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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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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.

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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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“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.

Im/material Regeneration by Eduardo Navas

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The following text was published in August of 2015 in the publication Seismographic Sounds: Visions of a New World, which accompanies a traveling exhibition with the same title.  More information can be found at http://norient.com/en/events/seismographic-sounds/

The book can be ordered at: http://norient.com/stories/book/

I would like to thank Theresa Beyer and Thomas Burkhalter for the opportunity to share an update on my definitions of Remix. This text is a short version of a much longer essay to be released in the future.

Download a PDF version of this text.

Remix/ Archive
Im/material Regeneration
Remix is at play in all areas of contemporary culture. Text, image and sound become easily accessible data that can be re-combined at will. Remix in music consisted of the reinterpretation of pre-existing songs by way of sampling. Today the copying/sampling of not just sound but all material from infinite sources challenges the «spectacular aura» of the pre-recorded original in order to claim autonomy.

By Eduardo Navas

Cultural production has entered a stage in which archived digital material can potentially be used at will; just like people combine words to create sentences, in contemporary times, people with the use of digital tools are able to create unique works made with splices of other pre-recorded materials. Due to the ubiquitous action of cut/copy & paste, output is at an ever-increasing speed. This process is possible because what is digitally produced in art and music, for instance, becomes part of an archive, particularly a database. The archived material begins to function like building blocks, optimized to be infinitely combined. 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. (more…)

Pictoplasma: White Noise, Eduardo Navas Interviewed on Remix and Sampling

Figure 1: “Do You Want Fries with that?” by  Ian Stevenson

The following is an interview conducted for the exhibition Pictoplasma: White Noise, curated by Lars Denicke and Peter Thaler, which took place at La Casa Encendida, Madrid Spain from May 23, to September 8, 2013. I was asked questions on how remix functions in art practice,  if there is a difference between remix and sampling, among other issues that the concept of remixing raises with digital and non-digital forms of production. This interview was released as part of a print publication that complemented the exhibit, but it was not made available online. I am now making it public because my answers raise issues that I have not discussed in other texts or interviews.   I thank Lars and Peter for their interest in my views on the subject of remix.

 

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Pictoplasma – Remix is what we all do now: cut/copy and paste. You have defined remix culture as the creative exchange of information made possible by digital technologies. Can one only speak of remix in cultural production if it is digital? Or if digital is not a prerequisite, how are analogue remixes embedded into digital culture? What is the difference between remixing and quoting or referencing?

E. Navas – First it should be noted that the concept of remixing is specific to contemporary times. Not everything is a remix – this is hard for me to say given that I was a DJ for almost 15 years (and would love to make such an overreaching claim), but it is precisely because I DJed for so long that I know that remixing is a very specific act. Having said that, the principles of remixing, or remix as discourse, have become important across culture, and this is why remix culture is so popular today, especially when discussing creativity as endorsed by Creative Commons.

When looking back in history you will notice that as a concept for daily creativity, remix was not that popular until remixing became a driving force in music, particularly in disco and hip hop. This means that the concept of remix is popular today not because anyone in particular decided to talk about it to promote some sort of organized movement, but rather because culture as a whole began to use the term to describe the type of creative production that is possible with contemporary technology. The reality is that remix is synonymous with the digital because it was the digital that made the concrete act of taking actual samples from recordings to then manipulate them into something new, while leaving the sampled source intact. This was not the case with collages, which were created by cutting out from images or photographs to create new compositions. In collages the”‘sampled” material was destroyed because it was cut out, but with digital technology, the sampled source is left intact, this was done before in photography, of course, starting in the 19th century. When you take a photograph you are sampling from real life, but the subject of your photograph remains untouched. People at this time, however, did not think about this as an act of sampling, but of recording. But in fact early photography was sampling from real life.

