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“Regenerative Culture” by Eduardo Navas


«Information is not knowledge». (Albert Einstein). Linkedin maps data visualization. Picture: Luc Legay/Flickr. (see Norient for context)

Regenerative Knowledge was written between June and October 2015. It was published on Norient in five parts between March and June 2016. I want to thank Thomas Burkhalter and Theresa Beyer for editing the essay and making it available on Norient’s academic journal. In this essay I update the definitions of remix with an emphasis on the regenerative remix. I argue that constant updating is becoming ubiquitous, which is much more evident a year after the essay was written. A short version titled “Im/material Regeneration” was published in print as part of Seismographic Sounds in 2015.

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Cultural production has entered a stage in which archived digital material can potentially be used at will;[1] just like people combine words to create sentences (just like this sentence is written with a word-processing application), in contemporary times, people with the use of digital tools are able to create unique works made with splices of other pre-recorded materials, with the ubiquitous action of cut/copy & paste, and output them at an ever-increasing speed.[2] This is possible because what is digitally produced in art and music, for instance, once it becomes part of an archive, particularly a database, begins to function more like building blocks, optimized to be combined infinitely.[3] This state of affairs is actually at play in all areas of culture, and consequently is redefining the way we perceive the world and how we function as part of it. The implications of this in terms of how we think of creativity and its relation to the industry built around authorship are important to consider for a concrete understanding of the type of global culture we are becoming.

In what follows, I evaluate situations and social variables that are important for a critical reflection on how elements flow and are assembled according to diverse needs for expression of ideas and informational exchange. I begin by elaborating on what I previously defined as the regenerative remix,[4] which is specific to the time of networked media, to then relate it to speech in terms of sound and textual communication. I then provide examples that make evident the future trends already manifested in our times. Because digital media consists in large part in optimizing the manipulation of experience-based material that before mechanical reproduction went unrecorded, the aim of this analysis, in effect, is to evaluate how ephemerality is redefined when image, sound, and text are digitally produced and reproduced, and efficiently archived in databases in order to be used for diverse purposes. In other words, what happens when what in the past was only ephemeral is turned into an immaterial exchangeable element, and most often than not some type of commodity? To begin in what follows I analyze how the regenerative remix functions as a type of bridge to a future in which constant updates and pervasive connectivity will become ubiquitous in all aspects of life.

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[1] This is a reasonable proposition as long as the person has access to the material. Some archives are evidently password protected. The person has to be also in a position to exert such an act, and this is linked to economics and class that define the person’s reality. I am not able to go into this issue in this text as its focus is on how sampling is functioning in terms of regeneration.

[2] This is already evident in the fact that the time it takes to produce just about any cultural apparatus has been shortened exponentially since the industrial revolution. Futurist Alvin Toffler makes a case with his term “The 800th Lifetime.” The much criticized Ray Kurzweil, who currently is affiliated with Google, also makes a case for exponential growth, arguing that Moore’s Law will be superseded in 2020, and we will enter a new paradigm of innovation. See, Alvin Toffler, “The 800th Lifetime,” Future Shock (New York: Bantam Books, 1970), 9-10. Ray Kurtzweil, “Ray Kurzweil Announced Singularity University,” Ted Talks, Last updated February 2009: https://www.ted.com/talks/ray_kurzweil_announces_singularity_university#t-188322.

[3] My use of the term “building blocks” is influenced by the work of Manuel De Landa, who discusses language in relation to biology and geology. I refer to his work throughout this essay. See Manuel De Landa“Linguistic History: 1000 – 1700 A.D.,” A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (New York: Zone Books, 1997), 183 – 190.

[4] Eduardo Navas, “Remix[ing] Theory,” Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling (New York: Springer, 2012), 101-108.

