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28 Theses on Intermediality_lehtonen

On No Man’s Land Theses on Intermediality MIKKO LEHTONEN Let me start with a puzzling paradox: Neither the social theories concerning modernity, modern publicity or the media nor the humanist theories regarding different cultural forms, types of texts or genres pay any significant attention to the fact that the past and present of contemporary culture and media are indeed part and parcel of multimodal and intermedial culture and media. The theorising about intermediality (intertextuality transg
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  71  Department of Literature and Arts, Yliopistonkatu58-60 A, FIN-33014 University of Tampere, mikko.lehtonen@uta.fi On No Man’s Land Theses on Intermediality M IKKO L EHTONEN Let me start with a puzzling paradox: Neither thesocial theories concerning modernity, modern pub-licity or the media nor the humanist theories re-garding different cultural forms, types of texts orgenres pay any significant attention to the fact thatthe past and present of contemporary culture andmedia are indeed part and parcel of multimodal andintermedial culture and media.The theorising about intermediality (inter-textuality transgressing media boundaries) hasbeen sporadic and there is no distinct tradition of studies in the field (unlike the case of intertextu-ality). The few contemporary researchers I discussin this essay are rare exceptions and their stray re-marks on the topic can function only as heuristicstarting points for further explication and critique.Hence the main objective of this text is to introduceintermediality onto the agenda of cultural studiesand to outline some possible consequenses of tak-ing it seriously. I Anthony Smith, a media historian and former direc-tor of BFI, guides us into the everyday of intermediality. In  Books to Bytes (1993:6) he wri-tes: Let us consider a not unusual career for a mo-dern work of fiction. It may begin as a novelabout which an individual writer has ponderedfor years, or it may srcinate as a commissionconceived by an agent or a publisher andfostered upon a writer of recognised skill. If itseems likely to sustain the investment, the finis-hed work may be promoted, and throughdextrous manipulation of the apparatus of literary review and public discussion, forcedthrough a series of different kinds of text distri-bution. It will come out in hardcover and paper-back, in serial fiction and digest form, and thenas an even cheaper paperback. But it may alsobe transmuted into a set of moving images,where its basic authorship will be furtherdehydrated and industrialised in complex ways.A film designated for cinema distribution mayin fact be shown, in widescreen format, only forfurther promotional purposes; the 70mm imagewill be seen only by a small fraction of theemerging audience, as the work passes into 35mm and 16mm gauges for distribution invarious specialist systems (such as the film so-ciety network or the college circuit). It willappear in a cassette form (all the framing of thesrcinal lost in the transformation to the smal-ler screen) and videodisk, on cable and pay TV,ending up on ‘free’ over-the-air television, pu-blic or commercial. At later stages in its career,the work may return to one or more of its earlierphases, but it will remain in public conscious-ness with greater permanency than that bulk of Victorian fiction which failed to become one of the tiny band of classics. Smith’s description of the multiplicity of one andthe same texts could be expanded further by talkingabout soundtracks, novels written based on moviesor television series or the re-publishing of novels inconnection with their dramatization. In contempo-rary culture, this kind of recycling becomes in-creasingly common all the time.My own interest in the problematics of inter-mediality was indeed raised through this kind of   72connection. As I was leafing through a list of thenew offerings from a Finnish book club in the au-tumn of 1996, I made the observation that each andevery book offered to the reading audience had oneconnection or another to some other medium – inthis case, movies or TV series. This simple obser-vation included an equally simple amazement re-garding the fact that not one discipline or indi-vidual researcher had seized on this matter that isfamiliar to anyone in our everyday lives.Despite these matters that are familiar to us all,not only the fact that language and culture havebeen multimodal since the beginning of history aswe know it, but also the fact the throughout historythe different media have been inter-related in termsof both structure and content, has been a blind spotto the human sciences. With my  first  thesis, I wishto burst this bubble and emphasize: Culture is Multimodal What does multimodality mean? And what is therelationship of multimodality and intermedialitywith one another? Critical linguists Guther Kressand Theo van Leeuwen, write in their work   Read-ing Images (1996:39): [L]anguage, whether in speech or writing, hasalways existed as just one mode in the totalityof modes involved in the production of any text,spoken or written. A spoken text is not just ver-bal but also visual, combining with ‘ non-verbal ’ modes of communication such as facialexpression, gesture, posture and other forms of self-representation. A written text, similarly,involves more than language: it is written onsomething, on some material (paper, wood,vellum, stone, metal, rock, etc.) and it is writtenwith so-mething (gold, ink (en)gravings, dots of ink, etc.) [.] The multi-modality of written textshas, by and large, been ignored, whether ineducational contexts, in linguistic theorizing orin popular common sense. Today, in the age of  ‘ multimedia ’ , it can suddenly be perceivedagain. Here, Kress and van Leeuwen are concerned withthe multimodality of spoken and written language.However, what they say about written languagealso