Intermediality, Quo Vadis?: A Brief Inventory and a Road Map for Six Central Future Research Axes

Intermediality, Quo Vadis?: A Brief Inventory and a Road Map for Six Central Future Research Axes

Juergen E. Mueller
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/IJSVR.2019070102
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Some 30 years after its coining, the notion and concept of intermediality still proves to be of great relevance for many disciplines, ranging from semiotics to communication, media, literary, and social studies. However, in the digital era, intermediality as a work in progress has to meet the challenges of the so-called new media and develop innovative and adequate axes of research. This article presents some basics of the latest state of affairs of intermedia studies and proposes six central axes of future intermedia research. It focuses on the perspectives of an intermedia network history, which will tackle the reconstruction of historical functions of intermedia processes; the blurring of genre patterns; new interactivities; the interplays among medial, technological, economic, and social vectors; and the making of meaning in current media networks. Thus, some (interwinding?) paths of future intermedia studies will be indicated.
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Quo Vadis?

Figure 1.

Peter Ustinow as Emperor Nero in the monumental film Quo Vadis


The image shown in Figure 1 should not suggest that intermedia scholars have to be amateurs of monumental films or spoof desert epics—but maybe of Peter Ustinow? However, singing Nero in front of burning Rome can direct our attention toward some options of the manifold paths and approaches of intermediality.

In the film Quo Vadis, we see and hear an intertextually and intermedially reloaded remix of sounds and images, an interplay of representations of insanity and presumptuous aesthetic standards, and are confronted with a remediation of histories, devastating and renewing fires, and the like. Some of these aspects—but hopefully not the one to burn down metropolises of intermedia research—might be relevant for this article and also for future intermedia research, as we shall see in the next sections.


The Current State Of Affairs Of Intermedialities

The variety of aspects of the concept of intermediality makes it very difficult—maybe even almost impossible—to present a general overview with regard to all research options. Thus, I will not venture into such a complex enterprise, which—as we know—has already been endeavored by several scholars who offer critical volumes or articles on intermedia research or typologies of different sorts of intermedia studies that tackle this complex issue (Mertens, 2000; Paech & Schröter, 2008). For example, Irina Rajewsky recently published a useful overview on intermediality, remediation, and multimedia (Rajewsky, 2014), and Jens Schröter proposed a typology of intermediality as synthetical, transmedial, and transformational/ontological (Schröter, 2008). Nor will I repeat my own remarks on the history of the notion and concept of intermediality. Instead, I would like to focus on some general aspects of the current state of affairs of this research axis (Müller, 1996, 1998, 2016).

In my eyes, intermediality does not imply the striving for one closed theory but the development of several relevant axes of research (axes de pertinence) that offer different perspectives for intermedia studies. In this sense, the former struggles between different opposing approaches have changed into a still controversial but productive discussion of the usefulness of certain positions. Thus, the various configurations of intermediality and its methodological applications have fostered complementary relationships between these lines.

Taxonomic models and diagrams of intermedia relationships and studies (Wolf, 2014, p. 38), for example, give good insights into the various dimensions of intermedia processes, and they promote specific questions of historical research, which, in return, challenge these taxonomies. It is in front of these folia that some proposals will be elaborated.

The in-between of intermediality asks for another “in-between”—that is, for interdisciplinarity. The intermedia research of complex processes between traditional media such as literature, (more or less) analog and linear media such as cinema, radio, and television, and so-called new and digital media entail various interdisciplinary perspectives and offer the potential to further develop the methodological toolbox of intermedia approaches. If, for example, we wanted to study intermedia configurations of blogs, then we would soon realize that neither approach of literary studies nor semiotics can suffice in order to cope with the complex, interdependent processes of this digital phenomenon. In this case, we would have to refer to a combination of traditional tools and new tools from media studies in order to get closer to the spatio-temporal processes of blogs.

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