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A Modular Framework: Beyond Tautological History, by Eduardo Navas

A Modular Framework: Beyond Tautological History
Essay written for the exhibition A Modular Framework
CCESV, El Salvador
November 9 –December 17, 2010.
by Eduardo Navas

Note: This essay was written for the exhibition A Modular Framework, which took place at the Cultural Center of Spain in El Salvador, November 9 – December 17, 2010. The catalog was never published due to limitation of funds. I considered publishing this essay in art journals focused on Latin American Art, but the response by some was that it was either too specific and could not fit their specific theme at the moment, or that it read too much like an exhibition catalog essay which would not sit well outside of the context for which it was originally written. It has been nearly five years since I wrote the text, and I have decided to release it online, as part of my general research shared on Remix Theory. I am doing this because I believe that it is fair for the artists who participated in the exhibition to have access to the writing I produced. I also think that what I write in terms of critical theory and postcolonial studies may be of interest to people invested in Latin American Art.

Some of the issues raised in terms of the history of new media and Latin America may have changed since I wrote the essay in 2010. I leave it unchanged because I don’t see the point in updating the cultural context given that the exhibit was curated to reflect on the issues at play in 2010. Below is an excerpt. The full text can be downloaded in PDF format.

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A Modular Framework is an exhibition that brings together artists from Latin America, or artists who have ties to Latin America, and have been producing new media work since at least the mid-nineties, when new media and digital art began to take shape. Most of the works included in the exhibition are recent, and were chosen as examples of diverse and rigorous art practices. The artists, themselves, while they crossover into art practice at large, are pioneers in digital and new media art in their own countries and for this reason they were invited to participate in the exhibition.

A Modular Framework is the first of its kind in the Central American Region, and as such its purpose is to better acquaint the local culture with new media and digital art practice. At the same time, the exhibit is designed as a marking point, as a fragmentary modular assessment of the rich production of new media art by a specific set of artists who share similarities in their approach to the medium of digital art as a proper practice. The works included comment in one way or another on interconnectivity and possibilities of communication by exploring diverse interests in politics and aesthetics.  This diverse activity is the result of a long process of art production that is intertwined with global culture.  For this reason, before examining each of the selections, it is necessary to briefly outline the relation of new media and digital art practice in contemporary art history.

The Context of New Media and Digital Art
The type of work produced in new media and digital art is often linked by art and media historians to an interdisciplinary practice defined by the interest to move outside of the gallery as previously explored during the seventies with site-specific art, and especially conceptual and performance art.  Of these three, conceptualism has been more often presented as a predecessor of new media and digital art practice.   During the nineties, the Internet was viewed by emerging artists, who had online access, as a space in which to present work outside of not only the gallery but also their immediate locality.   Such developments have influenced how new media works are currently presented as objects of art in a physical space.  The works included in A Modular Framework reflect on this process, from different starting points.

Download the full text in PDF format.

Art Packets & Cultural Politics: A brief reflection on the work of Joelle Dietrick and Owen Mundy, by Eduardo Navas

Image: Joelle Dietrick and Owen Mundy, “Grid Sequence Me and The Sea is a Smooth Space,” 2013, Three Channel Projection Dimensions variable, Flashpoint Gallery, Washington D.C., Photographs by Brandon Webster

The following essay was published in Joelle Dietrick’s and Owen Mundy’s art catalog survey of their ongoing art collaboration titled Packet Switching, published at the end of 2014. A PDF of the actual catalog is available for download. I want to thank Joelle and Owen for inviting me to write about their work, which, as the essay should make evident, I consider an important contribution to contemporary media art practice.

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Joelle Dietrick’s and Owen Mundy’s ongoing body of work titled Packet Switching focuses on the relation among information exchange, architecture, and social issues. They examine and appropriate the action of data transfer across networks to show the major implications that these three cultural elements have at large.  Packet Switching, in technical terms, is straight-forward; it is designed to be practical, to transfer information over a network, broken into small pieces at point A then to be sent to point B, where it is put back together. Each packet does not necessarily take the same route, and may even go through different cities around the world before it gets to its final destination. The technology that makes this possible was first introduced as a strategic tactic by the U.S. Government to win The Cold War.

Throughout the 1950s and 60s the relation between the military and research universities was the foundation of our contemporary networked culture.[1]  Packet switching was used to send information from and to various centers across the United States. Such a decentralized system of intelligence was developed in case of a Soviet Attack. The network used for this information exchange eventually became the foundation of the Internet.[2] It is evident that delivering information from point A to point B was politically motivated, and in this sense its cultural implementation was pre-defined by the struggle for global power.

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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

 

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