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“Political Remix Video: An Interview with Dr. Colin Gardner” by Diran Lyons

Diran Lyons has been producing political remixes for some time. I recently received a tweet of his latest mashup “Political Remix Video: An Interview with Dr. Colin Gardner” which combines selected clips from Lyons’s own previous mashups with an interview with Dr. Gardner, who is professor and chair in the department of art at UC Santa Barbara. Following his previous approach, Lyons’s video mashup questions the way we perceive the moving image, which in this case is redefined as the time image by Dr. Gardner, according to philosophical writings on film by the late French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. The time image questions our expectations of cause and effect; it is an image that reminds us to look beyond the surface of movement. Based on this premise, Lyons goes on to show clips from several films, mass media, and speeches by politicians on the left and the right of American politics. The result is a mashup that takes no sides but questions all things persons could possibly assume about power and absolute positions on right and wrong.

Routledge Companion to Remix Studies Now Available

I just received in the mail a hardbound copy of The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies. It’s been such a long process. Editing 41 chapters has been quite an endeavor, but a good one. I would like to thank my co-editors, xtine Burrough and Owen Gallagher, who are just amazing collaborators. This book could not have been published on time had it not been for our mutual diligence in meeting deadlines. I also want to thank the contributors who were just amazing during the long editing process (for a full list of authors see the dedicated site for the book: Remix Studies).

I really hope that researchers, academics and remixers find the anthology worth perusing.

More information on the book:

Routledge: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415716253/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Routledge-Companion-Remix-Studies-Companions/dp/041571625X


Not a Remix–Nor a Sampling: Why Fareed Zakaria’s Plagiarism is Unacceptable

Image: Huffpost

By Eduardo Navas

Note: This entry was updated on August 19, 2012 with an extra commentary at the end of the main text.

As an educator in higher education and researcher specializing in remix culture and authorship, when I first learned about Zakaria’s admission to plagiarism, I was very disappointed in him, and thought that there was no way around it, that his admission of plagiarizing parts of Jill Lepore‘s work on gun control written for the New Yorker puts into question his intellectual integrity.

I thought that his apology was quick and to the point, but that somehow it was not enough. I thought that it was necessary for Zakaria to come forward and explain in as much detail as possible the reasoning for his behavior. And I thought that I wasn’t alone in hoping for this to happen–that if an actual explanation was delivered, it would all serve the constructive purpose of discussing the seriousness of plagiarism with students while providing a concrete example of a public intellectual who committed such an unacceptable act.

I thought that Zakaria should give an extensive explanation, first, simply because he owed it to his audience and readers, who have come to respect his work at CNN, Time and The Washington Post; and second because it would inform, and therefore become, admittedly, an unusual contribution to the debates on intellectual property during a period when younger generations are prone to plagiarize due to the easiness of copying and pasting.


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.

After Iran’s Twitter Revolution: Egypt, by Eduardo Navas

Note: This text reflects on Egypt’s revolution to reconsider the role of social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, in real life changes.

This text is also available on The Levantine Review and Vodule.com

A peaceful revolution against a regime that had been in power for 29 years sounds impossible until one evaluates the events that led to the fleeing of former President Hosni Mubarak out of Egypt on Friday, February 11. The Egyptian people were able to organize with the use of social media; it was Facebook that rose to the occasion. Needless to say that what happened in Egypt is undoubtedly of historical importance.

About a year ago Wael Ghonim, a thirty-something Google executive decided to create a Facebook group “We Are All Khalid Said,” named after a young man who was killed by the Egyptian police.[1] The Facebook group reached hundreds of thousands, and Ghonim used it to educate people about their rights as citizens. More recently, a youth group known as April 6 was inspired by the events in Tunisia; along with supporters of Mohamed ElBaradei (a nobel prize winner who is active in revitalizing the politics of Egypt), with whom Ghonim also collaborates, they decided to turn the Police Day Protest (which previously was linked to British suppression), scheduled for January 25, into something much bigger. Ghonim announced the event on Facebook, and about 100,000 people signed up.[2] The rest, needless to say, is history–Tahrir Square was filled with thousands of people, and they never left until Mubarak stepped down from office.


Brief Reflection on MJ, by Eduardo Navas

Image source: Solar Navigator

As I write this entry, the Internet is flowing with comments and information about Michael Jackson.  Here is my drop in the sea of data that will be archived in places people who adopt RSS as part of their daily life will never know exist.

