Archive Content | Remixing the Future of Media | Dec 2006


Remix should be understood as a poorly understood market phenomenon (wherein individuals assume to some extent, and with varying degrees of effectiveness, the role of content-creator.) Rather than being construed only as a threat to contestable notions that copy and excerption techniques tend only towards creative illegitimacy, remix contests de facto legal controls over creative works with which monist entities are privileged (exclusive controls over intellectual properties existing within the public domain) disputing through its techniques of appropriation the notion that such controls are a manifestation of deeper values inherent to our culture, existing before the emergence of remix. Remix has come to be construed by some as a troubling state of affairs wherein its techniques of production obviate the necessity of one’s both developing and exercising credentialed originality in thought and creative practice. The forms of control with which remix experiences friction are a relatively new invention. With some degree of imagination, content creators and distributors have only to adapt ‘over-the-horizon-radar,’ in a manner of speaking, to realize the opportunities existing therein.

Remixing the Future of Media

This paper is an extension of Matt Lincez’s Remix: Basic Behaviour Report and is intended to frame the ‘remix’ phenomenon within the structure of a socio-cultural analysis specific to the Future of Media explorations. The intent is to understand the true cultural potency inherent to remix as extending from its curatorial inclination to mix into new forms, temporally disparate periods and movements. Might we ask whether the raw stuff of remix is only the compost that is becoming of obsolete cultural modes and methods of production? We should find that the understanding of media involves not only explicating the present context as the effect of past causal influences, but using causal influences situated in the present (i.e. motivating trends and behaviour) as a frame within which to imagine what will become their effects in the future.

It is very much the case that the Future of Media and Remix are inextricably linked, perhaps to the extent that one may be regarded as a synecdoche for the other. For the purposes of this paper, Future of Media refers to a general continuum, as yet unknowable but for which strong signals indicative of possible outcomes may be detected in the patterns of media creation and consumption specific to the phenomena identified as remix. The latter, while broad in scope, are a culturally specific set of behaviours, methods and processes that are at present instantiated primarily in New Media. The impetus of these patterns of mediation is self-empowerment, through a cut-and-paste approach towards the definition of both intra-personal and inter-personal teleology-- the most basic existential definition we apply to the self, and what we understand ourselves as being to others, respectively, i.e. “I am an astronaut,” “We were soldiers", "I write graffiti."

It is through the remix that an individual may realize the possibilities of which they may potentially become the subject. The realization of these latent possibilities occurs in a manner that privileges not the immediate concerns of the present, but rather the unforeseeable concerns of future. By going further and fulfilling the cultural and social ideal of building a legacy, this is a future which achieves fixity over the long-term and perhaps even beyond when legacy is realized in a posthumous account of the individual’s feats, dreams and transgressions. The remixer is able to excavate a place for the self within the grounds where technological possibility intercepts current capability. The tools and content that make remix a desirable mode of cultural inquiry and self-exposition have never been more accessible than as now. Those who are able to establish advantage through the disassembly and reconfiguration of content with remixing tools are at the same time able to extract from the media and art forms of times past new meanings, which are given new life and relevance in the present.

Remix thus serves as an appendix to the future of media. Functioning on the level of a metaphor, we might predict that if the future of media were able to be comported in the form of a book, remix would be located near the end, functioning within the margins of the media continuum so that if anyone were to posit the question-

“What is the overall pattern of creation or set of behaviours that people have been engaged in, to the extent that these patterns have made obsolete the current limitations inherent to New Media?”

–remix would then provide a rough estimate of this overall pattern whereby the increased accessibility to technology has been instrumental in conferring upon the mediated individual the option to reconfigure the messages and media forms which they have determined as having immanent value, so as to generate new meanings through their ability and agency to infuse the sample with novel semantic, if not altogether transgressive potential.

The appendix where remix would be located will thus suffice as the ultimate concept-articulator of a trend that disrupts all other trends in media, one that will come to be increasingly expressed throughout the near-term futures of media and mediation as we may come to understand them. Remix might be stated more discreetly (insofar as it relates to the future of media,) as being the appendix to the unfolding history of empowerment-- of the individual through the creative agency which is afforded by a cultural climate receptive to remix.

‘Mediated’ history in this paper refers a series of structured interactions and hierarchies of social relationships specific to late modernity. The sense of simultaneous isolation from and connectedness with the world is more-or-less unique to the context in which we find ourselves situated. Through the combination of info-literacy and globally connected media networks, we are for example, able to know more fully the intricacies of how the Bush Administration’s foreign policy has influenced the various armed interdictions undertaken by the United States military, than we are able (or desire) to know the intimations of the private lives of our closest neighbours. Media-resultant disinterest in the lives of adjacent others seems, for sometime, to have displaced basic human curiosity about matters of immediate importance, a behavioural characteristic which has functioned as ‘social cement’ in the past, allowing adults to engage in civil relations predicated on empathic concern for others. Mediated individuals in the context of this particular definition of ‘the modern,’ are able to establish through media a sense of paradoxical relatedness with the zeitgeist, perhaps not always aware of how the effects of this situation are expressed in the locations and frequency of cohabitation through which means social relations are established. I could be said that our current condition might involve our ability to better discern the zeitgeist than the significance posed by adjacent others in the progression of our lives.

