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Archive by March, 2013

Text Release: Modular Complexity and Remix: The Collapse of Time and Space into Search, by Eduardo Navas

Note: This text was written for the peer review Journal AnthroVision 1.1 | 2012 : First issue. It was published in September of 2012. It is released here with permission from the editors. A special thanks to Nadine Wanono and the peer reviewers for all their support in the process of revising and publishing the text.  This essay is the first formal release of my post-doc research for The Department of Information Science and Media Studies at The University of Bergen, Norway in collaboration with The Software Studies Lab at Calit2, University of California, San Diego during the period of 2010-2012. I will be releasing more of my research in the near future. For now, you may also look over related material, available under Projects.

For proper text citation use:

Référence électronique
Eduardo Navas, « Modular Complexity and Remix: The Collapse of Time and Space into Search  », Anthrovision [En ligne], 1.1 | 2012, mis en ligne le 01 septembre 2012, consulté le 15 mars 2013. URL : http://lodel.revues.org/10/anthrovision/324

Download and read the complete article: DownLoad PDF

Excerpt:

If postmodernity consisted of the collapse of time into space, then the time of globalization at the beginning of the twenty-first century consists of the collapse of time and space into search.  Culture has entered a stage in which time and space are redefined by modular access to knowledge in unprecedented fashion with the use of search engines. Search redefines the way people come to terms with historical developments that are constantly recycled and remixed with the use of new media technology.  A search is usually performed with engines such as Google and Bing; technology that is founded on research that brings together private and public interests.

This text is a reflection on the implications behind search algorithms that provide people with material that is relevant in correlation to a hierarchy of supposed importance that may reach great popularity, and perhaps even go viral (large circulation online) according to the use of key terms known as meta-data. This text is an evaluation of the aesthetics of search made possible because of what I call modular complexity; meaning, the ability to function within a system of modules that are autonomous but that also effectively inform and redefine each other.[1]  This, in effect, leads to the collapse of time and space into search; meaning, if the postmodern gave way to a sense of historical dismissal, such attitude is fully at play in networked culture as ahistoricity.  This shift, which informs emerging markets on the global network, repurposes interdisciplinary methodologies across fields of research in the social sciences as well as the humanities.

[1] I first introduce the concept of Modular Complexity in the Essay “Remix: The Ethics of Modular Complexity in Sustainability,” written for CSPA Journal’s Spring 2010 issue.  See: http://remixtheory.net/?p=461

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The Framework of Culture: Remix in Music, Art, and Literature, by Eduardo Navas

Image: The four diagrams of The Framework of Culture. Each is discussed below.

Note: This text was commissioned for the exhibition Reuse Aloud, taking place at the NewBridge Project Space, Newcastle, England; and broadcasting 24 hours a day on basic.fm throughout March, 2013. Many thanks to the curators Will Strong and Rosanna Skett for commissioning the text.  A recorded version is also part of the exhibition.

An earlier version of this text was presented as my keynote speech for Remixed Media Festival in NYC.  In that occassion I only focused on literature. The version for Reuse Aloud was revised to include art and music as well. My thanks to Tom Tenney, director of the NYC festival for giving me the opportunity to test my ideas in front of a very receptive audience.

This text can also be downloaded as a PDF, which is friendlier for print, or for reading on tablets: NavasFrameNC_Web

Introduction

We live in a time when the self-awareness of recycling of material and immaterial things is almost taken for granted. I state almost because, as the following analysis demonstrates, the potential of recycling as a creative act in what we refer to as remix is in constant friction with cultural production. Consequently, the purpose of this essay is to demonstrate the importance of remix as a practice worthy of proper recognition exactly because of its ability to challenge the mainstream’s ambivalent acceptance of aesthetic and critical production that relies on strategies of appropriation, recycling, and recontextualization of material.

Proper recognition is only worthy when it is an attestation of a particular achievement, which can only come about through struggle. Arguably a type of struggle that is certainly recognized and even celebrated quite often, (which admittedly makes for romantic narratives) is the basic human struggle: the will to live. We can think of struggle here as a term spanning across all types of activities, from war to natural disasters—many which are now commonly shared all over the world.

