Making a Case for the Remix
by Jessica Schreyer
The authors of this piece responded to a call to “compose a remix” based on Ferguson’s definition (“to combine and edit existing materials to produce something new.”) The process of composing can be considered a remix in and of itself as we all build upon thoughts we’ve had based on things we’ve seen, heard, and read, and as we incorporate our past experiences into our present understanding. However, remixes, more specifically, often directly incorporate those past pieces into the present work, in a sense paying homage to it or critiquing it. Of course, some may argue that the remixer is simply using work that is not theirs to use.
These authors took various pop culture references, videos, and pictures to compose a response to a proposed bill that would limit the ability to use copyrighted material to create remixes like this one. Generally, the authors have done an excellent job setting up why the bill proposed will hinder the creative process. Their argument mirrors Lessig’s (2008), who framed a compelling set of questions about whether there truly was a necessity for the remix; He asked,
“But why, as I’m asked over and over again, can’t the remixer simply make his own content? Why is it important to select a drumbeat from a certain Beatles recording? Or a Warhol image? Why not simply record your own drumbeat? Or paint your own painting? The answer to these questions is not hard if we focus again upon why these tokens have meaning. Their meaning comes not from the content of what they say; it comes from the reference, which is expressible only if it is the original that gets used. Images or sounds collected from real- world examples become “paint on a palette” (p. 74).
The important of the reference, then, is crucial. This remix makes reference to a variety of other creations–including South Park, which will appeal to the demographic the video seems to target – young people wanting to compose remixes. The faux newscast format makes this topic feel particularly current and important. In fact, building on this theme even further through more “staging” opportunities – like the chosen backdrops, clothing and more would have added to this effect. While the authors made use of a variety of effective persuasive techniques, and, in particular, cinematic effects throughout the video, in future remixes, they may want to consider the backdrop of the videos they selected, as, at times, the message is somewhat distracted from due to the scenery or clothing choices.
The composers were particularly adept at demonstrating what will happen if legal sanctions take away the right to remix. It seems the authors would like young people to be more vocal in their support of the right to use other work, and that they will take action to contact their lawmakers. Perhaps a call to contact their lawmakers through crafty remixes would be in order as well. Limits to remixing will no doubt take away creative options for composers. In our test-focused culture, we may face a continued decline in creative options in education, and remixing is an area that students readily and openly engage in. Let’s hope that lawmakers can distinguish between stealing copyrighted material and remixing it to make new creations, and that artists and authors of all kinds would support this movement. Lessig points out that remixes benefit society through the creation of community and education. This remix, in particular, attempts to build on both of these points. While this remix has strong arguments, they are at times conflated by talking about remixing various media in the same breath as arguing for the right to download content (music in particular) without paying for it. Perhaps maintaining focus on what will emerge through remixing would be more successful than arguing for free content or chastising wealthy artists.
When we remix, we ignite our imaginations, we challenge our intellect, and we create new visions for others. This video can help others see just how important that is.
Lessig, L. (2008). Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. New York: Penguin Books.