applies per se to the third fundamental sym-bolic language, namely, pictures, from which writ-ing has developed.The notions of Kress and van Leeuwen have anumber of important consequences concerning ourtopic. If these most fundamental symbolic forms – speech, pictures and writing – are ” always already ” multimodal, then multimodality inevitably alsocovers the more complex symbolic forms that aredeveloped after the three. Hence, multimodalitycharacterises all symbolic forms utilized by hu-mans .From what was said above, Kress and vanLeeuwen (ibid. 39-40) indeed draw a total of eightconclusions that have significance to our topic andwhich are worth examining more closely. The con-clusions are the following:(a)human societies use a variety of modes of repre-sentation;(b)each mode has, inherently, a different represen-tational potential, a different potential for mean-ing-making;(c)each mode has a specific social valuation in par-ticular social contexts;(d)different potential for meaning-making implydifferent potentials for the formation of subjectivities;(e)individuals use a range of representatonalmodes, and therefore have available a range of means of meaning-making, each affecting theformation of their subjectivity;(f)the different modes of representaton are notheld discretely, separately, as autonomous do-main in the brain, or as autonomous communi-cational resources in a culture, nor are they de-ployed discretely, either in representation or incommunication; rather, they intermesh and in-teract at all times;(g)affective aspects of human behaviour and beingare not discrete from other cognitive activity,and therefore never separate from representa-tional and communicative behaviour; (h) eachmode of representation has a continuous evolv-ing history, in which its semantic reach can con-tract or expand or move into different areas as aresult of the uses to which it is put.In this context, I ignore the conclusions (d) and (e)because they concern subjectivities rather thanintermediality in its most immediate sense. Butwhat do the other six conclusions signify in regardto intermediality? Firstly , the conclusions of Kress and vanLeeuwen attract our attention to the fact that cul-tures are never constructed by relying solely on oneform of representation. The elements of multi-modality were present even in the most fundamen-  73tal forms of representation, speech and first pic-tures. Secondly , there is reason to ponder the thesis of Kress and van Leeuwen according to which eachform of representation has, in addition to its ownpotential that is connected to the formation of meanings, also its own value in each context. Kressand van Leeuwen stress the point that the differentforms of representation can not be separate fromeach other either on the level of individual con-sciousness or on the level of the entire culture, butthat they have an effect on each other at all times.However, here we can go further than them in theirconclusions and think that the forms of representa-tion in use at a given time form a certain network that is constructed from differences and similari-ties. I have not, however, ended up calling this net-work a ” media system ” but rather a ” media con- junction ” . The word ‘ conjunction ’ emphasises thereciprocal connection of media to one another, butunlike the word ‘ system ’ , in the word ‘ conjunction ’ the historically changing character of this union isemphasized.Perhaps it has been possible to pass over the ex-istence of media conjunctions in the earlier stagesof modernity. However, in late modern culture theyare more clearly perceptible than before – aboveall, because the relationships between media arerapidly changing. Hence, study of intermediality inthese respects is linked to the expanding study of hybridity of late modern culture.Anthony Smith writes about the reciprocal rela-tionships of different media in his work  The Age of  Behemoths (1991:17) as follows: In respect to newspapers, we are used to a sys-tem that involves both mutual competition andcompetition with radio and television. We areused to cinema and television existing in a stateof mutual tension, but also in joint competitionwith video. We think of newspapers, magazinesand book publishing as completely differentbusinesses. We think of the newspaper as alightly or entirely un-regulated medium, but of television as highly regulated [.] But we aremoving into an era in which the distinctionbetween corporations and institutions that ownand manage these different media entities isbecoming impossible to draw. The processes of the new technologies and the pressuresgenerated in the new regulatory environment arebeginning to suggest to managers of theseenterprises that survival and further growthdepend upon mergers and alliances across thedivides that were so carefully contrived in thepast. As we will later see, media convergence has been areality to company managers in business alreadyfor a long time. Researchers, instead, are only be-ginning to get a grip on that system of differencesand similarities which different media form. Thirdly , as Kress and van Leeuwen emphasizethe fact that the forms of representation have theirown histories which are always in relation to thehistories of other forms of representation, they alsooffer a heuristic point of departure to the mappingof the historical development of the aforementionedmedia convergences. However, also in this matterthere is reason to go further than the twosome andstress that the reciprocal history is not connectedonly to the fact that the different forms at timeswould conquer domains from one another, and attimes part with them. As well as the ” formal ” inter-action that is important in itself, there is anotherfundamental matter included in the reciprocal in-teraction of different forms of representation. Be-sides the fact that a certain division of labour oc-curs between different forms of presentations, theyalso constantly affect