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

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“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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