Tag Archives: remix

Grading and Voting

This morning, I’m listening to OverClocked ReMix radio over at Rainwave. I enjoy the complex interactivity of the voting system, which allows me both to rate songs I’ve heard and vote on which of 3 upcoming songs I want to hear.

A few minutes ago, though, I had a new thought: as someone who regularly grades student work, including short, informal, online work, do I vote differently than someone else who doesn’t have those judging/scoring/grading habits as deeply ingrained? Or, more perversely, is my grading behavior affected by my habits voting on music on this site?

Here’s an annotated screenshot of what the voting area of the screen looks like:

Annotated screenshot of ocr.rainwave.cc

With videogame remix music (or ReMix music, they would say), there’s a fun interplay of influences guiding my voting. I might choose a given song because:

  • I know the game and love its music
  • I know the original game’s composer and love his/her music
  • I know the ReMixer and love his/her ReMixes
  • I’ve previously rated how much I like the other 2 tunes on the docket, so I want to hear one I’ve never rated before
  • The average rating for a tune is higher than the others
  • The average rating for tunes from a given game is higher than the others

There’s something satisfying about quickly (almost instantly, sometimes) skimming the list of upcoming tracks, voting on which should come next, and then rating the currently playing track. It’s intuitive, sometimes hard to describe, and felt, as opposed to a solidly logical choice based on definable traits of the upcoming tracks. I could have a rubric to try to make my choices make more sense to outsiders, but that rubric would only go so far.

I hope my grading is more consistent and outcomes-driven than that, but especially on small assignments that earn a check, check plus, or check minus, there’s still an intuitive, emotion-tinged, bodily aspect to the decision that can never be wholly explained to another person. And right now, I’m not sure what I think about that. Thoughts? Resources I should read?

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The Transmedia Dentist

Jack in the Bamboo

Me at the Dentist, Kind of

I hate going to the dentist. It’s the physical and emotional pain, is why. Physical: scraping a pirate hook across my gums until they bleed, as if I’m in the brig, stuffed between barrels of rum. Emotional: guilting me for not flossing enough. (I don’t floss enough.)

For my last three visits, though, I’ve dealt with this pain with a new mental strategy: I think about Lost. I come in with a specific mental task to perform about some unanswered aspect of the show–this time, the question of Jacob’s cabin, and how we saw the smoke monster on the island at all if he was really trapped inside by the ash, as seems likely–and then I think and think and think and ignore Captain Hook and his multifarious torture devices.

Why bring this up now? This time, I went in, more prepared with my strategy than ever, reclined, and–!–saw that there is bamboo shooting up right next to the dentist chair, out of a big pot. So, looking up at the ceiling, there’s an effect kind of like what Jack saw when he first landed on the island, looking up past the bamboo at the sky. (I won’t make an analogy between his plane crash wounds and my bleeding gums. Never mind, I just did.)

I respectfully submit that watching Lost and being prepared to think about it at the dentist allowed me get a richer, more enjoyable experience out of that bamboo plant than the average patient. In other words, I had a transmedia moment, except that instead of a media narrative being conveyed through multiple distribution methods (TV, Internet games, tie-in books), it was conveyed and continued through my own life, my own mind, as one more step in the converging story of what Lost is and what it means to people.

This isn’t really that mind-blowing. We’re affected in real, everyday lives by the media we consume, contemplate, and re-project into the world, and people have talked about that since forever. It’s related to how our lives reflect whatever we put into our brains (relationships, books, discourses, God). And I’m not even the first person to think about this kind of thing with Lost–there’s an entire blog, still regularly updated, called My Life is Lost, where people list the moments when Lost shoots into their minds from external stimuli. (An example: “I was recently at a baseball game, and at 8:15 pm exactly a plane flew across the sky. I silently prayed that Desmond would fail to press the button so the plane would break apart over the stadium.”)

