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The Elements of Selectivity: After-thoughts on Originality and Remix.

Selectivity_Diagram

Figure 1: Diagram showing the tautological process of meaning creation.

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The following are edited notes, which can be considered a theoretical mashup from a number of presentations which took place during the Fall of 2017, specifically on October 10 at the Arts & Design Research Incubator (ADRI), Penn State, on October 11 at The University of Caldas in Manizales Colombia, on November 1 at The University of Bern, Bern Switzerland, and as a lecture at Karen Keifer-Boyd’s graduate seminar class at Penn State on November 8. I was fortunate to have received ample feedback on what I presented, which led to the current set of notes I now share. I want to thank everyone who made my presentations possible, during what turned out to be a very busy, but intellectually fruitful period in 2017. In the lectures, I was able to explore the relation of the elements of selectivity (modify, add, delete) in relation to the cultural state of meta, which is the stage in which we create cultural value, and the different forms of remix. These notes, as is the case with much of my writing, are in the process of making their way in remixed fashion to different publications. In effect, the section titled, “The Elements of Meta” is already part of the closing chapter in my book Art, Media Design, and Postproduction: Open Guidelines on Appropriation and Remix (Routledge, 2018).

Challenges of Remix

When we think of remixing, most likely it is remixing byway of material sampling that comes to mind (taking a piece of an actual music recording). But remix principles are also at play in terms of cultural citation (making reference to an idea, or a style, story, etc). The difference between these two forms of recycling content and concepts can be noticed when examining the forms of the medley and the megamix. The medley is usually performed by a band, while a megamix is composed in the studio usually by a DJ producer, who understands how to manipulate breaks on the turntables.

When considering this difference and evaluating how sampling functions in the megamix (which is basically an extended mashup of many songs), it becomes evident 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 because a remix is based on samples. While a sample is quantifiable, a cultural reference (citation) is not, and may not even be noticed by an audience, thus making the material performed appear original. Due to the ability to trace samples back to their sources, given that they are recordings, 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 source of the sample and prove on material grounds that the sample was an act of plagiarism.

[…]

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Book: Keywords in Remix Studies Now Available

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Cover concept by Eduardo Navas, Owen Gallagher and xtine burrough
Cover image: DJHughman

xtine burrough, Owen Gallagher, I are  very happy to share the news that Keywords in Remix Studies is now available. It was released on November 28, 2017 in both hard copy, paperback as well as ebook.  We thank our colleagues who contributed rigorous chapters to a second anthology on remix studies.  We hope the remix community finds the book of interest as a contribution to the ongoing reevaluation of remix as a creative and critical form of cultural production. The book is available among major sellers. The easiest way to buy it is on Amazon or directly from Routledge. Below is the abstract plus the table of contents.

Keywords in Remix Studies consists of twenty-four chapters authored by researchers who share interests in remix studies and remix culture throughout the arts and humanities. The essays reflect on the critical, historical and theoretical lineage of remix to the technological production that makes contemporary forms of communication and creativity possible. Remix enjoys international attention as it continues to become a paradigm of reference across many disciplines, due in part to its interdisciplinary nature as an unexpectedly fragmented approach and method useful in various fields to expand specific research interests. The focus on a specific keyword for each essay enables contributors to expose culture and society’s inconclusive relation with the creative process, and questions assumptions about authorship, plagiarism and originality. Keywords in Remix Studies is a resource for scholars, including researchers, practitioners, lecturers and students, interested in some or all aspects of remix studies. It can be a reference manual and introductory resource, as well as a teaching tool across the humanities and social sciences.

