy by writing in his meditations,
“I will now, shut my eyes, stop my eyes and withdraw all my senses, I will eliminate from my thoughts all images of bodily things, or rather, since this is hardly possible, I will regard all such images as vacuous, false and worthless” (1638-40, Third Meditation).
Here Descartes expresses a wish to only know that which he knows to be true. He sought a philosophy that established knowledge on a guaranteed basis (Robinson & Groves, 1999, p. 54). Immediacy attempts this through a twisted transparency, the illusionary is forbidden and the real becomes focused. The mediation deliberately fixes upon aspects of the event that are most forceful in their reality, for instance, recently, the emotions and actions of American and British troops in the front-line of the second gulf war, against Iraq, in 2003, were captured by journalists who were ’embedded’ within the event. The feelings portrayed are real and were very gripping, engaging the audience. Immediacy in this case forces us to engage with the event, and this cements the reality of the situation. The event is verified through immediacy.
In today’s current cultural environment presenting something fictional as real can be easily achieved. Often illusion is easily passed off as being real. Many famous examples have occurred; perhaps most notable is George Orwell’s radio play, War of the Worlds (1938). Produced in 1938, it broadcast on the 30th of October to millions of Americans. On a show that regularly broadcast plays, Orwell decided to present the work as a news item. Although there were announcements stating its fiction, people believed the illusion and attempted to defend themselves from the forthcoming alien invasion, they did this by driving away, hiding, loading up and preparing guns, and even wrapping themselves in towels, in case of Martian poison gas (Sanes, n.d.). By using the conventions of immediacy, and its presentations, Orwell was able to make aliens who were as “large as a bear and … [that] glistens like wet leather”, appear real (as cited in Sanes, n.d.). Through using immediacy he was able to create an intense experience for the audience. Reality can be constructed and manipulated easily, a flexible concept that is in the control of the media technologies and their producers. It is often portrayed to us as something that isn’t plastic, however it is exactly this. The real in today’s society is plastic. Points of view that we can mould, play, and define.
Immediacy causes the creation of conventions. The desire for immediacy causes the media to represent in certain ways. This is to help audiences to, more easily, understand the story or event. This is achieved by producing the event through using signs that are collectively understood, they are shared culturally and are more or less understood with a certain meaning. A shared convention that many people hold is the reading of an image of a child crying. This image is read within a wider context, when asked for responses many viewers “suggest the child is from a poor… (Third world) country and that it is crying because of some major disaster such as war, famine, earthquake or loss of parents” (Shaugnessy, 1999, p. 71). We read a loaded image like this through its signs, and signifiers and also through its cultural context, as a promotional tool for charities that appeal for aid (Shaugnessy, 1999, p. 71). This code is shared amongst people in the same way that viewers have a shared recognition of immediacy. There are certain ways of recognising when an event is live. It may be there is a continuity of presentation, a fluid, seamless view of the event, as if being presented with a window upon the event: or a feeling of spontaneity, or potential exists; the subjects of our fascination are unaware of our viewing; there may be signs that are unscheduled, for example background sound, interruptions, or distractions in the image, like people walking through shot; It may be that the media tells you it is live; or the mediation process shows its vulnerability, through types of noise, including misprinting, or transmission failure. These are some of the characteristics that indicate immediacy. These signs do not belong to immediacy however, and are often used in other situations, to provide the illusion of immediacy.
Aspects of Immediacy have been included in the language of media. There has always been a desire to depict events as believable as possible. Through improvements in media presentation, techniques have been created to invoke immediacy, from the development of western perspective by Giotto di Bondone, Leon Battista Alberti, Filippo Brunelleschi, and Masaccio in the 1400’s, through to the invention of virtual reality. Masaccio’s use of perspective in the painting, The Holy Trinity (c.1427), was so convincing that viewers thought they could see right through into an adjoining chapel (Krausse, 1995, p. 9). The use of perspective has since been widely used to try and create the real. New codes, established to represent the real, are included in the language of media. These are available to anyone to help construct the impression, of being present with the event.