Another illustrative story: our friends at church have two girls, 6 and 7, who think that our house is the most fun place ever. (Um, because it is.) So they came over for a sleepover the other night, showing us immediately that they had brought their prize DVDs of Planet Earth, which they insisted on watching later that night. As I cooked and they colored, I overheard the older one narrating her image out loud in a distinctly Planet Earth style: [to no one in particular] “A group of lions is called a pride. This pride has 1 male and 29 females, for a total of 30 lions. Female lions see extremely well in the dark, much better than the elephants who get too near.” And so on. She had learned the discourse style of her favorite show, and she found it pleasurable to mash up that discourse with her everyday life. (Is the bold thing annoying?)

The question, then, is how far this goes. I wrote a personal essay on this a few months ago (which I can’t post here, as I’m trying to publish it), and the more I wrote, the scarier it became: the language of TV, movies, video games, and books creeps into my everyday experience in thick, regular ways–so much that it eventually becomes hard to find times when I’m not mixing my life with outside sources in some way or another. That sounds extreme, I know, but at times, it feels true. It’s the spirit of the remix, but in a cybrid, half-human and half-machine sort of way. And I don’t know what I think about that at all.

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I Politely Request that Don Henley Chill Out

Over at (the generally fair and brilliant) Copyrights and Campaigns blog, Ben Sheffner has posted bits from an exclusive interview with Don Henley, regarding the recent settlement and apology he got from a senator who parodied Eagles music in his campaign without permission. (Brief NYTimes summary.)

A couple of brief responses to some of the post’s content (keeping in mind that I’m not a legal expert in any way, and thus am just responding based on my impressions of copyright law, culture in general, etc.):

DeVore argued that the videos were fair use parodies of Henley’s songs, but the court held that the videos were satirical rather than parodic and rejected the fair use defense.

I can’t help but wonder if the satire/parody break-down will (or should) continue, as remixed materials continue to proliferate with always-varying aims and purposes. And will the new DMCA exemptions, which mention some specific genres of remix, also expand the allowed kinds of rhetorical purposes used in digital remixes?

In his interview with C&C, Henley said that his motivation for the lawsuit was not financial or political, but “simply a matter of my copyrights being violated by music being used in a way it was never intended to be used.”

This made me sit up straight. The idea of a composer managing how music (or any composition) will eventually be used feels wacky to me. When I buy a physical object–a plank of wood, a couch, a car, a computer–the creators have no say over how I physically manipulate those objects, crafting and adjusting and tweaking them as I see fit. Increasingly, text and music and visuals are the same: once they’re out in the open, we play with them. That’s just what people do; to reject that basic premise of human creativity seems kind of silly to me. (And yes, I’m showing how much I’ve been influenced by Tartleton Gillespie and Cory Doctorow here.)

He added, “People in my age group generally don’t like it. Songs are difficult to write; some of them take years to write. To have them used as toys or playthings is frustrating.”

But that’s what composing is: taking the ideas and genres we’ve learned, and playing around with them. It might be frustrating, but that’s just how it goes. (I know, I know–this is less of a thoughtful argument post and more of a “Sheesh” emotional reaction post.)

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Two Views of Rhetoric, Visually

I’m putting together my PowerPoint for the Remake | Remodel conference in Germany in a couple weeks, and I thought I’d share my two favorite slides so far.

The concept is pretty simple: my presentation discusses fan remixes (on Lost Video Island and OverClocked ReMix) from a rhetorical perspective, so I’m giving a very simple primer on what I mean by rhetoric. First, there’s the traditional view:

The ideal rhetorical situation

Rhetoric: The Idealistic View

But then there’s the more realistic view of rhetoric, that acknowledges that people create their own meanings based on their situatedness in time and space, their emotions as they hear the message, etc.:

The realistic view of rhetoric

Rhetoric: The Realistic View

Then I’ll point out that the reason I’m interested in fan remixes is because the rhetorical effect of a text is complicated when the text includes aspects that the audience has seen/heard before. But that uncertainty is managed in part by fan communities, where the norms and literacies of the discourse community are shaped and tweaked and learned.

That’s one reason I like this image so much: in a sense, I’m “remixing” the original Creative Commons licensed photo from Flickr, “orator” by southtyrolean. And people’s reactions to the image will be affected by their own history with Lego bricks–for some (like me), it’s an instantly nostalgic, familiar image because of the Lego element, but for others it might look childish, odd, etc.

