“remix is a myth. Talk to the ISPs. 99% of illegal content is downloaded for consumption only. Barely anyone is remixing illegally.” Andrew Keen (@ajkeen) 7:22 AM Mar 26th
This is a Tweet/quote from the self-confessed Anti-Christ of Silicon Valley. I follow him on Twitter as a gnawing antidote to the breathless Web 2.0 enthusiasm that props up investments in infantilizing social media systems. Infantilization, illiteracy, amateurization these are the apocalyptic results according to Keen of Web 2.0 consumer ‘prod-usage.’ Partner this against the wisdom of the crowds, fan-fiction, citizen journalism, and social production of the Shirkey, Benkler, Jenkins breed of techno-optimism and we’ve got the making of a distorting debate certain to totally miss the ethnographic details of real life practice. By myth I follow sociologist Vincent Mosco in seeing myths as simultaneously both distortions of as well as possibilities for future action.
Despite Keen’s antagonism for antagonism’s sake sometimes he nails the hot air out of the right cyberpole at just the right time. I thought this Tweet about remix culture being a rhetorical device and not a practiced reality was so right on I reTweeted it to Facebook. An exchange amongst fellow Savage Mind Dustin Wax (Oneman) and other Savage readers followed. This is reposted with the A-OK of everyone involved. Thanks to media scholars/anthros Dustin Wax, Kim Christen, and Daniel Taghioff for running with it.
Adam Fish remix is myth. 99% of content is downloaded for consumption. Barely anyone remixes. Remix is not a valid argument for copyleft. TH @ajkeen
Dustin M. Wax That’s cuckoo. That’s like saying macaroni art is myth because 99% of macaroni is eaten. Barely anyone makes macaroni portraits. But edge cases aren’t non-cases.
Adam Fish Yes, remix exists but not in the meaningful volumes to warrant it the legal utility and scholarly attention it receives. Where would H. Jenkins and Larry Lessig be without those few elite tools with the spare money and leisure to remix? By myth I mean a happy distortion and possible lie.
George Grader copyleft is copyright’s annoying little brother?
Kim Christen OMG! thx for saying this Adam, I completely agree that it gets WAY more attention than it warrants!
Dustin M. Wax I might be missing some vital background info here, but I think I disagree. Remix might be just a tiny percentage of potential uses of media, but it has a disproportionate impact on the development of a culture than “plain” consumption. To take a prominent example, Danger Mouse making the “Grey Album” has a greater effect on us than someone else listening to either the “White Album” or the “Black Album”.
I agree that it is a way of interacting with media that is not typical, but I think it attracts more attention, and needs greater protection than “mere” consumption, precisely because it is atypical and disproportionately influential.
Kim Christen Dustin, it may be the anthropologist in me, but how might one actually quantify the “effect” or “impact” that the “Grey Album” has on someone, or even some collective like “music listeners” etc? and how would you quantify that versus some other album or work that is or is not a “remix”?
Dustin M. Wax Kim, it may be the anthropologist in me, but I wouldn’t. I’m the Anti-Quant. That said, the comparison isn’t between remix and non-remix production — I wouldn’t even try to compare the influence of the Grey Album against the influence of the Beatles’ or Jay-Z’s albums. The comparison Adam set up is remix vs. non-remix consumption
The other issue, though, is a concern. How do we apprehend and understand the way that consumers interact with creative media? To be honest, I had the same question in mind when I wrote the comment above, and I decided to ignore it because this is Facebook and I can be stupider here than in real life.
But since you asked, I’d say that we have never adequately theorized the relationship between readers/viewers/listeners and their media. This is actually a major stumbling block for people who want to make the case that, for example, watching porn causes misogyny or playing violent video games causes desensitization to real-life violence (or their counterarguments, e.g. that watching porn helps people express themselves sexually or that playing video games helps people channel aggression in non-hurtful ways).
That said, to my mind, remix culture encourages the creation of new material for interpretation, so that where there was Work X and Work Y in our culture before, now there is Work X, Work Y, and Work Z, the Remix. And since the remix, by positioning disparate works in new relations, encourages different interpretations, it leads to new culture. More semy to get poly on, so to speak. In effect, it multiplies the act of consumption/interpretation simply by being more.
Adam, I apologize for hijacking this thread. Doesn’t mean I’ll stop, but I’ll be appropriately contrite for not stopping 🙂 We should have this discussion at Savage Minds; Facebook’s not exactly a public forum!
Kim Christen hey, Dustin, I see we are fellow banana slugs! all good questions, i still agree with Adam’s original post–or at least the sentiment behind it =)!