Immediacy is a factor in the way we interact with media representations. Different media have unique qualities, so that television has a distinctly visual aspect, while radio obviously has an emphasis on sound. These qualities appeal to different senses, and according to Marshall Mcluhan this affected the shape of society. He believed that the defining qualities of the dominant media altered the ratio of sense perception in society, “Media by altering the environment, evoke in us unique ratios of sense perception, the extension of any one sense alters the way we think and act” (Mcluhan & Fiore, 1967, p. 41). The dominant type of media begins to shape the way we see our reality. Our perceptions, expectations and reactions are influenced by the qualities of the dominant media. Mcluhan also believed that cultural change was the result of a shift in the sensory bias of the people of the world, seeing this as a trend occurring in the western world (CIOS/Mcluhan site: Culture and Technology, 2002). In today’s culture, immediacy is dominant throughout the media. It has a role to play in how we arrange our perceptions of the event. We adapt, our view of the environment according to the characteristics, codes and conventions of the dominant media. Immediacy then becomes influential in how we describe our society.
The defining characteristics of immediacy help to organise the way we perceive events. Distinctive elements of immediacy are then reflected into the expectations and responses we hold. Carey writes
“The logic or grammar of each medium that dominates our age impresses itself on the users of the medium, thus dictating what is defined as truth and knowledge. Communications media, then, determine not only what one thinks but literally how one thinks.” (as cited at CIOS/mcluhan site: Culture and Technology, 2002).
Mcluhan argues that this can be seen in the logic of type and the development of print. He saw printing as establishing a linear, sequential, fragmented culture, reflected in the way we organised our lives, our education, and employment. The desire for immediacy is similarly reflected within culture. The immediate unfolding of events requires continuity, in order to be convincing. After all the visual space is uniform, continuous and connected (Mcluhan & Fiore, 1967, p. 45). We require this continuity to verify the real. Without the fluid presentation that immediacy brings, doubt can be cast onto the status of the real. Rational judgements repeat rational judgements, and so the presentation of connective and sequential events establishes a framework for our understanding of the real. This convention of connectivity emphasised through the dominance of immediacy thus determines a category of evidence for the real.
There are many distinctive characteristics of immediacy that indicate the presence of the event. They also show how we construct meaning from representation. We expect to see characteristics that indicate the real, particular when the media declare their immediacy. When viewing the real, one of the expectations we have is that of continuity. The real needs to be seen occurring, in a sense of real time, and real space. The presentation requires the viewer to be able to identify what is happening. As it is easier to see the real in an event that unfolds as you expect, this highlights the construction of meaning from representation as being prejudiced. The dominance of sight also influences our expectations, and our rationale. The visual shares some of the identical elements of rational judgement such as the linear nature, continuity, and focused definition. Our expectations usually rely on our visual sense, and this influences us to define the real by what we see. The visual leads us to define rationale through the evidence of sight. In western culture linearity, continuity and focus are emphasised as evidence of rationale, whereas in other cultures this is not necessarily the case. How our dominant media represents, and the concept of immediacy, therefore influences our strategy for interpretation. Our predictions based on prejudices can be easily fooled and illusion is easily created.
Immediacy is presented in a manner. Style is the reading of the distinguishing factors that are presented to the viewer. The characteristics of immediacy are the components of its style, attributes such as continuity, noise and its conventions. The real lives and dies in style. The construction of meaning in media representation is inextricably linked with the style of the event. The real often pretends to have no style, and it argues that it is objective, un-constructed, and unaffected by style, however it still has to be presented in a manner with which the viewer will be able to understand the event as being in a real space, and a real time. The manner of representation is important for constructing meaning. The real is presented in a style in order to be convincing and this style indicates the present.
