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“Remediation” provided by Writing Commons

“Text-to-Visual Remediation” provided by Writing Commons

“Text-to-Text Remediation” provided by Writing Commons

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  • Describe the process of remediation.
  • Compare text-to-text and text-to-visual remediation.


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In the late 1930s, the novelist and screenwriter Dalton Trumbo read an article about the Prince of Wales paying a visit to a hospital in Canada for veterans of the first World War and meeting a soldier who had lost all of his limbs and senses from an explosion. From that inspiration Trumbo wrote his most famous novel, Johnny Got His Gun, about a soldier who wakes up in a hospital to find his arms and legs amputated and that he is blind, deaf and mute. It was published in 1939 to great success and in 1971 was adapted into a film that has since become a classic. But the adaptations didn’t stop there: it was also turned into a play in 1981, and the version you are probably most familiar with was the inspiration for Metallica’s 1989 song “One,” with scenes from the 1971 movie appearing in the music video.

These adaptations are examples of process of remediation at work. Each of the artists behind these adaptations had to make decisions about how to take the idea behind the source material to create his or her own vision for the work. By telling the same story through each of their respective art forms, these artists were able to present a new interpretation of the original story, each of which gives us a new lens through which to understand the soldier’s experience.

Remediation is the process of taking a text, whether it is a newspaper article, a story, a film or even something like a business proposal or a report, and translating it into a new medium. Remediation is based on the idea of the famous media theorist Marshall McLuhan, who once said that “the medium is the message.” McLuhan meant that how we perceive information changes based the way in which that information is presented.

Let’s think about this in terms that you might be more familiar with: many of you have probably had to write a paper for which you had to give an oral report that included a PowerPoint presentation and possibly a handout. Each of those elements, the report, the PowerPoint and the presentation, is a remediation of your original paper. You would not present information in the same way in a PowerPoint as you would on a handout or when you delivered the content verbally. Because of the changes you make from one medium to the next, your audience perceives the information differently based on how it is delivered.

Audience is one of the most important elements of the remediation process, because the creator of the medium must take into consideration how her work will be understood and interpreted. Let’s go back to the example of Johnny Got His Gun. When it was published in 1939, Trumbo knew that Americans were hoping to avoid having to enter World War II and that people would respond well to a book portraying the horrors of war at its worst (incidentally, that sentiment backfired on him after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, after which his book went through a period of great unpopularity).  The film adaptation was not made until 1971, when anti-war sentiments towards Vietnam were at their height and younger filmgoers were once again open to the message Trumbo (who also directed the film) had originally tried to convey. By the time the late 1980’s rolled around and Metallica recorded its version, much of the controversy around the book and the film had died down and so the group was able to write a song that spoke to the horror of being imprisoned inside your own body without the baggage of pro or anti-war sentiments.

Regardless of what kind of remediation you are taking on, whether it’s artistic, academic or business-related, it is vital to understand how the remediation process works.  By knowing how to interpret the most important ideas from the original text and by transferring them in such a way as to give new meaning to the interpretation without misrepresenting the original, you will be far more successful in conveying important ideas to your audience and in understanding how important the way you present your information is.

Text-to-Visual Remediation

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Another type of remediation occurs when you translate text into either a single image or a series of images (a video or slideshow). These two types of remediations fundamentally involve the same process—translating text into visuals.

There are no strict guidelines by which this translation must be done. However, there are some large-scale suggestions or methods by which you can attempt to symbolically capture in visuals the messages and main ideas promoted in your original text. Moreover, the creation of a visual remediation—much in the same manner as the creation of a text remediation—involves an understanding of rhetorical stance and rhetorical strategies.

Obviously, in any type of remediation, you, as a composer, must pay attention to purpose and audience. Pictures and videos are mediums which are less exclusive in their target audiences than text-based mediums (after all, you need not be able to read in order to comprehend a visual image). At the same time, you must be cognizant, as in text-to-text remediations, of the purpose of the original text and consider how best to capture that purpose in your remediation.

Symbolically Capturing a Message

The purpose of a text-to-visual remediation is to convey the main ideas of the text with the use of visual images.

The Road Not Taken from Andrew Callaghan on Vimeo.

For example, if one wants to remediate Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech into a set of images, one first needs to break down that speech into a few main themes or concepts. These might include the following ideas:

  • all people are equal,
  • skin color is no way to judge a person,
  • and assessing character is the proper way to judge a person.

But how might a student portray those main ideas through visuals? Any number of possibilities present themselves to answer that question. A common thread which links the options lies in attempting to translate concepts like equality and character into distinct symbols. You might attempt to express equality in image by presenting a diverse group of people standing on the same ground as to highlight the similarity and parity of those people.

Though remediation is a subjective distillation and representation of a particular set of ideas expressed in the original text, in order to effectively use symbols, a knowledge of some basic symbols and what those symbols often represent may be useful. Water, the color red, and the sun all have distinct and common meanings: rebirth, anger, and life, respectively. You should also consider what connotations certain colors have on your audience—colors connote different things to different cultures, for example. You should avoid creating symbols which need extensive or excessive explanation—an excellent visual remediation should clearly and interestingly capture the essential themes or ideas of the original text.