In other words, the image itself demonstrates my justification for talking about fan communities in my presentation.

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Two Quick News Thoughts

Here’s how I use Google News Alerts: I add one that I think will be useful for a current project or interest, getting an email digest once a day with all the news with that search term. I skim them all for a while. Then I stop skimming them, and I let them junk up my inbox for about 9 months before I take the seven seconds it takes to turn them off. Current news alerts: intellectual property; information literacy; remix.

Here’s two things that came up in the remix one today:

1. I read a brief review of the music site We are Hunted on The Dispatch Online (article). They (rightly) praise the site’s strong but simple design (though I can’t get Lady GaGa to stream), but I admit I thought the article was a press release sent out by We are Hunted–it’s remarkably praiseworthy and uses phrases that scream “This came from the site being reviewed” like “We are hunted is simply a great way to explore what has a hold on listeners’ ears on the web.” (Is that a mean thing for me to write? I’m not trying to be mean. But really?)

I Googled a few lines of the article, expecting to find the same language elsewhere online (inspired by the press release assignments suggested here)–but nothing. Huh! My bad.

2. I also came across this piece, “Am I a Gadget?” on PopMatters’ blog, Marginal Unity: Dealing with Contemporary Consumerism, Capitalism, and the Life it Permits. (That’s certainly the most provocative-yet-unclear blog subtitle I’ve ever seen. What side are they on, we wonder?) In the article, Rob Horning says he doesn’t really like Jaron Lanier’s You are Not a Gadget for the same reasons I’m inclined not to like it (even though I haven’t read it): “basically because I don’t buy into the argument that creators are motivated solely by property rights, nor do I see remix culture as derivative garbage.” Right on.

But it really struck me because Horning appreciatively links to the same video I praised and embedded in my last post by a guy I just called “normative,” since that’s the only name I found on his YouTube channel, but who apparently has a name and website: Julian Sanchez. I was surprised, though: I thought his shirt-and-tie set-up was inherently ironic in some way, like a picture of a Mario pillow strategically positioned next to a glass of wine (or Lady GaGa singing about fame in such an over-the-top way that it becomes multi-layered), but after looking at his actual site, I think I was wrong. He seems quite serious about his seriousness. Huh!

Now I’m off to wonder why I’m suddenly writing sarcastically critical stuff, when I usually try so hard to not be that guy. I’ll be better next time. (Probably because I found another site where I could stream some Lady GaGa.)

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The Evolution of Remix Culture?

I just watched an intriguing YouTube video by normative called “The Evolution of Remix Culture” (below). (I couldn’t find any bio info on this normative dude; I find myself both loving his vest-and-tie style and thinking it’s kind of silly. But whatever; I like his ideas.) (Found it via Jason Mittell’s Twitter feed.) (And while we’re being parenthetical, Mittell’s piece of Lostpedia is highly worth reading.)

normative suggests that we’re moving from Stage 1 of Remix Culture into Stage 2. Stage 1 is represented by people in their rooms, making new things out of the media culture we’re surrounded by, while in Stage 2 we see people stepping out into physical community, filming mash-ups on rooftops together in parties.

It’s an interesting framework that I’d like to see fleshed out some more. (And admittedly, I only watched the full video once, and I don’t have a transcript, so he may have fleshed some of this out in ways I didn’t quite catch.) It seems to me like there are some remixes that would probably count as Stage 1, but which are intensely collaborative in face-to-face ways from the beginning. (I’m thinking especially of some of Pomplamoose’s videos–which many would simply call “covers,” I know–and the many collaborative tracks on OverClocked ReMix.)

And wouldn’t a lot of people who collaborate in rich ways online (say, at ccMixter) see their experience as being just as rich as the f2f stuff going on in these Stage 2 “Lisztomania” dance party mash-ups? Not sure.

In any case, I’m quibbling; the video is strong and well worth pondering. If you watch the video, be sure to stick around to the end, where normative moves into the intellectual property and copyright issues that are brought up by this kind of cultural expression. He’s right to be afraid of increasingly restrictive rule-enforcing in this arena, and I’m both encouraged by his (simplistic?) description of this control as something we can “permit others to hold over our social realities,” and challenged to think deeper about what this kind of resistance actually can look like.