 

Introduction
Eduardo Navas, Owen Gallagher, xtine burrough

1 Appropriation
Authored in Collaboration with Contributors

2 Archive
Richard Rinehart

3 Authorship
John Vallier

4 Bricolage
Annette N. Markham

5 Collaborative
Aram Sinnreich

6 Consumerism
Pau Figueres

7 Copyright/Fair Use
Patricia Aufderheide

8 Cut-up
Janneke Adema

9 Creativity
xtine burrough and Frank Dufour

10 Deconstruction
David J. Gunkel

11 DIY Culture
Akane Kanai

12 Fan Culture
Joshua Wille

13 Feminism
Karen Keifer-Boyd and Christine Liao

14 Intellectual Property
Nate Harrison

15 Jazz
T Storm Heter

16 Location
Dahlia Borsche, translated by Jill Denton

17 Mashup
Nate Harrison and Eduardo Navas

18 Memes
Authored in Collaboration with Contributors

19 Parody
Mark Nunes

20 Participatory Politics
Henry Jenkins and Thomas J Billard, with Samantha Close, Yomna Elsayed, Michelle C. Forelle, Rogelio Lopez, and Emilia Yang

21 Remix
Eduardo Navas

22 Sampling
Owen Gallagher

23 Transformative
Francesca Coppa and Rebecca Tushnet

24 Versioning
Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky

“Mashup the Archive and Dividual Agency,” essay for exhibit at Iwalewahaus

MashupBooksShot

Image: photo of copies of art catalogue for the exhibition Mashup the Archive. My thanks to Nadine Seigert and Sam Hopkins for inviting me to participate in the events for the opening during the month of June 2015.

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This text is different from others I have written. It is in part a transcription of a presentation I gave for a roundtable discussion at Bayreuth for the exhibit Mashup, on June 1, 2015.[1] I expanded the basic transcription to revisit my definitions of remix. What is unique of this text is the elaboration of the remix diagram [Figure 1], which in the past I have included in different publications as a visual reference, but have not referred to directly as each term is discussed. Some of the material that follows below was not part of my actual presentation but is added to emphasize remix as a variable at play in Mashup the Archive. The last part of this essay, in particular, is based on the discussion that took place during our panel presentation. It is a reflection on questions about the future of the archive, and who can use it. The text itself, in a way, is a selective remix because its foundation is the transcription of my roundtable presentation to which I added and deleted selected material. This basic form of remix is explained further in what follows. Because of its hybrid format, the text may appear to go on brief tangents, or include comments that are normal in a conversation, but which may not be expected in a formal paper. This text effectively functions between spaces. It borrows from moments in time and makes the most of them to put into practice the theories upon which it reflects.

Introduction

I would like to start by thanking everyone for making this roundtable possible, Sam Hopkins, Nadine Siegert, and Ulf Vierke from the Iwalewahaus, and my fellow panel participants Beatrice Ferrara, Nina Huber, and Mark Nash who joined me during the roundtable discussion. My focus on this occasion is on the interrelation of the mashup, the archive and what I will call dividual agency[2] in accordance to principles of remixing. I will first define remix and the mashup in music and relate it to contemporary culture in general; then I will evaluate the mashup in relation to the archive and authorship by generally reflecting on the exhibit at the Iwalewahaus.

[1] I thank Lucie Ameloot for the transcription.
[2] I take the concept of the dividual from Gilles Deleuze, who discusses the concept of a set (a closed system), which changes as it is divided into parts. See Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1: The Movement Image (Minneapolis: Minnesota Press, 1986), 14-15.

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Essay: Rhetoric and Remix: Reflections on Adorno’s Minima Moralia

minimaMoraliaSnapshot

“Rhetoric and Remix: Reflections on Adorno’s Minima Moralia” was published as part of The Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric, Volume 7, Issue 2/3. I want to thank David Beard and Lisa Horton for including my work in a special issue focusing on remix. The essays comprised in the volume are written by important scholars who often focus on remix. I am honored to be part of this collection. Below are the first few paragraphs of my essay. You may download the actual document from the journal’s website. I also make it available on Remix Theory for download.

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Rhetoric broken down to its most basic element can be called “the art of speaking well.”[1] In terms of contemporary times, it could be rewritten as “the art of remixing well,” given that we are able to extend our views using pre-existing material almost in real time using different media formats. Remix [and rhetoric] is the use of all media for communication by way of appropriation, repurposing, copying and mimicking.

