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Research on Remix and Cultural Analytics, Part 5

Image: evaluating sliced visualizations of The Charleston Style remixes at the Vroom at Calit2. View larger image. View other Vroom images by cultvis on Flickr.

In previous posts I discussed how I used cultural analytics to examine video mashups. (See part 1 on the Charleston Mix, part 2 on Radiohead’s Lotus Flower, and part 3 on the Downfall parodies, and part 4, on sliced visualizations of all three case studies.) One thing that is difficult in this process is to view all images at once in order to make the observations that I have discussed so far.  This is when a large tiled screen is useful, such as the one available at the Vroom at Calit2, where the Software Studies Lab in San Diego is  based. Below are images that give an idea of how the large screen is useful to evaluate various images at once.

Image: wide view, 32 tiled-screen at the Vroom, Calit2. See larger image.

This image shows the thirty montage grid visualizations of my second case study, The Lotus Flower Parodies. The advantage in this case is that all thirty videos can be examined at once.  This is something that is impossible on a regular laptop or a large computer screen. Being able to compare images in large scale is not only useful to come up with detailed analysis, but also provides the ability to discuss one’s research with other colleagues.

Image: Tracy Cornish, a researcher at CRCA, points out a detail to a colleague of my Lotus Flower remixes grid visualization. See larger image.

Image: Detailed visualization of Thom Yorke Does the Macarena! See larger image.

Image: Sliced images of Lotus Flower remixes on top of montage grid visualizations. (See part 3 and part 4 my analysis for more on sliced images.)

One of the advantages of the tiled screen, in addition to viewing many images at once and in great detail, is the fact that the files don’t appear inside windows as they would on an average computer.  As the image above makes obvious, you can lay images next to each other, and on top of others, with no frame around them.  While this feature might appear not so important when first considered, I found that it provided me with a sense of immediacy.

Image: Todd Margolis, Technical Director at CRCA, examines grid-montage and sliced image visualizations of Lotus Flower Parodies. See larger image.

Image: alternate view of grid-montage and sliced image visualizations of Lotus Flower Parodies. See larger image.

Image: Todd Margolis, Technical Director at CRCA, examines grid-montage and sliced image visualizations of Lotus Flower Parodies. See larger image.

Image: detail of grid-montage visualization of Charleston Style remixes. See larger image.

Detail of sliced visualization of Downfall parodies. See larger image.

Image: sliced visuazlizations of the three case studies on top of Lev Manovich’s and Jeremy Douglass’s Time Magazine covers. See larger image.

Image: detail of Lev Manovich’s and Jeremy Douglass’s Time Magazine covers. See larger image.

Going back to my initial point, when considering a large amount of images, such as all Time Magazine covers,  it becomes evident how being able to view several images at once becomes an important part of visualization.

Image: alternate view of Lev Manovich’s and Jeremy Douglass’s Time Magazine covers. See larger image.

Panel presentation on Video Remixes at PCAC Conference 2012

I am scheduled to present my research on Remix and cultural analytics at the Popular Culture Association of Canada (PCAC) Conference 2012, Niagara Falls. The conference takes place from May 10 through 12.  I will be discussing part of my analysis of YouTube video mashups.  I will join long time collaborators, Owen Gallagher, Martin Leduc, and John Shiga for a panel on video remixes.  The brief mission statement from PCAC is below, followed with the description of our session.

————-

The purpose of the Popular Culture Association of Canada is to promote scholarly understanding of popular culture, broadly conceived, in Canada and elsewhere.  It will serve to bring together academics, students and practitioners in the field of popular culture

May 11, 2012:

SESSION 8

Friday 5:15pm-6:45pm

8C
Strategy 3
Meaning and Politics in Online Amateur Remix Video

Chair: Martin Leduc, Carleton University

John Shiga McGill University
Missing Data: Datamoshing and the Micro-politics of Compression

Martin Leduc Carleton University
Remix in Action: Remix Practices as Political Strategies

Eduardo Navas University of Bergen
Remix in Cultural Analytics

Owen Gallagher National College of Art and Design, Dublin
Ideology in Critical Remix: A Visual Semiotic Analysis

Research on Remix and Cultural Analtytics, Part 4

Image: Detail of sliced visualization of thirty video samples of Downfall remixes. See actual visualization below.