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DJ Spooky on Remix Literacy

After some nudges from a professor, I’ve finally picked up two of DJ Spooky’s books: Rhythm Science and his edited collection Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture. Both are fun, beautiful books with accompanying CDs that I haven’t listened to yet.

Rhythm Science is especially interesting to look at: it’s published almost like a book of avant-garde poetry, with words and images sprinkled around the pages, framing the “main text” in a visual collage. (It’s all in two obnoxious colors of green and brown that start becoming unobnoxious once mashed together with each other.) Even better, the whole book has a circular hole through the middle, cutting back to where the CD rests in the back on a flimsy sticky pad that has already come undone–perhaps adding glue and scratches to the CD, leading to new, unintended sonic directions. Fun!

It smells funny, too.

Here’s a quote:

Saying that people are literate means that they have read widely enough to reference texts, to put them in a conceptual framework. They are capable of creating an overview. This kind of literacy exists in the musical arena, too. The more you have heard, the easier it is to find links and to recognize quotations. To specialize in either music or literature you need months, years of reading or listening to music. But the difference is that people have a more emotional approach toward music. If you don’t like a book, you put it aside after the first few pages. As for the philosophical or theoretical component in my music, I do know that average kids from the street are probably not aware of the connections between Derrida’s deconstructions and turntablism’s mixes, but it’s there if they ever come looking, and my own writings are a place to start.

That settles it: I’ll one day have to name an article / write a song / make a t-shirt with the phrase “It’s there if they ever come looking.”

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Remix Literacies Project

I’ve been working a lot these days on 2 main things: 1) getting syllabi in order (for my professional writing class and for the FYC program’s online curriculum), and 2) getting my survey/interview project together for my remix literacies project. And after typing all kinds of stuff on it, I thought, “Wait, why not just post this language on the blog? That shows I’m not dead, and it’s actually pretty interesting.”

So, here are two bits of language from my main project site: the introduction text and the FAQ text.

Introduction

This site’s primary purpose is to house four surveys I’m conducting about the ways that fans creatively remix culture. I’ve picked four fan communities that I love (see main survey page to see which), chosen especially because I know that people there engage in some variety of fan remixing. Members of those communities are invited to respond to the surveys, and some will follow up the survey with an informal interview.

You can read more about why I’m doing this on my FAQ page, but the basic idea is this: I’m a PhD student in rhetoric and composition at the University of South Florida, and I’m a fan. I want to learn more about the opinions of people who participate in fan communities that i admire, so I decided to ask them about what they do. I’ll benefit by presenting this work at academic conferences and perhaps by publishing the results–but I’ll also benefit personally through the enjoyment that comes from respectfully participating in the cool things that people are doing in fandoms that I admire. And hopefully, the fans I talk to will feel that they will benefit as well: by having a space to explain their remixing to themselves and to the outside world.

To access the surveys, you can use the links in the left menu bar or head to the main survey page.

FAQ page

What do you mean by “Remix Literacies”?
Well, when we talk about literacy, we often mean “the ability to read and write words on a page.” If you are holding a magazine and I ask you to read an article but you are unable to do so, you could be called “illiterate.”

But a number of people apply the word literacy to other contexts as well. If I show you a visual advertisement and you’re unable to “read” and understand the different strategies that the advertisers used to try to grab your attention, we could say that you’re lacking in “visual literacy.” If politics confuses you and you don’t really have any idea how it works, you’re lacking “political literacy.” You can’t read what’s going on.

Remix literacy is a term that I and lots of other people made up (just try Googling it) to describe the ability to understand and create effective remixes. (Of course, “effective” varies depending on your setting, audience, and purpose.) People are creating amazing compositions all the time that grow out of found material; these people are extremely literate in the world of remixing one object into something new. I happen to think that fans are some of the best people at these remixing activities, since they are often so well versed in the worlds of their fandom. That’s why this project is called “Fan Culture” and remix literacies.