These days, immediacy is often conveyed visually. The saying ‘seeing is believing’ demonstrates the importance placed on the visual. Continuity is a form of evidence for immediacy highlighting how we rely so much, on the eye for defining meaning. When we can see uninterrupted, we are much more secure in our belief that the event occurring in front of us, is indeed real. In a culture, where the image is ever-present, we have become used to our expectations of the real being based around sight. Mcluhan makes the point that “the rational man in our western culture is a visual man. The fact that most conscious experience has little ‘visuality’ in it is lost on him” (Mcluhan & Fiore, 1967, p. 45). As the visual is an expectation of the real, the image then fulfils our desire for the real. In contemporary society the visual media attracts the most attention, despite other media technologies being able to provide immediacy such as radio, or the internet. In 1938 when the War of the Worlds was performed, radio could provide immediacy but now sound is not as convincing as the uniform presentation of television, or the interactivity of the internet. Presently the dominant image is prejudiced as a category of evidence for defining the real. The visual reigns supreme in western culture, it is the pivotal sense for defining the real, a point that has been exaggerated through the use of immediacy.
The visual is associated with the present. What our eyes see is always in present time, so there is an obvious connection of evidence between the evidence of sight and the existence of the present. What we see is always physically present to us. In a visually dominant world, culture is also dominated by the present. This has been developed by many factors such as consumerism, media content, the structure and pace of life, accessibility to media, and impatient desire. Want me, take me, consume me, cries the v(c)ulture. This reflects in society as two examples of cultural activity. The first, the news, privileges the immediate. They report the latest information as quickly as possible. ‘Live’ reporters, and ‘breaking news’ often take precedence. The news comes without consequences, as all that matters usually is the immediate impact of the event. For example, in a typical report of a suicide bomber, the death and the bomb are reported, sidelining the causes, background and the context of the ‘bomb’. Also ignored are the future implications, or consequences of a past ‘bomb’. The other cultural example is hire purchase; a system where the item is ‘bought’ then the consumer pays the trader in installments. The instant ownership of a product attracts many to buy unnecessarily, or extravagantly. This consumption can become dangerous allowing people to mount debt, or lead them to addiction. Consumerism draws on the desire for an immediate action, in order to open up opportunities for selling. In both of these examples, the immediate, the focused object is of most importance; the consequences, causes, evolutions, resolutions and other viewpoints are sidelined. The media and consumerism emphasise their immediacy, in order to promote themselves as efficient and superior presentations. Our culture is instant and always fights for our attention. Immediacy has contributed to the emphasis on the present. As it is the desire to be with the event during its instance, immediacy privileges the present over other aspects of time. It is evidence of the real time event; it has been a contributing factor in building an immediate society.
Immediacy influences the society, interpretations of the real, and also affects our sense of self. Our self is a construction, a collection of ideas, images, and identities. In our postmodern environment the media is especially prevalent in defining the self. As consumerism drives culture, we are what we watch, buying and trading elements of our identity. As David Gauntlett explains, “ideas about lifestyle and identity that appear in the media are resources which individuals use to think through their sense of self and modes of expression” (2002). The self is a constant re-negotiation in the face of multiple media messages. As we construct our identity, it is immediate to us, a gateway for all of our perception and communication. The social construction of our self is in our society, the knowing social construction of the self (Gauntlett, 2002). We are reflexive of the media and ourselves. This makes the media an interface for our identity, the media is the immediacy we desire of ourselves.
Immediacy can be seen as a desire of the self to be present within society. Immediacy is a method for using the media to define a sense of self. We feel we can become, what we see through the media. We relinquish parts of ourselves to the representations of the media. Our self is necessary for interacting within culture. Our first true knowledge is within ourselves, and then we seek the true knowledge of our environment and our society. We believe we are immediate to ourselves and accordingly quest this, in our culture. Our self describes itself through its relation within society. By using immediacy we feel we can gain a secure understanding of the real, and therefore place ourselves within a guaranteed knowledge of our society.