Rhetorical stance is not only tied to the creation of text. The creation of visuals (whether a single image or a video, or a combination of text and image) is governed by many of the same rhetorical considerations as the construction of text—a knowledge of target audience, the purpose behind these visuals, the tone or feel of the images—and you should constantly keep this in mind when constructing a text-to-visual remediation.

Remember, your remediation should be an expression of your feelings about a particular text, but it should be rooted in an understanding of the original text, including the historical context out of which it came, and an application of rhetorical strategies—knowledge that you should be able to eloquently defend in a reflection piece on the remediation.

Text-to-Text Remediation

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Instead of remediating a print text into a visual or audio text, you may choose to use a different genre within the print medium. For example, if your original text is a poem, you might want to remediate that poem into song lyrics, a children’s book, a letter, or another print genre. Before you construct your text-to-text remediation, consider the following:

Capturing Content

Before you can create any type of effective or meaningful remediation, you should develop a good understanding of your original text. Your remediation, after all, is based on your decoding of the messages and meanings—the textual content—of your original text. You would be hard-pressed to effectively argue, for example, that Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is a strongly worded argument against racial equality because even a basic understanding of King’s speech illustrates that he was making the opposite point. In other words, you want to be sure that you have accurately captured the central idea(s) in the original text. Moreover, in the creation of your text-based remediation, you should suggest ideas that are similar to the ideas in the original text—if, to continue the MLK Jr., example, you choose to remediate the text of that particular speech into song lyrics, then you should capture the meaning of that speech (equality and a brighter future for the next generation, perhaps) in the lyrics of your song.


Ask yourself the following question: What is the main purpose of the text’? If the original text is a poem that seems to advocate an anti-war message, you can surmise that the poem’s purpose is to capture a reader’s attention through attractive writing and to persuade the reader that war is to be avoided. There is a distinct connection between a text’s purpose and the medium in which it is presented: an opinion column in a newspaper is traditionally a type of text where serious issues are addressed with a central purpose of convincing others to agree with a particular point of view. In this way, medium and purpose are inextricably linked. As you analyze the text that you want to remediate, try to express the purpose of this text: Does it aim to entertain, to enrage, to convince, or cause reflection? And, more to the point, in what ways is that purpose reinforced or modified by the medium that the text uses?

Everything is a Remix Part 1 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Likewise, when you are creating your text-based remediation, think about how you want to manipulate the purpose of the text. A blog post in an online forum that urges people to stop the Iraq war could be remediated in a number of ways, but be mindful that the main purpose of that text is to persuade or convince—a purpose that demands a different rhetorical approach than a text which wishes only to entertain.  What this example illustrates, hopefully, is that purpose is inseparable from medium, audience, and rhetorical stance, and an awareness of purpose should be something which governs a writer’s remediation process.


An equally important consideration in the construction of a text-to-text remediation is identifying the possible audiences of both the original text and the remediation. Subtle changes in the delivery method of text—poem, newspaper article, Twitter post—will appeal to very different audiences. This point is very important and plays a major role in the creation of your remediation. An understanding of the characteristics of your audience will help you to identify the tone, word choice, and voice you’ll adopt as you remediate the text.

An example might make this point clearer: let’s say you remediate a newspaper article about gun control into a series of tweets. You, as a sharp and engaged student, realize these two text-based media have decidedly different target audiences: a newspaper article has an older, perhaps less technologically savvy audience, while the Twitter page is aimed at a younger, more technologically comfortable audience. This difference in target audience must play a large role in your rhetorical stance—word choice, phrasing and voice— so you choose to adopt in your remediation.

Newspaper article phrase:

  • “The decline of the quality of some high schools has people concerned”

Twitter post:

  • “High School = brain death + pep rallies?”

You might notice how different the rhetorical approaches are in these two text phrases (different word choice, different tone, etc.); however, the fundamental idea or message has remained largely unchanged. Moreover, the likely audience for a Twitter post is altogether different than that of a newspaper article. The rhetorical stance used in the Twitter post, of course, reflects this difference.

We instinctively know how to speak or write in vastly different ways when addressing various audiences; you would, for example, hardly address your first-year composition instructor in the same way you would your roommate. Something similar is at work when you compose your remediation: you need to identify the expected audience for your text-based remediation and allow your audience’s expectations to dictate the way you go about creating the new version of the text.

A text-to-text remediation requires a more subtle and analytical approach than a visual remediation or a multimodal remediation because the former involves only small changes in medium.  It’s important to carefully consider the original text and your subsequent remediation through a thorough analysis of meaning, target audience, purpose, and the way in which rhetorical stance is affected by all three of these concerns. To be an effective writer, you should know that huge changes in medium need not be the only way in which a text’s meaning can be significantly altered; instead, a text-based remediation draws its creative significance from tinkering with textual content, targeting new audiences, and recalibrating the original text’s purpose.

Important Concepts



text-to-visual remediation

pictures and videos are mediums

purpose of a text-to-visual remediation

rhetorical stance

text-to-text remediation

before you can create any type of effective or meaningful remediation

blog post

Licenses and Attributions


Composing Ourselves and Our World,  Provided by the authors. License: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)


This chapter contains an excerpt from Remediation provided by Writing Commons. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivatives license.

This chapter contains an excerpt from  Text-to-Visual Remediation provided by Writing Commons. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivatives license.

This chapter contains an excerpt from  Text-to-Text Remediation provided by Writing Commons. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivatives license.



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