As part of my post doctoral research for The Department of Information Science and Media Studies at the University of Bergen, Norway, I am using cultural analytics techniques to analyze YouTube video remixes.  My research is done in collaboration with the Software Studies Lab at the University of California, San Diego. A big thank you to CRCA at Calit2 for providing a space for daily work during my stays in San Diego.

The following is an excerpt from an upcoming paper titled, “Modular Complexity and Remix: The Collapse of Time and Space into Search,” to be published in the peer review journal AnthroVision, Vol 1.1. A note will posted here, on Remix Theory, announcing when the complete paper is officially published.

The excerpt below is rather extensive for a blog post, but I find it necessary to share it in order to bring together elements discussed in previous posts on Remix and Cultural Analytics (see part 1 on the Charleston Mix, part 2 on Radiohead’s Lotus Flower, and part 3 on the Downfall parodies). The excerpt has been slightly edited to make direct reference to the previous postings, and therefore reads different from the version in the actual text, which makes reference to sections of the research paper where more extensive analysis is introduced. Consequently, in order for this post to make more sense, the previous three entries mentioned above should also be read.

The following excerpt references sliced visualizations of the three cases studies in order to analyze the patterns of remixing videos on YouTube. The reason for sharing part of my publication now is to bring together the observations made in previous postings, and to make evident how cultural analytics enables researchers invested in the digital humanities to examine cultural objects in new ways that were not possible prior to the digitalization process we have been experiencing for the last decades.

———–

To understand how a meme evolves based on the first remixes that a user may find can be evaluated by developing visualizations of the three cases studies that show the editing of the video footage over time.  To accomplish this, I took the frames of thirty videos of each meme and sliced them in order to examine the types of pattern the editing actually takes.  What we find is that with the Charleston Remixes the video footage stays practically the same except for a few remixes in which the footage of Leon and James dancing was used selectively as part of bigger projects.  “Mr. Scruff – Get a Move on | Charleston videoclip” is one of these exceptions, in which the video is re-edited to match the sound (see slice detail below).  Another is “Charleston & Lindy Hop Dance ReMix – iLLiFieD video.mix (Version),” (also see below).

Image: A two column slice visualization of the 29 of 30 remixes (one remix was omitted because the footage is not the same performance.  That video is not relevant to evaluate how the video footage of this meme is left intact).  For a full list of this visualization visit: http://remixtheory.net/remixAnalytics/ and select “Charleston Video Slices.” View large version of this image.

Image: this is a slice visualization of “The Charleston and Lindy Hop Dance Remix.”  When comparing this sliced image to other slices in the two-column visualization above, one can notice the selective process with which footage from the Charleston Style was used.   This video is much longer than the original footage, and has been compacted in order to show how the video was selectively edited.  To view this remix, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POupa2sW1UI&feature=player_embedded. This video was uploaded to YouTube on May2, 2009. View large version of this image.

Image: this is a slice visualization of “Mr. Scruff remix.”  When comparing the sliced image to the other slices in the two columns visualization above, one can notice how the same footage was edited repeatedly to match the beat and sections of the song. This video is much longer than the original footage, and has been compacted in order to show how the video was selectively edited.   Visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Bx5-itIA0pQ.   This video was uploaded to YouTube on January 10, 2008. View large version of this image.

Image: A two-column visualization of Lotus Flower Remixes.  The original video by Radiohead is on the top-left.  Most of the videos sliced in this sample were uploaded within the first two weeks after the original video was uploaded by Radiohead on February 16, 2011. For a full list of this visualization visit: http://remixtheory.net/remixAnalytics/ and select “Lotus Flower Video Slices.” View large version of this image.