The self is a dynamic construction facilitated by the media. The mediation process allows for the self to interact with various elements of culture to create identity. These different viewpoints that society provides us allow for the construction of our self-image. These perspectives become in the end overwhelming, as it is argued they influence or are every point of view. Kenneth Gergen makes the assertion that as we move from perspective to perspective, “the objectivity of self recedes from view. And in the end one is left with perspective – itself a product not of the individual but of the surrounding communities in which one is embedded” (p.138). The self would seem to be the product of our society’s views and hence its presentations. The way we mediate, its methods of representation, its prejudices and conventions thus become influential in how we organise our self. Immediacy allows the self to verify the cultural environment as being real. When there is a multiplicity of views of the real, these different perspectives mean defining it becomes a subjective exercise. Our interaction with the real, in turn suggests our actions within the culture are real. This provides the self a ‘real’ context to define itself in, and immediacy supplies the evidence for this foundation.
Within the media, the real is a subjective construction, mediated from a distance and lacking perfect immediacy. In a culture that holds multiple perspectives, reliant on subjective interpretation, illusion becomes another view of the real, often constructed and framed in the same language, techniques and style. Illusion however has no ‘real’ origin, its origin is in the multiplicity of perspectives, frameworks, signs and constructions that help us to define its meaning. We are closer to illusion than the real as illusion is presentation rather than ‘re’presenation. Illusion can satisfy our thirst for the present more so than the real.
Illusions are successful because they copy the characteristics of the real. When they are successful the viewer is unable to distinguish between what is real and what is fake. Simulations appear as ‘perfect’ or as unmediated as real events. These illusions are used to sell, entertain, and inform they are an intricate part of our culture. Illusions are more advanced now than when film was in its infancy. Producers back then could also develop illusion to fool and in the case of early news footage inform audiences. “Early film news coverage presented, as real, re-enactments of wars, criminal events, and natural disasters, and audiences accepted them as real” (Shaugnessy, p.50). In today’s digital environment, simulations are so similar to what is real that it can be difficult to differentiate. The ease with which illusion can fool audiences is relative to the quantity, and the quality of the media technologies that they are exposed to. Audiences are more educated and better prepared, if they want to, to look through the media. Illusion has reached a level of sophistication beyond what we have encountered before. Philosopher Wilem Flusser proposes “what we perceive as reality is a tiny detail from the field of possibilities surging around us, which our nervous system has realised through computation. If all reality is a computation from possibilities, then ‘reality’ is a threshold value” (as cited in Somlai-Fischer, 2002). Illusions are a part of these possibilities, they are more sophisticated and the amount of possible realities is increased. Illusion becomes even more difficult to distinguish in the excess of our current cultural environment.
Flusser suggested that what is real is a threshold value. As the ability to deceive through media technologies develops, so discerning the real becomes increasingly difficult. One of the reasons for this is the amount of media and communication, the variety, and quantity has increased in our culture. Kenneth Gergen shows that there were few social relationships a hundred years ago (p. 61-62, 1991). In our current culture, through media and communication technologies, we have a multitude of relationships. With the saturation of communication, the potential amount of illusion will also increase. This increase makes immediacy a more important factor in defining the real within media representation. It allows us to judge quickly and accurately what is real. Simulation is becoming increasingly difficult to detect and media are multiplying, consequently immediacy is used in many perspectives of the real. The amount of immediacy simulated or otherwise has saturated our senses. Our view is now so multi-focused, and immediate, it is difficult to distinguish or see anything that is not immediate. Our culture is an instant one, with an emphasis on immediacy.
The increase of immediacy in culture impacts the nature of media. Jean Baudrillard suggests in The vital illusion, that the excess of communication and information puts an end to information and communication (p. 66, 2000). If there were a total excess of immediacy, the media would become meaningless. It becomes a virtual reality, a media that shows perfect continuity and immediacy. A current cliché representation of this is the film, The matrix (1999), where the lead character Neo is shown his true immediate environment. He begins to understand his simulations as a total virtuality, a saturated envelope of images providing a context for the minds thoughts. The matrix inside the film, is an instant and constant presentation, this makes it so convincing as an illusion. The simulation is so difficult to see that ‘victims’ don’t notice anything that exposes it. It is successful because it goes unnoticed. A perfect immediacy is to be, surrounded within a media that disappears.
