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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.

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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.

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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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65I0HNvTDH4&feature=related

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

ReConstitution 2008: a political remix

Image and text source: ReConstitution 2008

Text taken directly from the site:

ReConstitution is a live audiovisual remix of the 2008 Presidential debates. There will be three performances in three cities, each coinciding with a live broadcast of the debates.

We’ve designed software that allows us to sample and analyze the video, audio, and closed captioned text of the television broadcast. Through a series of visual and sonic transformations we reconstitute the material, revealing linguistic patterns, exposing content and structures, and fundamentally altering the way in which you watch the debates.

The transformed broadcast is projected onto a movie screen for a seated audience.

Join us in witnessing these historical television broadcasts and in reshaping the medium that has reshaped politics for the last half century.

The legibility of the underlying debate is maintained throughout the performance—we don’t want you to miss a word of it.

Sosolimited is a Cambridge based crew of audiovisual designers and artists. For more information on their work, visit.

Thanks to Greg Smith for directing me to this work.

Ant Farm’s Cadillac Ranch Remixed

The above image is a photoshop composite by Steve Brown for the New York Times. The background was taken from the Getty Images archive. It is an illustration for the article Putting the Dream Car Out on the Pasture, published on July 27, 2008, which explains how people are coping with the high cost of gas prices.

As many people in the arts would know as well as those who love to take road trips, the above image borrows from Ant Farm’s famous land art piece “Cadillac Ranch,” in which Cadillacs were dumped into the ground at Amarillo, Texas. In 1997 it was moved a couple of miles from its original location. It is a disappointment that there is no reference to Ant Farm’s work. Below are some images of Ant Farm’s public art installation, along with comments by the people who took the pictures.

Image from Flickr

Quote: “The Cadillac Ranch just west of Amarillo is a famous Route 66 landmark. Built up in 1974 by said to be eccentric but brilliant millionaire Stanley Marsh 3 and The Ant Farm, this line of old Cadillacs are buried nose first into the ground. The angle of the cars are also reputed to be the same as the ancient pyramids at Cheops. The Cadillacs were moved further west in 1997 from its original location due to growth from nearby Amarillo. The Cadillac Ranch is another of the must see sights off the Mother Road.”
-RoadsidePeek.Com Website

Image and text from Treehugger

Quote: Ant farm was a group of artists and architects that, along with Archigram, was hugely influential among architecture students in the seventies, particularly if you were into mobile architecture, alternative technologies and dovetail joints. Many know about their Cadillac Ranch, which remains an iconic statement about the end of oil as it was in the last oil crisis; few, including Regine at Worldchanging know about their other work. However she does now, after seeing an exhibition of their work at the The Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo in Seville.

Car Repetition

The above image was taken by Fabrizio Constantini for the New York Times. It was used to illustrate the lack of car sales in the U.S. during the last few months. The title of the article is Car Sales at 10-Year Low. One cannot help but find some beauty in such lack, which is making possible other alternatives for transportation. Like the Zipcar.

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