each other ’ s contents . For in-stance the cinema, that in its time was a new modeof representation, probably did indeed in the courseof time conquer terrain previously dominated bythe two earlier modes of representation, the noveland drama (where the formal change mentioned byKress and van Leeuwen was realized), but simulta-neously both the novel and drama significantly in-fluenced the forms the cinema acquired, while thecinema left its own mark on the development of thenovel and drama (of which in this regard we cantalk about as contentual influence). It is not possi-ble to go into greater detail about the matter here,but it is well known that the person and family-cen-tred perspective of the classical realistic novel hadits own effect on the cinema and, later on, also onTV. Indeed, there are strong similarities betweenthe hero-centred classical realism and the languageof close-ups of the television.However, only cultures in general have beendiscussed above. If we are to believe Kress and vanLeeuwen, the notion of the multimodality of cul-tures applies to all of the cultures we know. On theone hand, here lies the strength of the notion of multimodalism, but on the other hand also itsweakness. Kress and van Leeuwen do not paymuch attention to those historical changes that oc-cur within and between different modes of repre-sentation in their own analysis. Nor do Kress and  74van Leeuwen directly concern themselves with thequestion of why it was possible for their discover-ies to take place expressly in the conditions of latemodern culture. In other words, they do not dealmuch with the historical structure or culturallocatedness of their own views. Hence, though theirobservations on the multimodality of cultures arenaturally true also in respect to modern culture – because they apply to all of the known cultures- itis expressly because of this general characteristicthat they do not tell much about what is themultimodality characteristic to  particularly themodern or late modern cultures like. II If we analyze the above-mentioned eight conclu-sions of Kress and van Leeuwen, it is not difficultto perceive that each one of them suits the modernage quite well. Has not the continuous growth of multimodality been characteristic to modern times?The introduction of printing in the 1400s signifiedin the course of time the appearance of not onlybooks, but also leaflets, magazines, newspapersand other public texts on the cultural scene. More-over, printing house culture did not develop in avacuum but as part of the development of modernforms of publicity, which included for instance thedevelopment of the narrative art of theatre, opera,painting and the creation of different public spaces.Similarly, the introduction of radio, cinema, televi-sion or the digital media in the circumstances of high and late modern culture has not and will nottaken place separately from the context formed byother media.Have not the available modes of representationcontinuously diversified throughout modernity, anddo they not appear to be diversifying also in the fu-ture – even at an accelerating speed? Hence, wecan arrive at my second  thesis: Multimodality Expands and Intensifiesin Modern Times Martin Lister writes (1995:151) about multimo-dality in the 20th century as follows: Multimedia may not yet be a familiar term orconcept in industrial and post-industrialsocieties, but it is, and has been, for most of thetwentieth century, a common part of theexperience of living in one. The designation of a specifically multimedia form within digitaltechnology at the end of the twentieth centuryserved as a reminder that combined audio-visualtechnologies have been in continuous use sincethe mid-nineteenth century. Victorian dioramas,silent cinema, slidetape presentations, theatresets, happenings, Disneyworld rides, are allexamples of public forms of multimedia. Theterm multimedia could reasonably have beenapplied to early television, in so far as broadcastprogramming, containing live dramaticperformance, was interspersed with recordedfilm footage and accompanied by musicalsoundtracks as intermissions In this context, Lister himself refers to the ” multi-users ” of media (although the term is mine). Hewrites (151-152): In recognising that there is a longer history totechnical forms of combined mediatechnologies, it is also possible to see whatavailable media are combined and becomemultiple in forms of use. Watching TV with thesound off, whilst playing an audio cassettewould be one form; listening to the radio whilstlooking through a magazine or book would beanother. The developed habit of attending tomore than one source of stimulus or informa-tion is a recognised human value involving bothconvergent and divergent forms of attention. Onthe one hand, many, often stressful, forms of contemporary wage labour demand single-minded attention to a range of informationrelayed through various levels of technology[...] On the other hand, much of leisure timeinvolves similar, if differently paced, forms of multiple simultaneous concentration, thepleasure of conversing with a friend, registeringthe ambient music, in pub or on a picnic, whereattention shifts back and forth from what is saidto what is seen. Our point is that developed so-cial forms of complex stimulus and attentioncome to be reflected in the cultural forms of media we develop. Nowhere is this moreobvious than in advertising. The contemporarytelevision commercial, lasting no more than 30seconds, will typically draw upon a range of visual referents, styles and techniques drawnfrom different media forms and genres.Successful advertisements depend upon ourfamiliarity and relationship to a range of bothhistorical and contemporary media texts. Theintertextual advertisement is increasinglyconditional upon a saturated, multimediaenvironment. Indeed, it has been suggested thatin the context of future multimedia in the
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