Scott Church explains that the process of selection in remix is rhetorical because the remixer chooses a sample over another.[2] This is an act of selectivity that is vital to contemporary forms of production, whether they be highly acclaimed works of art, or a basic e-mail message that includes pasted content that a person may want to share with another person. My remix of Minima Moralia, which I titled Minima Moralia Redux, from this standpoint is a rhetorical work that, by way of appropriation, updates Adorno’s book as an online project.[3]

Minima Moralia Redux functions as both a work of art and a data analytics research project, which enables me and I hope can help others in understanding how individuals develop works that appear to be autonomous and credited to a single person, but which in reality are only possible because many people are willing to share ideas and resources. It is my hope that we can eventually move past ideas of single authorial works to more open approaches that do justice to the way culture is actually produced in terms of collective knowledge exchange. For this reason, the following focuses on how I appropriate and remix Adorno’s work. I do not discuss his critical position in detail, although I do mention it to contextualize the remix process.

I posted Minima Moralia’s Redux’s first entry on October 16, 2011. The goal, at the time, was to write an entry every week until the 153 aphorisms comprising Adorno’s book were remixed. The initial goal was to finish the project within three years, but as things developed, it became evident that it would take much longer to finish. As I did research on Adorno, I inevitably developed related interests and ideas that took me in other directions, and led to different projects and publications. For this reason, at the time of this writing (2017) I am about half way through Adorno’s 153 aphorisms, and it is not clear when I will eventually finish remixing his book. But for now I can reflect on how the project started, where it stands, and how what I have produced can be reconsidered in terms of remix and rhetoric.

[1] This is a direct quote by the Roman rhetorician Quintillian which was previously quoted in an essay that discusses the relation of rhetoric and remix at length, see Scott H. Church, “A Rhetoric of Remix,” The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies, eds. Eduardo Navas, Owen Gallagher, xtine Burrough (New York: Routledge, 2014), 43.

[2] Ibid, 44.

[3] Early reflections on what I discuss in this section can be found in the blog posts: “about” http://minimamoraliaredux.blogspot.com/p/about.html, accessed February, 15, 2017 “Preliminary Notes on Analysis of Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia,” http://remixtheory.net/?p=820, accessed, February 15, 2017. Minima Moralia Redux can be viewed at http://minimamoraliaredux.blogspot.com/.

 

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Upcoming Book: Keywords in Remix Studies

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Cover concept by Eduardo Navas, Owen Gallagher and xtine burrough
Cover image: DJHughman

I have not posted for many months, the reason being that I have been working on several writing projects. One of them will be released very soon. The cover for Keywords in Remix Studies, to be published by Routledge later this year, has been released. I am so happy to have been able to collaborate once again with xtine burrough and Owen Gallagher. I hope everyone finds the book of relevance in terms of remix as a creative field. Below is a brief description.

Amazon

Routledge

Abstract

Keywords in Remix Studies consists of twenty-four chapters authored by researchers who share interests in remix studies and remix culture throughout the arts and humanities. The essays reflect on the critical, historical and theoretical lineage of remix to the technological production that makes contemporary forms of communication and creativity possible. Remix enjoys international attention as it continues to become a paradigm of reference across many disciplines, due in part to its interdisciplinary nature as an unexpectedly fragmented approach and method useful in various fields to expand specific research interests. The focus on a specific keyword for each essay enables contributors to expose culture and society’s inconclusive relation with the creative process, and questions assumptions about authorship, plagiarism and originality. Keywords in Remix Studies is a resource for scholars, including researchers, practitioners, lecturers and students, interested in some or all aspects of remix studies. It can be a reference manual and introductory resource, as well as a teaching tool across the humanities and social sciences.

Spate: A Navigational Theory of Networks

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I am very happy to share news about my book Spate: A Navigational Theory of Networks. Published by The Institute of Network Cultures (INC).  The book is free for download; a print copy can also be ordered online.

Spate: a Navigational Theory of Networks is a critical and theoretical reflection on networked communication, developed with repurposed tweets (@poemita) posted between 2010 and 2014. The original tweets, which were written as critical commentary about online communication and information exchange, have been rewritten from different points of view to develop five chapters. The five chapters function as an anti-story about multiple perceptions within a decentralized network.