In the Lotus Flower Remixes (See image above) we can note that the editing of the videos is quite diverse; the footage is remixed (heavily edited) to match the beat and the overall feel of the selected songs, with the very first videos.

The Downfall remixes (see figure below) consists of video footage that for the most part has been left intact. What is remixed is the fake translation of Hitler’s rant.  The subtitles for Hitler are sometimes in the middle of the screen, in others at the bottom; sometimes the typeface is small, and at times large.  But in the end the video footage is left intact and the translations very much obey the rhythm of the original editing.

Image: A two-column visualization of The Downfall Parody remixes.  The original video with no subtitles is on the top-left.  Videos sliced in this sample were uploaded between 2007 and 2011.  At the moment it is not certain whether the 2007 upload was the first because many remixes have been taken down by YouTube.  For a full list of this visualization visit: http://remixtheory.net/remixAnalytics/ and select “Downfall Video Slices.” View large version of this image.

Image: Visualization of Downfall video, with proper English subtitles.  The thin horizontal white bars near the bottom of the frame are the subtitles.  To view this video visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bmkUlXp5sk&feature=related.   Some of the remixes present the subtitles in yellow. View large version of this image.

Image: visualization of “Hitler’s Reaction to the new Kiss album,” a video remix in which Hitler rants about the album’s title “Sonic Boom.”  The subtitles (the thin horizontal white bars) in this case move all over the frame.  To view this video visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwOLfppXhsk&feature=youtu.be. View large version of this image.

We can note in the three case studies that the approach of remixing is in part defined by the way the original remix or footage was produced.  With the Charleston Remixes, most contributions leave the video footage intact.  No major editing took place until September 2007, that is a year and four months after the first upload.  With the Lotus Flower Remixes, editing of the footage is done from the very beginning, while with the Downfall parodies, it does not place at all.  Why would this be?

Based on the diagrams (see the link “visualization of links” for each case study on the page remixAnalytics) and patterns of editing that I present, we can note that the later videos are in fact responses to previous productions.  In the Charleston Remixes, the video footage is left intact because it is intact in the first remix.  With Lotus Flower, the original footage by Radiohead is heavily edited, which gives remixers the license to immediately manipulate the footage in selective fashion—by omitting some parts of the footage while repeating others to match the selected songs.  With the Downfall remixes, the result is similar to the Charleston Remix: the footage is practically left alone because the meme demands that the basis of the meme be that only the text be remixed; therefore, the only major shift takes place with the placement of translations on the screen: sometimes on the middle, but for the most part at the bottom.  The only other shift we can notice with the subtitles is that they may crossover from one shot to the next based on the emphasis of the content that the remixer wants to make.  But none of the Charleston and Downfall videos are as heavily edited as the Lotus Flower remixes.  It is also worth noting that these are all selective remixes, which means that they all are dependent on a clear reference to the original source.[1]   If such reference is lost, then, the remix withers, and would become either a badly concocted reference, or simply a product on the verge of plagiarism.

One last element that needs to be considered, which apparently affects the production of the memes, as is also argued by a study on YouTube funded by Telefonica [2], and also supported by the research of Jean Burgess and Joshua Green [3] is that due to the viral emphasis on YouTube, online users are most likely to find an already remixed version of a video, and not the original if the remix has enjoyed more views.  The exception to this is Lotus Flower, for which YouTube apparently always offers the original video as part of possible selections, on the first page of all results.  This is likely because given Radiohead’s popularity, their YouTube channel has a large number of views.  For the Charleston, this is not always the case, as the original footage sometimes will not come up with certain video remixes.  For the Downfall meme, it is even more difficult to speculate how videos produced before 2007 affect users who currently search for the meme, because they are likely to find videos that are popular, but not necessarily the newest nor the oldest—but rather the most relevant based on the terms used for the search in relation to the number of views.