And literacies is plural to emphasize that there’s no single kind of remix literacy–everyone does it differently, using different kinds of material and creating different kinds of compositions. And I think that’s cool.

What do you mean by remix? Wouldn’t another word be better?
Yeah, I see your point. People are right when they point out that the specific activities that make up remixing a song are different than those when, say, covering a song or altering it in other ways. But I wanted a single catch-all term that in some way encompasses the wide variety of activities that I’m surveying people about. What I’m really interested in could be called “composing from found material,” as long as you think of “composing” in a really wide sense and “found” as a metaphor for “existing in some way before you got to it to do your own thing.” But remix is shorter, catchier, etc.

Who are you?

I’m Kyle Stedman, a PhD student in rhetoric composition, focusing especially on intellectual property, fan studies, digital rhetoric, and teaching writing. I’m findable on my blog, Twitter, Delicious, and Facebook, and I occasionally go by BasementWall (because I was staring at a basement wall trying to come up with a name). I’m a fan of (in order of most well-versed to least) Lost, Star Trek, Star Wars, the various Zelda games, and various video game soundtracks.

How can I contact you?
Email is best: kstedman [at] mail [dot] usf [dot] edu.

Why are you doing this?

The idea of surveying and interviewing fan remixers was germinated by an inspiring article in the online academic journal Kairos by Jim Ridolfo and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss called “Composing for Recomposition: Rhetorical Velocity and Delivery.” Ridolfo and DeVoss describe the concept of a writer who knows that his or her work will be remixed in some way by someone else. Their example is a press release: the writer knows that journalists will take phrases and sentences from the press release and use them verbatim, mixed all around, added to and deleted from, in the eventual news story. I started to wonder how this applied to the creative work of fans, who “remix” ideas and images and sounds from their various fandoms all the time. What happens when fans create new work that they know other fans will take and remix again in a new way? What’s going on in these artists’ minds as they create?

Why don’t scholars stay out of my business?

I definitely recognize that scholars of fans have traditionally taken an us vs. them, anthropological role. (“Ooh, look over here and see what all the funny people are doing! How strange! I will now theorize about why they are so bizarre.”) But I also know that there’s a stellar tradition of scholars who are also fans stepping in to talk about themselves, represented most famously in Henry Jenkins‘ work, but also in the amazing collection Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet and in the work of the Organization for Transformative Works and its journal, Transformative Works and Cultures.

As much as possible, I’m trying to purposefully situate my work within the camp of the latter group by highlighting my own status as a fan and treating my survey respondents and interviewees as experts who are honoring me by sharing their perspectives with me, not as objects of my distant observation. In that, I’m trying to follow the position statement, “Fan Privacy and TWC’s Editorial Philosophy,” which describes its four “central ideas” as follows:

  • Fandom is getting mainstreamed, and there is no way to avoid that mainstreaming.
  • As fans, we prefer to control and possibly direct this mainstreaming, as well as the messages that circulate about us.
  • Academic work on fandom can be part of the explication and contextualization of fandom. In fact, that’s why the journal was created.
  • We think that fans can do a better job of writing academic works about fandom than nonfans can.

With that said, I admit that my role as fan could be seen as problematic by some, in that my fandom hasn’t led me to be an active participant in any of the communities from which I’m surveying and interviewing members. In other words, I listen to lots of music on OverClocked ReMix and I vote when streaming its music at Rainwave, but I don’t read the forums. Similarly, I love Zelda games and I’ve been working my way through one of the quests at Zelda Classic for a while now, but I don’t use the forums or create my own quests. I watch Lost rather more fanatically than anyone I know personally, but that only has led me to read lots of articles and blogs and occasionally update minor details on Lostpedia; I’ve never made a fan video. And I like a lot of the fic I’ve read, but I haven’t read much. (See my main survey page for links to all of these sites.)

So there’s a degree to which I could fall into the danger of becoming too academic and not fannish enough as I do this work. But at least I can say I’m aware of the dangers and am doing my best to keep my head above water.

