Remix is the Newest Artform!
Remix is the media, the ideas, the culture of the 21st century! A new way of thinking about creativity for a new, wired century!
Or is it?
Like so many developments in culture & technology, once you start to look at something “new” like Remix Culture with your new awareness, we start to find it all over the place and stretching back into human history. You could argue that the very definition of human culture is remix.
Good artists copy, great artists steal.
— Pablo Picasso
Even if the ideas and roots of Remix aren’t as new as we think, for sure the power of the software on our laptops & phones, combined with the speed of The Internet, add up to a real paradigm changer. You don’t need a computer at all to do “remix,” but they sure can offer remarkable possibilities, including the possibility to take from, and send to, other countries and continents in an instant.
As we discussed in class, and as Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute discusses in his video, Copyright isn’t inherently “good” or “bad,” but it does have affordances or tendencies. Copyright might promote one type of creativity and inhibit other types.
When this nation was founded Copyright was for 14 years renewable once. Over the years the term of copyright has been extended a number of times. Copyright today is for the life of the author plus 70 years. Let’s say that you write a poem today, and that you’re 20 years old today, and that you live to be 100. Under our original copyright, your poem would enter the Public Domain in 2043. With the current copyright provisions, your poem will be in copyright, and not legally remixable, until 2165.
In the future, more copyright extension, or conversely, copyright reform, are both possible. But today, Creative Commons represents a great alternative for those wanting to be a part of 21st century sharing and remix culture.
If you happen to own Mickey Mouse or Harry Potter, copyright is your friend. But if you want to remix music or mashup photos on your laptop, it might not be. Creative Commons lets you share your own work, and use the work of others. The 6 flavors of CC licenses offer a range from very free to very restrictive.
I personally like the Creative Commons, Attribution license. It pretty much lets anybody do anything with my work. That’s what I want. I don’t care about permissions and I don’t expect that NBC or the NY Times will ever want my work. I just want it to be available for whoever might like to do something with it.
Many people like the Creative Commons, Non-Commercial license. When you use this license you say that someone, a college student for example, could remix your stuff and put it on their not-for-profit website, but that if a for-profit entity like NBC or the NY Times wanted to use your stuff, they’d have to negotiate with you first and perhaps pay you. What’s cool about this license is that you totally enable new media sharing culture, while preserving your right to make money from old media if they ever get interested in your work.
The most restrictive license is Copyright All Rights Reserved, and the most open is Public Domain. In-between those 2 extremes are the 6 flavors of Creative Commons licenses. From these 8 choices, pick the one you want for your work, and paste the code on your About page.
Now on to your Activity for the week: try some remix! Remix anything you like. Words. Images. Audio. Video. Your remix doesn’t have to be electronic, you could also remix tapestry, sculpture, performance, or other physical or ephemeral media. Try whatever you like, and then document and discuss your activity in your blog post.
We’ll talk later about the idea of Algorithmic Art or Procedural Art. Like Remix these are ideas that go way back in time, but have found new agency and power in the computer age. The Algorists used computers, and artists like John Cage used chance operations like throwing I Ching coins to determine elements of his musical and visual compositions. You could write a poem by going to the Art110 Roster page, clicking on some of your all of your classmates websites and, for example, going to their latest blog post, selecting the 5th word from each person’s post, and then stringing those words together and formatting them like a haiku.
Many of you are familiar with SoundCloud. CC Mixter is another music sharing website. CC Mixter doesn’t have as pretty and friendly an interface as SoundCloud does, but CCM does have 2 very cool features:
- Every track on the site has a Creative Commons license.
- In addition to posting finished remixes, many artists post isolated tracks: a capella vocals, a drum track, a guitar riff, a sound sample.
CC Mixter is a great place for a remix artist to find all kinds of legal elements for your next project. Next time you’re sitting in the Starbucks in the CSULB University Library, instead of just reading web pages, you could be creating. If you don’t already have audio editing software, you could download a free program like Audacity.
If you want to try an audio remix, CC Mixter is a great choice. And if you want to try an image mashup, Flickr is great.
In Flickr you can search for anything you like in the search box in the upper-right. And then with the License drop-down in the upper-left you can choose to see the results that have the license you want. If you want an image to post as-is on your website, you could select Creative Commons Only. If you also wanted to remix that image, then you’d pick License > CC > Modifications Allowed.
Since Remix is so much about social production you might like to collaborate with some classmates. You could, for example, get a group of 5 people, have each person shoot 1 minute of video, and then give everyone all 5 videos. You could each edit your own video out of the group footage. You could try other variations or “rules” that let you work both collaboratively and independently.
Your Blog Post
Whatever your Remix Activity is, include it in your blog post. If it’s text or image-based, show it in your post. If it’s a physical remix, take a photo of it. If you remix audio or video, upload it to CCMixter, SoundCloud, Vimeo, YouTube, or a similar site, copy the embed code, and paste it in your blog.
In your write up, talk about:
- The freedom & fear, the empowerment & risks, of Internet Culture.
- Your thoughts about Copyright: is it working as is? Should it be strengthened, weakened, or modified?
- What license you’ve chosen for your work and why.
- Your experience of making your Remix piece. How did you do it? Did it come out as you expected? Were there surprises? Challenges? Insights?