[1] For the full definition of the selective remix see “Selective and Reflexive Mashups.”

[2] Meeyoung Cha, Haewoon Kwak, Pablo Rodriguez, Yong-Yeol Ahn, and Sue Moon, “I Tube, You Tube, Everybody Tubes: Analyzing the World’s Largest User Generated Content Video System,” http://an.kaist.ac.kr/traces/papers/imc131-cha.pdf

[3] For Burgess and Green this is evident based on their assessment of the emphasis of presenting popular videos first, and the fact that YouTube members deliberately find ways to promote their videos to become as popular as possible. See Jean Burgess & Joshua Green, YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture (Cambridge: Polity, 2010), 74.

Seminar on Principles of Remix by Eduardo Navas at the Departamento de Artes Plásticas da ECA/USP

Image: from the post Research on Remix and Cultural Analytics, Part 2

I will be presenting my research on Remix and Cultural Analytics at the Departamento de Artes Plásticas da ECA, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil during a one week seminar, March 19 – 21, 2012. Information below.

Principles of Remix Seminar

This seminar examines the act of remixing in contemporary culture. It takes a historical approach with the aim to define remix not only as an act but a process. Remix is often discussed in terms of copyright and intellectual property. In contrast, this seminar engages remix as a cultural binder. The premise for the sessions is that remix affects culture in ways that go beyond the basic understanding of recombining material to create something different. The class will go over key principles of remix, and will also contextualize it in the tradition of critical theory.

The five-day seminar will make use of research published in the texts suggested for reading (see list below). The texts should be read before the actual meetings.

Day 1: Principles of Remix

Day 2: The Aesthetics of Remix

Day 3: The Dialectics of Remix

Day 4: The Social Implications of Remix (Social Media and Cultural Analytics)

Day 5: Remix Globalization and Cultural Analytics

All material to be discussed during the seminar is written by Eduardo Navas:

“Regressive and Reflexive Mashups in Sampling Culture”
http://remixtheory.net/?p=444

“The Mashup of Analog and Digital Code”
http://dichtung-digital.mewi.unibas.ch/2010/navas/navas.htm

“Dub, B Sides and Their [re]versions in the Threshold of Remix”
http://remixtheory.net/?p=345

“The Ethics of Modular Complexity in Sustainability”
http://remixtheory.net/?p=461

“Remix and Cultural Analytics,” Parts 1, 2, and 3
Charleston Style:
http://remixtheory.net/?p=460

Lotus Flower Parodies:
http://remixtheory.net/?p=478

Downfall Parodies:
http://remixtheory.net/?p=479

“After Media (Hot and Cold)”
http://remixtheory.net/?p=400

“The Blogger as Producer”
http://remixtheory.net/?p=203

“After the Blogger as Producer”
http://remixtheory.net/?p=378

“The Author Function in Remix”
http://remixtheory.net/?p=309

“Remixing Re/appropriations”
http://remixtheory.net/?p=474

“The Influence of Non-places in the Concept of Latin America”
http://remixtheory.net/?p=483

For Your Consideration: Women Directors Missing From the Oscars

I recently received a message from Elisa Kreisinger about a supercut she created along with Melissa Silverstein (above). It is a video commentary on the obvious inequality within The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. This video is produced just in time for the Oscar’s. I was not able to post it before Monday (the big night), but it serves just as well to post it now, since the hype keeps going. Kreisinger’s commentary follows below:

My colleague Melissa Silverstein and I made a supercut over at Women And Hollywood that compiles all the female-directed films not nominated in an effort to highlight women’s work and shed light on part of the problem: the voting population of the Academy.

* 94% white.
* 77% male.
* 62 is the average age.

We’ve moved beyond the issue of ‘not enough women making work.’

As a result, it’s important to honor prominent female directors here in an effort to encourage more women to write and direct their own work, open the conversation about women-made narratives and shed light on who decides what narratives get honored, why and how that affects our popular culture.