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First Day of Sharing

The folks over at Share This Course have challenged participants to share something every day from now until Christmas Eve. I accept. Here’s the big picture:

The goal of ‘Assignment: Share’ is to become more conscious of all the ways we use digital media to share our experiences. We share links, we share documents, we share photos, we share videos, we share music, we share movies, we share just about anything that can be digitized, stuck on a server somewhere, and presented via the Web. . . . This sharing of culture is the foundation of Share This Book, so we must grasp it ourselves before we can explain it to others. Don’t be afraid, don’t be shy.  Everything is interesting.  Everything deserves to be shared. (Via)

I’ll be cross-posting my sharing on this blog and on the Share This Course site. I see this as a helpful kick in the pants to keep up my blogging and as an interesting experiment in pushing the content of this blog a bit more beyond the academic. I mean, I talk about all kinds of stuff on here, but almost always with the thought in the back of my mind that it’s stuff I might want to think about in an academic context. On and off I’ve wondered how much I want to push that boundary, and this challenge should help me think that through by practicing. Sweet!

Today I’m going to share by celebrating (belatedly) the 10th anniversary of Overclocked Remix, the benchmark site for videogame music remixes and rearrangements. Their press release from December 11, the actual birthday, describes the site thusly:

Founded in 1999, OverClocked ReMix is an organization dedicated to the appreciation, preservation, and interpretation of video game music. Its primary focus is www.ocremix.org, a website featuring hundreds of free fan arrangements, information on game music and composers, resources for aspiring artists, and a thriving community of video game music fans.

My favorite mix on the site is SGX‘s “Save Me,” a remix of a tune from the Playstation 2 game Ico (which I’ve never played but long to). Part of my love for this piece is the way it shows the serendipitous nature of sharing: I came across OCRemix years ago and randomly played this song, which led me to learn more about the game Ico, which led me to buy Shadow of the Colossus, a game made by the same folks, which led me to get the soundtracks to both games, which are now a regular part of my background music while working at home. So cool!

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What Did He Just Say?

Via @cshirky‘s Twitter feed, I recently learned about the BBC’s Digital Revolution Short Film Competition. Here’s how they describe it:

For the first time ever, uncut video for a BBC documentary series, is online NOW for YOU to download and re-edit. Cut it, clip it, mash it, animate it, make fun of it if you like. It’s free to use.

Awesome stuff–especially because remix contests that I’ve seen often ask contestants to remix music or video that is largely valued for its artistry (or its “poetics”). (Total Recut’s video remix challenge is an exciting exception.) That’s supercool, and I love those remixes to pieces. But I’m especially interested in the challenges involved with remixing something that didn’t have a primarily artistic purpose to begin with–in this case, documentary footage of smart people talking about digital culture. Yes, the shots are “artistic” in that they were carefully composed, well produced, etc.–but they weren’t designed with the same kind of purpose and aesthetics as a Radiohead song or a Weezer video, which I think makes the remix process different too.

Here’s the video that Shirky tweeted (in which he shows up for a couple seconds!):

This kind of playful misrepresenting reminds me of a favorite practice of some friends of mine in 8th and 9th grade: we would take an old karaoke machine (two tape decks and two mic inputs), hand a mic to a friend, and hit record. Then we’d interview the friend (including, at one point, @RachelleLacroix), trying to get him/her to say as many awkward, sexually perverse (8th grade, remember?), and rude things as possible.  Then I would sit down by myself with the tape, listening carefully for anything I could twist to make it sound like the interviewee was saying something s/he wasn’t. Typical fare was the interviewee saying something like, “My dog, my mom, my dad, all my friends,” which I would reedit as the answer to something like, “Who do you [sleep with] every day?” (8th grade! Remember that!)

What I’d really like to do is go back and ask 8th-grade Kyle what he was listening for in that moment of reediting, scouring the raw recording for something that would seem funny. Without using these words, I must have been attuned to my audience (knowing what they would find funny, and thus score me cool points), running quickly through many possible narratives in my head (wondering which answers would most profit from the funniest questions), all the while striving for a humorous organization and pace (so it would feel right in terms of both individual jokes and larger context, as a “bit”). How would Cassetteboy, who made the video above, answer those questions differently, I wonder?

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