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INF2320 Week 4: Remix Theory

Week 4 lecture for INF2320 Remix Culture, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto - Feb.2, 2016 Remix

Sara Grimes

on 2 February 2016

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Transcript of INF2320 Week 4: Remix Theory

Rio de Janero Jesus
@ 2013 Aakash via Wikimedia Commons
Cult film as mashup
INF 2320 Week 4: Feb.2, 2016
[remixed from orig. ©2014 Grimes]
Crumb, R. (1974) "The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick," Weirdo, n.17.
Jenkins, H. (2006). “Searching for the origami Unicorn. The Matrix and transmedia storytelling” [p.95-134], Convergence Culture. New York: New York University Press.
Kinder, M. (1991). Playing with power in movies, television, and video games: From Muppet Babies to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. (pp.1-38).
Navas, E. (2010). Regressive and reflexive mashups in sampling culture, 2010 revision. [Earlier version of chapter 3 of Remix theory: The aesthetics of sampling. New York: Springer.] http://remixtheory.net/?p=444

Works Cited
From Allegory
To Transmedia Intertextuality
1974 R. Crumb/Weirdo
by Jessie Wilcox Smith
Kinder refers to Bakhtin’s theory of dialogism, "The linguistic significance of a given utterance is understood against the background of language, while its actual meaning is understood against the background of other concrete utterances on the same theme, a background made up of contradictory opinions, points of view and value judgments" (p.2). So too is media/culture.

p.2: "any individual text (whether an artwork like a movie or novel, or a more commonplace text like a newspaper article, billboard, or casual verbal remark) is part of a larger cultural discourse and therefore must be read in relationship to other texts and their diverse textual strategies and ideological assumptions." (links back to week 3 - creative influence)
©2007 South Park plays WoW
Jenkins – “entertainment for the age of media convergence, integrating multiple texts to create a narrative so large that it cannot be contained within a single medium” (p.95). Matrix movie, web comics, anime, computer game…failed attempt at an MMOG. Highlights it as a key example of “transmedia storytelling”
Also Key:
“The cult film is made to be quoted, Eco contends, because it is made from quotes, archetypes, allusions, and references drawn from a range of previous works. […] In the age of postmodernism, Eco suggests, no film can be experienced with fresh eyes; all are read against other movies” (Jenkins, p.98)
Key take-away here – explains what makes a media text a “cult artifact” – which in turn attract a significant amount of fan participation, remixing, etc. Generate strong, widely shared/known cultural codes and references.
Looks to Eco’s description of what is required to make a film a “cult artifact”: 1) “the work must come to us a completely furnished world” (p.97); 2) “the work must be encyclopedic,” 3) it “must provide resources consumers can use in constructing their own fantasies; and 4) “the more different directions it pushes…the better” (p.98).
“In the ideal form of transmedia storytelling, each medium does what it does best – so that a story might be introduced in a film, expanded through television, novels, and comics….Each franchise entry needs to be self-contained so you don’t need to have seen the film to enjoy the game, and vice versa. Any given product is a point of entry into the franchise as a whole.” (JENKINS, p.96)
Different way of describing the blurring of reading/creating consumption/production, using Pierre Levy’s theory of “collective intelligence” – which relates here in terms of his argument that the “distinction between authors and readers, producers and spectators, creators and interpreters will blend” to form a “circuit” of expression, in which each participant is working to “sustain the activity of the others” (cited in Jenkins p. 95).
"...when mashups move beyond basic remix principles, a constructive rupture develops that shows possibilities for new forms of cultural production that question standard commercial practice” (NAVAS, P.1)
“...the Reflexive Mashup is different. I define it as a Regenerative Remix: a recombination of content and form that opens the space for Remix to become a specific discourse intimately linked with new media culture. The Regenerative Remix can only take place when constant change is implemented as an elemental part of communication…” (NAVAS, P.3)
Navas defines “remix culture” as “global activity consisting of the creative and efficient exchange of information made possible by digital technologies. Remix , as discourse, is supported by the practice of cut/copy and paste.” (p.3-4)

“the activity of taking samples from pre-existing materials to combine them into new forms according to personal taste” (NAVAS, p.4)
Navas proposes a fourth type of remix, "regenerative," that he places outside of music. Regenerative remix "takes place when Remix as discourse becomes embedded materially in culture in non-linear and ahistorical fashion” (p.7-8 ).
Unlike the hip-hop sampling described by Hess (week 1), this approach to remix does not depend on references/samples to “validate itself as a cultural form. Instead, the cultural recognition of the material source is subverted in the name of practicality—the validation of the Regenerative Remix lies in its functionality.” (NAVAS, p. 8).
This type of remix involves juxtaposing two or more elements that are constantly evolving and being updated.
"The term reflexive here functions differently than how it functions in the Reflexive Remix. As previously defined, the Reflexive Remix demands that the viewer or user question everything that is presented, but this questioning stays in the aesthetic realm" (NAVAS, 2010).
"The notion of reflexivity in a mashup implies that the user must be aware as to why such mashup is being accessed. This reflexivity in action in web applications moves beyond basic sampling to find its most efficiency with constant updating . So a Reflexive Mashup does not necessarily demand critical reflection, but rather practical awareness" (NAVAS, 2010, n.p.).
adding or subtracting from the original
made longer, e.g. in music additional instrumental sections
allegorizes, challenges the authority of the original
The opposite of an allegory (although later suggests that allegory is indeed still present, just “pushed to the periphery”) – the regenerative remix “liberates the forms that are cited from their original context, opens itself up for ahistoricity, and misinterpretations” (NAVAS, p. 8).