So on Sunday night, women will be at the forefront of the Oscars. But not for their work; for their dress. As you watch the plethora of white men accept their awards on behalf of other white men, keep these women-made movies in mind.

Upcoming Book, Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling

Image: Preliminary cover design and logo for upcoming book by Ludmil Trenkov.

I am very happy to announce that my book Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling is scheduled to be published later on this year, by Springer Wien New York Press.  If all goes according to schedule, it should be available no later than this Fall.  The book offers an in-depth analysis on Remix as a form of discourse.  To get a sense of what to expect, you can read my previously published text, “Regressive and Reflexive Mashups in Sampling Culture,” also available through Springer: http://www.springerlink.com/content/r7r28443320k6012/. You can read my online version as well, though I encourage you to support the publishing company by downloading the official version.

I will offer more information about the book in the near future, such as the table of content, and excerpts from the text. For now I wanted to share the promotional abstract:

Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling is an analysis of Remix in art, music, and new media. Navas argues that Remix, as a form of discourse, affects culture in ways that go beyond the basic recombination of material. His investigation locates the roots of Remix in early forms of mechanical reproduction, in seven stages, beginning in the nineteenth century with the development of the photo camera and the phonograph, leading to contemporary remix culture. This book places particular emphasis on the rise of Remix in music during the 1970s and ‘80s in relation to art and media at the beginning of the twenty-first Century. Navas argues that Remix is a type of binder, a cultural glue—a virus—that informs and supports contemporary culture.

Remix and Cultural Analytics at Anthropology in Digital Times

I will be presenting my research on Remix and cultural analytics at the University of Lumiére in Lyon, France on November 24.  Program and other information availlable.

A brief note on my presentation:

I will discuss the evolution of remixing in a three case study, with particular emphasis on when and how the video remixes were produced.  This is done in order to reflect on the initial uploads of material and subsequent remixes as important vehicles of communication and creative practice.

What cultural analytics can bring to anthropology, and other fields that adopt it, is the ability to attain a balanced approach based on quantitative and qualitative analysis.

Posts about my research:

Charleston Style

Lotus Flower Parodies

Downfall Parodies

— Eduardo Navas

The Influence of Non-places in the Concept of Latin America, by Eduardo Navas

Paul Ramirez-Jonaz, “Another Day” (2003), video installation, image courtesy of the artist.

This essay, made available here in English and Spanish, was written for  the exhibition Transitio _MX 03, which took place in Mexico City in October 2009. The text was published in December 2010 in Errata, a Colombian journal dedicated to art and culture. The text explores the concept of non-places (which is the foundation of my curation for Transitio), as a recurrent and pervasive  cultural variable not only in Latin America but other parts of the world.

Above and below are images of the works curated in the exhibition, complemented with excerpts from the text.

Download the text in PDF format: English and Spanish. Download the actual publication (only in Spanish)  Also, read the complete journal (only in Spanish).

Sabrina Raaf, “Translator II: Grower, 2004-2006,” Robot and Installation, image courtesy of the artist.

excerpt:

The works included in “Autonomies of Disagreement” were selected to reflect on glocality versus locality in Latin-American production in relation to the concept of non-place.  Glocality is commonly defined with the saying, “act local, think global.” With this concept as a cultural foundation, my curatorial approach was developed to support what I consider a key element of Transitio_MX 2009’s theme of “Autonomies of Disagreement”, as evaluated in the Festival Statement, which is to keep in mind the relevance of geopolitical differences that shape the use of appropriation and technology in artistic practices.

Carlos Rosas, “GPS Pallet Series: (Coordinate) Paintings/ I Think I Got IKEA’d Project, Bulls on Parade: Protest Remixes y Step and Repeat Cycles: Live/ Networked Installation y Remixed Sessions,” Installation.