Mediation is a type of illusion and so is convincing when it goes unnoticed. It is also successful when it shows itself, unlike illusion, which becomes a failure. When representing the reality, the media presents itself even when there is perfect immediacy, while illusion presents a disguise. Immediacy acts differently in unique types of reality. Mark Billinghurst describes three types of reality, Virtual Reality, Ubiquitous, or Pervasive Reality and, Augmented Reality (2003). Virtual Reality is the immersion of the subject in an environment of signs. Ubiquitous Reality is the placement of media as part of the reality creating a powerful pervasive presence within the environment. Augmented Reality is a media that enhances reality, by modifying it. Immediacy is the same in each environment, it is still the desire to be present to the event, however, in each category of reality, the technique of achieving greater immediacy is different. These types of mediated reality use immediacy to present their presentations as real, creating and presenting their illusions within a structure and environment that promotes these illusions as real. They present in the disguise of representing. The ‘real’ in these mediated realities becomes an illusion created by mediation. It claims to be real through stating itself as a representation, as if the real exists, when the mediation technologies are merely presenting. The media of realities that immerse are the ‘real’, not their presentations. This is extended to the media technologies that saturate our current environment, they can be considered as presentations instead of representations.
Pervasive media modifies our current cultural environment. When we respond to our environment, we are often interacting with media. Their reality provokes within us an array of emotions, feelings and responses, which many people do not gain from their concrete reality. The media has saturated our environment, society is humid with communication. In many homes, multiple televisions, radios, phones, and computers exist. These media technologies are becoming increasingly linked, allowing similar communication to flow throughout the media. Now when an event occurs and is deemed presentable it ripples throughout the presentations of our environment. The linking of technologies allows the event to be ever more present to the viewer. It becomes more constant, instant, and illusion is less decipherable. Immediacy then occurs through a pervasive presence of the event in our immediate surroundings.
The development of media technologies is rapidly increasing. We are becoming progressively more saturated and connected with media communication. Our culture is a vast net of mediation growing, as we continuously desire the real. We are subject as Jean Baudrillard writes, to the “irresistible compulsion that acts on us through the very progress of our technologies… a compulsion to draw ever closer to the unconditional realization of the real” (2000, p. 65). We are sold the realisation of the immediate. Each new technology sells itself as having greater immediacy than the previous (Bolter & Grusin, 2000, p.270). A desire for immediacy is expressed in this development and evolution of media technology. Where media technologies are developing is to bring us closer to a sense of perfect immediacy.
The real and illusion share some of the same characteristics including how we define them. Illusion and the real can be analysed similarly. Mediation of the real changes its status. The real becomes the mediation or the presentation, while the ‘real’, the event, or what is being represented becomes an illusion. The real is also a subjective construction, the outcome of the process of defining what is immediate to us. The same qualities exist within illusion and reality and therefore they should be treated equally. As reality and illusion are manipulated and exploited we should treat both categories of presentation with the same level of inquiry. To dismiss either as being merely objective, or empty is naive. The content of the real and the illusion cannot escape from its presentation, so to analyse their presentation is to also analyse their content. As illusion and real are so similar there is little need to treat them differently. In a perfect immediacy or reality containing perfect illusion, the real could not be deciphered and the difference to the viewer is nothing. The real would encompass all of the real, presentations, representations and illusions. The real and the illusion emerge as one. Imagine being able to work up a 3-Dimensional model of a building on your computer and being able to transport matter to publish your building in real space! A drawing, which was once the domain of mere illusion, becomes reality, allowing reality to be authored. These three technologies are being developed, as we can create 3-Dimensional drawings, we can ‘print’ files as 3-Dimensional objects and in 1997, the American Institute of Physics released news, that scientists have been able to experimentally demonstrate quantum teleportation (as cited in “Austrian scientists…”). As technologies inevitably develop, they will allow us new and unique methods to represent. This example shows one way in which illusion and the real could dissolve into each other. All representation can be described as an illusion, and Baudrillard fears its expulsion, “the unconditional realization of the world – this is what I call the perfect crime”(2000, p. 66), Baudrillard fears the perfection of immediacy will ultimately result in the extermination of the real. This is the realization of perfect immediacy, the disappearance of illusion within reality.
