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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