Excerpt:

The term non-place is applied here after the theory of supermodernity introduced in 1992 by Marc Augé in his book Non-places, Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. Augé views non-places as areas of transition, such as airports, conditioned with a familiarity that is homogeneous.  He also extends his concept to spaces that need not be visited, but named, or referenced through pervasive images. He argues that people eventually become familiar with such places by mere reference.

Owen Mundy y Joel Dietrick, “Anemophilous Formula for Computer Art,” Wall Projection, real time animation.

Excerpt:

Auge’s premise was revisited in 2002 by Hans Ibelings in Supermodernism, Architecture in the Age of Globalization.  Ibelings views the homogeneity of tourism initially examined by Augé to be best expressed in the spectacular architecture of Las Vegas, which metaphorically speaking, names or cites a place.   In other words, Las Vegas is architectural simulacra of other places in the world.

Vicky Funari y Sergio de la Torre, Maquilápolis, video, 2006, Documentary Film.

Excerpt:

The Internet also has non-places of its own.  Yahoo, Google, YouTube, Facebook and all other major portals and social networking sites help users navigate online spaces with interfaces that, like the airport, can be considered places of transition, of constant flow and change.  Users in turn feel more comfortable with the material that is accessed because individuals are often allowed and even encouraged to customize their interfaces with bookmarks and various forms of tagging for ongoing access.  Latin American art production is informed by such developments as well as the physical mobility of people from different countries.

The art projects I selected for Transitio_MX, in varying degrees, are informed by the current stage of networked culture; they also expose contradictions of global trends of migration.  Given this focus, not all the artists are “Latin American” but rather their work has an intimacy with issues that are relevant to Latin America as a concept that moves across borders as a collective of complexities that are difficult to define.  This approach opens up a space to discuss how cultural identification today is even more multi-layered than before, which is why the selected projects share questions on how locality and glocality are terms that may be interchangeable according to a person’s particular position in both class and culture–closely defined by education and accessibility to technology.  “Glocality,” as the ability to function locally with a global awareness, is a term that only a certain number of people, unfortunately, are able to contemplate at the moment.  This obviously needs to change, and the works chosen for Transitio_MX aim to demystify this elitism. Glocals are people invested in the actual production of a global culture at an informational level—the most important level in which meaning is currently produced and controlled.  The artists participating in Transitio_MX are part of this small, selected group, and as such have to be conscious of their practice as a critical tool that can ultimately endorse the global system.

Within this critical framework, Another Day (three monitors) 2003, by Paul Ramírez-Jonas (Honduras/ United States) depersonalizes and universalizes the ongoing travel that takes place around the world, by making the sun the traveler.  The video Maquilápolis 2006, by Vicky Funari (United States) and Sergio De La Torre (Mexico/United States) aims to expose the contradictions at play in the global economy on how goods are produced with unfair labor laws.  Translator II: Grower, 2004-06, by Sabrina Raaf (United States) exposes the tension, or discord of dislocation that can be superceded if the migrating subject is willing to come to terms with the displacement of the body by way of mechanical labor.  I THINK I GOT IKEA’D: Finish Fetish and other projects, by Carlos Rosas (Chile/United States) expose how location can become abstracted in terms of painting or sound, while still providing a sense of concreteness by mere citation of concepts. And Anemophilous Formula for Computer Art, by Owen Mundy (United States) and Joelle Dietrick (United States), literally takes apart the concept of non-place, by recontextualizing a paper-wall image of a national park located at an airport lobby.

Read the complete text in PDF format: English and Spanish. Download the actual publication (only in Spanish)  Also, read the complete journal (only in Spanish).

Notes on Everything is a Remix, Part 1, 2, and 3

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

Everything is a Remix is a four part web-film series directed and produced by Kirby Ferguson. It has been about a year since the first segment (above) was released. Since then, Ferguson has released parts two and three. The fourth and final installment is scheduled to be released this Fall of 2011, and I look forward to viewing it.