But to begin with a more basic premise, struggle in its most abstract form can simply consist of reflecting on the pain of self-awareness; of having the burden of knowing that we just exist and, for the most part, will do anything to make sure that we will exist for as long as possible. Many of us are willing to find ways to extend our lives before we take our last breath. Others, admittedly, will struggle to leave this world as soon as possible; thus, it may be suicide the subject of struggle in such cases. But this brief reflection on struggle as a humanistic preoccupation is mentioned because we diligently have extended it to everything we produce. It is an important ingredient in what we may call progress.  As romantic as it may sound, human beings have the tendency to struggle in order to be better; whatever that means. And as we have grown as a complex global society, we have been able to extend our struggle on to and through media.

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Some notes on Simon Reynolds’s Call for Originality, Eduardo Navas

Image source: slate, by Laura Terry.

Back in October of 2012 Simon Reynolds wrote a passionate piece on Remix Culture for Slate magazine titled “Your Are not a Switch” in which he calls out mainly scholars who are using the reference of the DJ and remixing to discuss issues of originality, and especially in his view, questioning the concept of the “genius.”  For me what is striking about Reynolds’s position is that he goes over much of the literature that has been produced for the last few years claiming that all of the authors (amazing that all of them,  a bit essentialist on his part disappointingly), especially those in academia are guilty of dismantling the originality in creativity.  To make a sweeping statement like this is troublesome enough but there is more.

As much as I like Reynolds’s research, including his most recent book titled Retromania, I have to say that his article is long-winded and does not contribute anything new, not even a strong counter-argument against the authors he calls out.  Reynolds appears to want to celebrate the artist as genius, and to do this he claims at the end of his article that there is something to the process of coming up with new material based on a unique interpretation.  Well, this is not so different from what some  of the authors that he is critiquing are saying.  In fact, this is the whole point of the books, such as Synreich’s Mashed up, or Amerika’s Remixthebook.  Perhaps it’s the “academic” or (I prefer) the systematic and rigorous approach of some of the publications that may come off as a way of killing the potential of creativity that is misread by Reynolds.  But to understand the grammar of a process, to understand the history, to understand the politics of a cultural activity does not mean that such an activity, in this case creativity, will whither. It simply means that we will understand it better and we need to because the process of borrowing from and being inspired by others now has turned into a material conflict that is finely tuned with economics.

I’m talking about copyright conflicts, of course. We need to understand the process of creativity because we need to make sure that it keeps flowing as it always has. With new technology we are able to archive more of that process and all that is archived becomes commodity in some way. This is really what is at play at the moment in, yes, all of the books and essays Reynolds is critical of; they are  contributions to overcoming such an impasse. And is creativity or the concept of the genius being redefined in this process? Yes.  But all things change, they evolve.  It’s the way we function.  We cannot hold on to some idea of genius or originality as it functioned in the past.  Just like photography redefined painting, just like the computer redefined just about every aspect of daily life, the concepts of the genius and originality are also being redefined.  And this is not a bad thing at all.

—–

I share a couple of paragraphs from Reynolds’s text below:

Many of these polemics make allusions to DJ culture in their titles: Mark Amerika’sremixthebook, Kirby Ferguson’s video essays and website Everything Is A RemixArram Sinnreich’s Mashed Up.Remixing and mashups are familiar—indeed, somewhat tired—notions in dance culture, but in critical circles they enjoy modish currency because they seem to capture something essential about the cut-and-paste sensibility fostered by digital culture. Likewise, the Internet’s gigantic archive of image, sound, text, and design has encouraged a view of the artist as primarily a curator, someone whose principal modes of operation involve recontextualization and connection-making.

As a neutral description of the current state of the art in many fields, this would be fine. But recreativists don’t just champion these practices, they make grand claims about the essentially recycled nature of all art. In Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling, authors Kembrew McLeod and Peter DiCola quote the DJ Matt Black’s assertion that “humans are just sampling machines … that’s how we learn to paint and make music.” In an opinion piece for NPR, Alva Noë discussed contemporary anxieties about plagiarism in a cut-and-paste era and defended quotation as an artistic practice. But instead of stopping there, he also asserted that “sampling is nothing new, not in art, and not in life … Evolution, whether in biology, or in technology and culture, is never anything other than a redeployment of old means in new circumstances.* We use the old to make the new and the new is always old.” Much the same idea crops up in Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist, a sort of self-help manual for modern creatives. Kleon moves quickly from “every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or more previous ideas” to insisting that “you are the sum of your influences” and that “you’re a remix of your mom and dad.”

 Read the complete article at Slate

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