Dustin M. Wax Yay banana slugs! You should just agree with me — it’s so much easier 🙂
But my concern is the notion that there are certain parts of our culture that can and should be locked down. From one perspective, all consumption is remixing, since I never hear a song the way you do, and neither of us hears it the way the artist(s) did. We’re always mixing in parts of our own cultural experience and personal history, and always placing everything into relation with the rest of our media experience. The draconian copyright laws we live under now pretend that this isn’t the case, which would be ok (pretend away, doesn’t make it so) except for the fact that they then limit the admittedly small percentage of people who make new media using other media as their medium — which is to say, who concretize, or would concretize, those tacit remixes into new material culture. That’s what bothers me about Adam’s original post, the idea that less restrictive legal frameworks aren’t needed because so few people are restricted by existing ones.
Kim Christen I think you read A LOT more into what Adam posted than I did…however, if you’re interested in my take on remix you can read my article “Gone Digital: Aboriginal Remix and the Cultural Commons” or “Access and Accountability in the Digital Age” –on my blog here: http://www.kimberlychristen.com/?page_id=4
Adam Fish Remix and other bricolage are ancient and rich form of innovation. The few that do it can be influential. Today a not insignificant number of people attach unlicensed music to their Youtube personal videos, but few really make the virtuosic remix of the Grey album or Kirby Dick’s pirated flick This Movie is Not Yet Rated. The influence these rogue artworks have can’t be measured on the subjectivity of the consumer–and that isn’t anthropology but 1960s communication studies. The influence of remix culture is on the possibility for future practices. That is the threat to restrictive copyright laws–the limiting of the realm of imagination and practical possibility. I see and hear this all the time in my work as an video documentarian educator. Every hack who can barely open her Macbook or color correct her camera is suddenly totally worried about the presence of a passing corporate logo or some ambient muzak in her documentary. Right now I am editing a documentary about a hunger strike in the Himalayan mountains. We have old TV news and BBC documentary clips that I am using however I want. When and if this documentary become worth any money, the distributor’s lawyer will work it out.
The point is to make stuff.
In my ethnographic work with user-generated TV network, Current, I have witnessed a network willing to pay for short, mediocre quality documentaries be mostly ignored by all but 200 core producers. The wanted 10,000s, an army of citizen journalists and did everything they could to make it. They failed because of lack of interest and skill. Of those 200 take a guess about the class/education of the viewer-creators. This is not a leveling or democratization of media production.
Remix is important, hybridity is a source of innovation, to do it at all or well takes considerable talent and resources, that only a few elites have. But more sinisterly, copyright laws have colonized the consciousness of would-be producers, creating a culture of fear that limits creativity–it is this that we must overcome.
If you are one of the lucky few compelled or resourced to, make the hybrid artwork.
Daniel Taghioff Adam, I like this. You seem to be critiqueing a very old negative notion of liberal freedom “leave me alone” which is embedded in a lot of very “new” thinking.
Hence the massive emphasis on remix, hybridity etc, since it goes with discourses that emphasise difference and diversity, whilst masking out what we have in common.
This makes it easy to ignore things like…. Healthcare to pick a totally random example. Or socioeconomics to revive a terribly outdated idea (Oh actually you just did that, maybe it is safe to mention it. How about inequality?)
Yes creativity and creative freedom is very important, just look at Apple’s bottom line, but what about the underlying conditions that support (or not) creative or even human agency in general?
This is hardly a new idea, Amartya Sen get there in economics a few decades ago, picking up an stuff even Adam Smith was on about, and yet the cutting edge media / culture debates seem not to have really picked up on this.
This is not to ignore new left critiques of mechanical approaches to socio-economics (class applied as a literal category etc…) but surely given that we live in the most unequal world humans have ever witnessed, this overwhelming emphasis on the particular, the hybrid, the creative, the product-innovative is more than a little bit like looking at the differences in leaf structure in order to ignore that someone owns 90% of the trees and is planning on cutting them all down for an enormous bonfire.
Daniel Taghioff As for copyright, has anyone seriously sat down and run econometrics on which models of creator’s monopoly would lead to the most aggregate benefit to society? Which model would be most progressive, and create incomes where they are most needed also?
I doubt it, because it is an area where the moneyed few are rather at odds with the many. Sure copyright has a role in the general maintenance of wealth, but what role is it best even from an economic perspective? Why is this question so little asked?
Surely qualitative work about how media are used and consumed, and so on could inform that? Why assume that dividing qual and quant is good? Qualies have carved out a niche in Anglo-Saxon academia no, why be so antagonistic?