p o s t m o d e r n
Composition VII— Kandinsky (1913) via Wikimedia
Campbell's Soup I - Warhol (1968)
via Wikimedia Commons
Postmodernism: According to Owens, “deconstruction—a transparent awareness of the history and politics behind the object of art—is always made present as a "preoccupation with reading" (Navas, p. 6). Involves (depends upon) a reflexive awareness of the reading process. Here “the object of contemplation…depends on recognition (reading) of a pre-existing text (or cultural code)."
“...neither modernism nor postmodernism have been left behind—they are mashed up as ideological paradigms” (Navas, p.10).
“…in terms of discourse, postmodernism (metaphorically speaking) remixed modernism to expose how art is defined by ideologies, and histories that are constantly revised” (NAVAS, p.6).
Modernism - seeks to break with history and established codes: “art suspended its historical code, and the reader could not be held responsible for acknowledging the politics that made the object of art "art"” (NAVAS, p.6).
Navas brings these two together – or rather proposes that remix is in dialogue with both postmoderism and modernism,
In relation to our discussion last week : “The remix is in the end a re-mix — that is a rearrangement of something already recognizable; it functions on a meta-level. This implies that the originality of the remix is non-existent; therefore it must acknowledge its source of validation self-reflexively. ...The material that is mixed...must be recognized, otherwise it could be misunderstood as something new, and it would become plagiarism” (NAVAS, p.7).

Remix (or at least these 3 types of remix) relies on the authority of the original (which Navas elsewhere refers to as the “spectacular aura”…ref. to Benjamin (week 2) (though I’m not sure I like Navas' term).
Not that this changes the aesthetics (or that the work would still contain the formal characteristics of remix – form, function), but it would breach the ethics of remix as a cultural practice/subculture.
Regenerative remix poses the biggest challenge to the ethics/norms associated w/ other forms of remix– because it is driven by instrumental, rather than historical/allegorical/reflexive goals, efficiency can sometimes mean that the original sources aren’t acknowledged.
Navas highlights Jameson’s theory of "“the waning of affect in postmodern culture,” that is a sense of fragmentation, a suspension or collapse of history into intertextuality due to the high level of media production" (NAVAS, p.11).
Draws connections between remix aesthetics and technologies and those found throughout contemporary media culture – however, what about this argument: “they are cited to note how principles of Remix have become ubiquitous in media, so that we may begin to understand the influence of Remix as discourse” (NAVAS, p.12).
Either that or remix embodies elements that are found in other facets of contemporary culture (his earlier exploration of postmodernism could be useful here).
In a way – within these practices – the original sources aren’t “important” in that sense – they are decontextualized (like the example of the reaction gifs raised in class last week, perhaps?).
Media increasingly appear as/in ‘supersystems’ - entire constellations of interconnected texts, artifats, media forms and cultural practices.
These supersystems promote a form of ‘transmedia intertextuality’: "a means of structuring characters, genres, voices and visual conventions into paradigms, and models for interpreting and generating new combinations" (Kinder, 1992, p.35).
Kinder (1991) highlights the enormous significance of the particular texts/supersystems themselves in this process - formal elements, structures, characters, aesthetic conventions and thematic motifs - in determining the forms/ functions of transmedia intertextuality.
She argues that certain texts invite the audience to enter into an “intermediate space” of “interactive fantasy” (p.38), rather than more passive forms of consumption promoted by other texts and media brands.
Argues that engagement with this particular form of transmedia intertextuality “facilitates the kind of transgressive identification across other borders of genre, generation, race,culture, and species” (p.39).
Texts with high levels of transmedia intertextuality (such as Kill Bill v.1 or The Matrix) emphasize the reinterpretation of shared cultural texts/icons, appropriating themes & imagery taken from other media and rearranging them in fluid, postmodern juxtaposition with one another.
Regressive mashup: "is common in music and is often used to promote two or more previously released songs. Popular mashups in this category often juxtapose songs by pop acts like Christina Aguilera with the Strokes, or Madonna and the Sex Pistols" (Navas, 2010, n.p.)

Also enables learning/engagement with dominant cultural motifs, genres, norms, archetypes, stories. In other words, it promotes cultural literacy (which we'll examine in more depth later in the term).
Are "remixes," such as mash-ups, so different/unique that they need their own, distinct theory? Or can they be (better) explained using broader cultural theories (e.g. postmodern theories, transmedia intertexuality, or some adaptation thereof)? Or is there a way to bring the two together?
With this term, Navas (2010) makes "implicit reference to Adorno’s theory of regression in mass culture, which for him is the tendency in Media to provide consumers with easily understood entertainment and commodities" (n.p.).
Full transcript