As critical as I am about pop culture, I have to admit that Michael Jackson was ever-present in my growing years; the teenager in me mourns, while the critic cannot help but reflect on the implications of this unexpected and unfortunate death.  As sad as Jackson’s passing away is to millions of people, one cannot help but notice how media has changed in the way it handles celebrities and public figures. Just a few years ago there would have been some distance from the dark side of a person’s life.  This may still hold true for presidents of the United States as one hardly heard anything negative about Richard Nixon during his funeral.  Watergate had become so abstract that it could be cited as a historical moment with no major shame for the country or Nixon’s presidency.  This is the power of ahistoricity: people’s  lack of historical knowledge made possible by 24 hour news cycles.

But with Michael Jackson a different kind of mourning takes place. His accomplishments and setbacks are cited simultaneously.  Everywhere, from CNN to all major newspapers, like the NYTimes and El Pais in Spain, Michael Jackson is remembered for all his deeds–good and bad.  As he is remembered as the King of Pop, he is also remembered as a  person who was accused of child molestation (this was not proven in court).  He is subjected to the aesthetic of reality TV.

In a way this might be healthy for the way people perceive celebrities, as people may become more accepting of public figures’ shortcomings.  The sad thing is that scandals sell, and this is the last thing Michael Jackson is remembered for.  The King of Pop was planning a comeback, but this one was not to be.  He will be remembered as a  conflicted figure, who will inevitably be romanticized for his early production and his conflicted last years.

And now, it is time to settle for reissues of MJ’s music in whatever form networked culture will allow.  As I write these lines, files of Jackson’s songs are being swapped across the Internet–bootleg remixes made in bedrooms across the world to be shared in just minutes, while music executives figure out a way to cash in on MJ’s music legacy.    Such cash-in will be mixed and hard to control.  Michael Jackson dies in a time when things for the music industry are not so clear cut and no celebrity is perfect, and that imperfection in the end may mean more cash

He was a person who everyone knew through spectacular images.  He may have known himself through the same images as well.  As constant exposure rises with social networks, Michael Jackson, the most famous person vanishes.  Let this be a rupture in the era of networked media.  Michael Jackson is about to become an institution,  like Marilyn, like Presley, like Warhol.  He will live forever as a spectacular figure.  But let’s not forget that somewhere in there was a child who was trying to understand himself.  I may be accused of a bit of romanticism with this last statement.  Let it be. This is why I chose an early image of Michael Jackson to complement this short reflection on a celebrity I felt I knew, as I had no choice but to acknowledge him everywhere I turned as I grew up.  I accepted him as I was bombarded by his presence, just as I am now by the repetition of his spectacular absence.  I admit to have moonwalked.  RIP MJ.

REPOST: Google News Timeline Offers A New Way To Search The Past, by Erick Schonfeld

Image and text source: TechCrunch

Timelines are becoming an increasingly popular user interface. Today, Google Labs launched a new product called Google News Timeline, which lays out the top stories from Google News in columns for each day. You can scroll down to see more stories or, of course, can search for specific topics or keywords. (It also launched similar image search)

The timeline view gives you a snapshot of the major stories for each day, and you can drag the dates across to go back in time. It seems to favor Time Magazineand Wikipedia Events, although you can get rid of those results with a click. If you want to zero in on a particular topic, you can search for that term to see how a story has evolved over time. The timeline remembers your searches and saves them if you are logged in.

Read the entire text: TechCrunch

Found via Infosthetics

Obama Rickrolling a Mashup

Video-still source: YouTube

“Obama Roll” is a video mashup that has been making the rounds these last few days before the U.S. Presidential election.


The video is clever and funny, with a critical edge. It opens with Obama and Ellen Degeneres dancing to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” When Rick Astley begins to sing, clips of Obama from a number of his rallies are carefully edited to show the presidential candidate singing along with Rick Astley.

This video has developed a discourse of its own, as it was mashed up in a video response in which Senator McCain is shown during the Republican Convention presenting to the Republican audience the very same clip of Obama dancing and singing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TiQCJXpbKg

This second mashup appears quite believable and one can argue is even more successful but only because the “Obama Roll” mashup is quite effective to begin with. If not sure why the term “Roll” is included as part of the title, check out the brief definition of rickrolling on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rickroll

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