When I viewed part one, I really liked it, and thought that the title, while it may sound polemical to some degree (in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way), somewhat falls along the lines of how I view and have been discussing Remix as a form of discourse during the past few years. However, once I viewed the other two segments, I realized that the way some of the material is presented begins to water down the very foundation of the term “remix.”

For this reason, while I do like very much Ferguson’s series, and often share it as a reference with anyone who wants to get a sense of Remix as a form of discourse, I find the need to write down some of the issues that may be overseen in Ferguson’s series.

This oversight perhaps may be in part because short films cannot possibly cover in-depth analysis as a series of texts or a book would. On the other hand, it may be inevitably tempting to make an ever-expanding megamix about culture and media with a generalization that one cannot fully embrace (though in the spirit of remixing can truly like and admire). With both of these possibilities in mind, I briefly share my views on this series.

Everything is a Remix Part 2 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

The main issue about remixes that comes up, even in the first video, is that there is no explanation of the relation between material sampling and cultural citation. as I previously explained in Regressive and Reflexive Mashups, there is a difference between a Medley and a Megamix: the former is played by a band, while the latter is composed in the studio usually by a DJ producer, who understands how to manipulate breaks on the turntables.

What this means is that a remix in the strict sense of its foundational definition has to be materially grounded on a citation that can be quantified, in other words, measured. This is one of the reasons why DJ producers quickly ran into trouble with copyright law: a lawyer could play a sample from a Hip Hop song, in direct juxtaposition with the originating source of the sample and make evident on purely material grounds that the sample was an act of plagiarism.

But this is not exactly what happened with Led Zeppelin. What happened with Zeppelin, as the example given in Ferguson’s first segment, was straight forward plagiarism within the tradition of covers and knock-offs. Two terms that are also mentioned in the first segment as forms of “legal remixes.” What these forms of recycling content do share with remixes is intertextual citation–the embedding of ideas by way of direct or even indirect reference, which often is not materially grounded, but rather made possible through well calculated emulation.

Everything is a Remix Part 3 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

The best example of intertextual citation in the postmodern sense would be Quentin Tarantino’s films, which are also mentioned at the end of the credits of part two. Tarantino does not sample directly from the films he references in his own work, but rather recreates the scenes or shots to develop his own narratives. This allows him to claim autonomy of the material, much in the way that Zeppelin (in my view unfairly) can still keep their credibility, perhaps on the ground of reproducing material in a unique way that is their own–even if they failed to cite the sources from which they blatantly stole.

In other words, because, both, Tarantino and Zeppelin don’t materially take, but rather emulate with great precision, their productions are not remixes by definition, but rather informed by principles of Remix as a form of discourse. Their actions are cultural citations. These details are missed, unfortunately, in the first three parts of the series by Ferguson.

Now, as it is already obvious above, I do extend the concept of remix as Remix (with a capital “R”) to pretty much all the areas of culture that Ferguson mentions in his series, including the Apple computer. But when I do this, it is to emphasize that we are functioning under a paradigm ruled by acts of material appropriation and recyclability.

The attitude of remix made possible with the technology first introduced earlier in photo-collage and tape loops and eventually music samplers, has now become an attitude, an aesthetic that informs the way cultural material is produced. But this does not mean that “everything is a remix.” This may appear to be so, but as much as I myself would like this to be the case, it is not. What one could say is that “everything is intertextual,” which is closer to the tradition of sharing ideas in conceptual and material form, prior to the time of modernism. Historically all the material covered by Ferguson is certainly relevant in terms of recyclability, but it does not validate the catch-all statement “everything is a remix.”

Understandably, “everything is intertextual” (which could also be contested if one gets really picky) is not as catchy as “everything is a remix.” To go viral, one must use what is in vogue and quickly understood. Intertextuality had its time in the postmodern period. Now, it appears that remix is the catch all phrase.