The different forms of mediated reality allow illusion distinct methods to disappear. In a virtual reality, mediation becomes the total environment, and then it is the ‘real’. Immediacy and illusion combine in a perfect unity. The amount of illusion, and its quality make defining deception impossible. As the illusion becomes the environment, immediacy becomes complete. In a virtual reality, immediacy coincides with blanket illusion. Ubiquitous Reality allows deception to become rampant. Illusion becomes mixed with reality and incorporated into a pervasive network of media, in order to blend into an impenetrable array of mediation. It is unnoticeable, similar to a virtual reality. This scenario is most similar to our current environment. Mcluhan saw this developing in society; he noted that the media affected their audience without them understanding its influence (Sardar & Van Loon, p. 37). Enhanced reality adds illusion to the real, showing that the media can add value to the already existing. Illusion presents, as opposed to representing, it adds an aspect of immediacy to the representation, or the mediation of the reality. The media image has little distance from the viewer as it is physically in front of us, while the real is distanced through the required mediation of the event. Enhanced reality creates its own rules, and definitions. The real is also subjectively constructed, and we define its laws through the interaction we have with it. “In the domain of the illusion, knowledge is no longer possible” (Baudrillard, 2000, p. 75); the true knowledge aspired for through the establishment of reason, rationale and logic can not exist. It is lost in the subjectivity of our definitions. And it is lost in the abundance of illusion and its logic, reason, and knowledge.
Our expectations of any event influence how we define it. In an environment we expect the real to be instant and continuous. These elements allow little or no change; they decline interactivity and input from the viewer. The evolution of the media becomes slight, if at all, and the only change would come from the producers of the media. In an instant and constant mediation, illusion could become immediate and with the lack of viewer involvement it is hard to expose illusion. To analyse the mediation process, in an instant and constant mediated reality; there would need to be a break in the media. Noise – the breakdown of continuity, and delay – the exposure of distance between presentation and the real, provide the ability to criticise the environment. When the media is constant and pervasive, there is little chance for reflection. The only responses required are those that are immediate. Delaying the mediation of the event, allows a critique of the mediation process.
Immediacy is a widespread concept in society. The promotion of immediacy is associated as being positive and progressive. News media advertise themselves as getting you closer to the action, while new media promote a closer interaction with the event. Immediacy has become characterised with truth, progress, and reason. The media desire themselves through immediacy as a process that perfectly represents, establishing and presenting to an audience, guaranteed knowledge of the real. Immediacy claims objectivity, however no media are unbiased or neutral. The real, that immediacy claims objective representation over, is a subjective interpretation. The meaning of the presentation is constructed through the characteristics and conventions of the media. Immediacy helps to build what is real, through its style, expectations, and how it privileges sight, and the present, as categories of evidence for the real. Immediacy as subjective presentations could enhance reality and help in modifying our current reality. However as it claims objectivity, immediacy can lead to misinformation or miscommunication, its signs and codes can be used to deceive or manipulate. The possibility of greater immediacy and an overwhelming mediated environment could prompt stagnation, or the death of change. Immediacy is a method for defining the real. It can become a constant reinforcement of current methods of interpretation and mediation. By believing immediacy is objective we leave ourselves open to manipulation. In a total immediacy we could easily become vulnerable to the media and its producers. Immediacy has repercussions that influence how we define our environment.
Immediacy is an influential concept in our current cultural environment. Mediation is the interface for our communication with society, others and also our selves. It is reflected into our culture, modifying our perceptions of reality. The real, the presentation and the illusion are combining, leading to presentation becoming even more influential. The presentation is the content instead of the ‘real’, the event, and the object of representation. Our current cultural environment is a ubiquitous presentation, an illusionary representation. To view immediacy as content, of the media rather than an outcome, could lead to a better understanding of the influence of media and mediation.