I want to thank the Geert Lovink, Miriam Rasch, Leonieke van Dipten, and Léna Robin at The Institute of Network Cultures for supporting the realization of Spate.

“Regenerative Culture” by Eduardo Navas

EinstViz

«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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Excerpt:

Introduction

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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Keywords: A Remix of Culture and Society

KeywordsRemix

A Project by Eduardo Navas

“Keywords: A Remix of Culture and Society” is an online project which takes all of the terms that Raymond Williams published in his book Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (Oxford, 1976), and provides the top search results on Google. The principle behind this project is to evaluate how the terms Williams considered important in order to understand culture and society in the middle of the twentieth century currently flow on the Web.

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“Culture and Remix: A Theory on Cultural Sublation” excerpt from The Routledge Companion, by Eduardo Navas

In late 2014/early 2015, I co-edited, along with xtine Burrough and Owen Gallagher, The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies. My chapter contribution to the anthology is “Culture and Remix: A Theory on Cultural Sublation.” Part of the introduction follows below. If interested, the chapter can be perused on Google books. Use Firefox for best results.

CULTURE AND REMIX
A Theory on Cultural Sublation
Eduardo Navas

Remix culture is a term increasingly used to explain basic principles of creativity and individual expression since the mid- to late 1990s.[1] Given its common usage, the nature of the compound-term’s dependence on a complex history may not seem obvious. When evaluating the relation of remix to culture at times one may ask, “What kind of culture are we becoming when we consider remixing an important element in creative production?” And, “What exactly is culture?” In this line of questioning, it becomes evident that in order to understand in depth what role remix plays in culture it is necessary to define with precision the term “culture.” This should make possible a discussion about the possibilities and limitations of remix, not only in terms of remix culture, which is a concept in large part informed and shaped by Creative Commons, but also culture in the larger context of history. The following, then, is a brief analysis in which I first define culture to then evaluate its relation to remix. The concept of the avant-garde is presented as a cultural example in which remixing is at play explicitly on two layers that I define as the framework of culture.[2] I also analyze how social media relies on the framework of culture to develop a new type of economy. This analysis will expose the reasons why, historically, creative production appears to resist established patterns of production, but eventually is sublated by cultural economies and becomes vital to capital as a whole.

Culture Defined

All cultural critics (as their title implies) have to assume a concise idea of culture. Two cultural critics who have taken the time to define culture at length are Raymond Williams, who published his theories around the 1950s, and Terry Eagleton, who became an authority as a surveyor of culture, due to his focus on the subject particularly in the 1980s. Eagleton defines culture by referencing the definitions of Williams, as well as T. S. Eliot. In Eagleton’s definition, one comes away with a sense of culture defined, unapologetically, by the West. He argues that as Western thought has spread throughout the world, it has been able to make claims to a certain way of thinking that affects other cultures that did not hold Western values.[3] Eagleton also points out that culture originates in nature and is defined by labor. Culture is nature modified according to the interests of individuals who perform a specific form of manual work: “We derive our word for the finest of human activities from labour and agriculture, crops and cultivation.”[4] Eagleton discusses at some length how culture developed a sense of resistance, especially in the nineteenth century; for him, such resistance has links to the rise of the avant-garde during the same time period.

According to Raymond Williams, the fact that art became a value in and of itself at times separated from everyday life was the result of a preoccupation with cultural changes that started around 1790, and climaxed around 1945. Part of the cultural struggle  since the end of World War II, Williams argues, had been to find ways to reintegrate the value of art back into the everyday.[5] Williams divides the separation of art and everyday life into three stages: the first from 1790 to 1870, when industrialism rapidly developed; the second from 1870 to 1914, when specializations started to become the norm; and finally, 1914 to 1945, a time when the specializations of the second period kept developing, but became complicated by the rise of mass media and large corporations.[6]\

Peruse the chapter on Google books. Use Firefox for best results.

“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.

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