And why is it important to point out such nuances that in the end a person enjoying Ferguson’s short films may find too nit-picky? Because if we actually take the time to differentiate the referencing of ideas in conceptual and material form (ideas, and actual products reused) then copyright law may actually be changed. If we keep referencing intellectual production in general fashion as Ferguson’s work unfortunately does, we will not be able to change laws on intellectual property. It is for this reason, only, why I write this entry, because I find that the film series could benefit from understanding the important differences between material samplings and cultural citations.

I should add a note to explain that my concern here is not academic by any means, even though I make a living by working with research institutions. I have been invested in remix culture long before the very term was coined. Before investing myself professionally as a media researcher and artist, I was a DJ for over fifteen years. And for this reason, as much as I would like everything to be a remix, I have to admit that this is not the case. To be blunt, from the point of view of cultural critics who are wary of hegemony, “Everything is a Remix” can be understood as a flip-on-the-script of diversity, paradoxically, to become a totalitarian statement–that anyone who is invested in difference is compelled to resist. I say this understanding that Ferguson probably does not mean it this way, which is why I do share his work as much as I can. Kudos to Ferguson.

Research on Remix and Cultural Analytics, Part 2

Image: detail of video montage grid of Radiohead’s Lotus Flower. Larger images of this montage and others with proper explanation are included below.

As part of my post doctoral research for The Department of Information Science and Media Studies at the University of Bergen, Norway, I am using cultural analytics techniques to analyze YouTube video remixes.  My research is done in collaboration with the Software Studies Lab at the University of California, San Diego. A big thank you to CRCA at Calit2 for providing a space for daily work during my stays in San Diego.

This is part 2 of a series of posts in which I introduce three case studies of YouTube video remixes. My first case study is the Charleston Style remixes.

Radiohead uploaded their original official music video on February 16, 2011. The video consists of Thom Yorke, the band’s lead singer, dancing and singing in an empty garage-like space. The footage includes close-ups, mid and long shots of Yorke improvising his dance. When viewing the original video it is evident that Yorke’s quirkiness in part is the reason why the footage was a readymade for a viral meme. The remixes began to appear, just two days after the original was uploaded, on February 18. The range of songs that replaced Radiohead’s original include well known musical classics from Zorba the Greek, pop songs from the Venga Boys, as well top ten hits by Lady Gaga, among others. Below are some of the videos analyzed.

This remix consists of footage taken from the original Radiohead video, which was re-edited to match the song “All the Single Ladies” by Beyonce, uploaded on February 18, 2011.

This video is titled “Thom Yorke Goes Bananas.” In this case, the video footage of Lotus Flower was selectively re-edited to match a samba composition. It was uploaded on February 18, 2011.

This video is titled “Thom Yorke Does the Macarena!” In this case, the video footage of Lotus Flower was selectively re-edited to match the Macarena song and video. It was uploaded on February 18, 2011.

Following the method of analysis of my first case study on the Charleston Style, I first looked at the montage of the videos.


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This is the grid montage of the original video by radiohead.


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This is the video grid montage of “All the Single Ladies”


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This is the video grid montage of “Thom Yorke Goes Bananas!”


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This is the video grid montage of “Thom Yorke Does the Macarena.”

When viewing these grids it becomes evident that the remixers, from the very beginning, took the liberty to edit the footage selectively to match particular songs. This is a different approach in contrast with the Charleston remixes, which, for the most part, leave the video footage intact. The exception is the occasional time adjustment to match the beat of a song.


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When slicing the video frames, it becomes clear which video sections are remixed. Compare the slices of the original video (above) with the slices of the three other videos, which follow below.


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These are slices of “All the Single Ladies”


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These are slices of “Thom Yorke Goes Bananas!”


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These are slices of “Thom Yorke Does the Macarena.”

The slice visualizations have been adjusted to fit this blog’s design. Many of the remixes are much shorter than the original video by Radiohead, this is because the footage is re-edited to match the length of the songs selected. One of the shortest is the Macarena remix, which is just over a minute.

As mentioned before, this is my second case study. After the introduction of my third case study, I will compare the three memes in order to evaluate the patterns of the remixes.

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