If much of our experience is mediated, which is to say that much our informational outlook is always at least once removed from the source, it could be the case that the consequences of these intransigent forms of mediation will be one of both: the intentional effort or unintentional reaction on part of the individual to realize the disruption, subversion, displacement or deconstruction of the strictures by which means mediation is able to take effect and establish primacy over all other forms of relatedness that one may be able to experience as part of their existence day-to-day. This is perhaps why DRM is such a pernicious mode of information control; it carries the potential to intrude upon our most intimate selves, restricting the ways in which we may or may not operate upon the ideas contained within media. DRM then amounts to an instrument of interference, which by its design effects the circumscription of the ways in which people may be permitted to think (through media creation and participation), when people would rather prefer to have their cake and eat it. If our media are understood as being ideas packaged and delivered in a particular format, the strictures of circulatory control which are devised to enforce the contestable premises of license and ownership on part of their original creators and distributors will be met by resistance on part of the spread of self-empowered media consumers who want less to be usurped by the provision of content which media-makers see fit to monetize and control access to, than to declare themselves as remixers of said media products and intellectual properties. Remix is then another way of defining those methods of operation through which means one is able to express their intentions during their time upon this rock, and engage in the exercise of their psychic birthright which is nothing less (and nothing more) than freedom of expression. It is through remix that one’s voice is given an alternative means of becoming audible and acknowledged in the ongoing social conversation— an exchange of ideas beyond which nothing other than the too-perishable and seriated continuum of history may converse with.

If mediation is in some way involved with that which has been articulated by Marshall McLuhan in his analysis of the effect upon the human body of the telegraph (as an electrical telecommunications system having “outered the central nervous system itself.”) [1] electronic mediation is alternatively a set of interactions involving human behaviour and processes of signification exhibiting greater complexity than may be at first obvious. If electronic mediation is to be regarded as the most recent of our ‘mind-body extensions,’ remix can then be said to provide for individuals a palette of technologies and behaviourally-dependent contingencies for which the focus of their causation becomes the augmentation of McLuhan’s “outered central nervous system.” Remix is what allows mediation to work for us in the midst of our vastly dispersed electronic and virtual media (sub)cultures which, while functioning on a global level, interact at a level of intimacy that is much more akin to the scale of a village. Non-destructive media excerption could genuinely be mistaken for the intra-personal extremes of the individual being “outered”—what we exhibit at the surface that indirectly expresses our own communications intentions and psychic state, but excerption is much more powerful. It is only one way, but also the most potentially detrimental way in which we are able to express a sense of identity amidst the inexorable will of consensus reality to subsume our individuality within prescribed regimes of mediation. Remix is then a mode which, by its very nature is resistant and self-differentiating, but in a manner that lends itself to the accumulation of psychic momentum on part of the individual– driving them to seek out new learning experiences and ways of making sense of the world in such a way that the present is unable to establish its epistemology as the one and only. Remix may realize more fully possibilities that were only nascent in the sample; a raw compost that history itself has preserved for no other reason than that its ideas and significance be revealed to future generations.

“…this generation will be better suited to embrace a new and more dynamic anytime everywhere learn-work-play lifestyle; tied together in a more harmonious mix of goals, relationships, curiosities, skills, desires, and moments.” (Lincez p. 7)

The present outlook of Tim Berners-Lee regarding Net Neutrality lends credence (albeit indirectly) to the idea of remix behaviour as being foundational to the novel modes of work, play and education that have been revealed through remix as a technical operant mode influencing how one chooses to partake of media interactions. The remixer is one who exploits the transformative potential inherent to new media —media formats that are by the account of Berners-Lee, migrating more and more towards models of internet distribution and enrichment through collaborative interactivity. The habitat of remix lies for the most part just beyond the current interception of technological possibility with business capability to monetize (and thus legitimize) these patterns of appropriation and (re)creation. Remix should be understood as a poorly understood market phenomenon (wherein individuals assume to some extent, and with varying degrees of effectiveness, the role of content-creator) rather than being construed only as a threat to contestable notions that copy and excerption techniques tend only towards creative illegitimacy. Remix contests de facto legal controls over creative works with which monist entities are privileged (exclusive controls over intellectual properties existing within the public domain) disputing through its techniques of appropriation that such controls are the manifestation of deeper values inherent to our culture, existing before the emergence of remix which has come to be construed by some as a troubling state of affairs which obviate the necessity of one’s both developing and exercising credentialed originality in thought and creative practice. The forms of control with which remix experiences friction are a relatively new invention. With some degree of imagination, content creators and distributors have only to adapt ‘over-the-horizon-radar,’ in a manner of speaking, to realize the opportunities existing therein. The regimes which effect the control of intellectual property are not in and of themselves unsound. Just as the Internet becomes a battle ground upon which ISPs vie for primacy while denying bandwidth for applications such as VoiP, participatory media are likewise a mass-property which do not take well to strictures which concretize concepts of ownership and control for a few who stand to profit the most. Berners-Lee cautions:

“I just hope we don't have to go through a dark period, a little dark ages while people experiment with dropping Net neutrality and then, perhaps, put it back.” [2]

Just as Net neutrality isn’t totally achievable in the objective sense of ISPs exercising total autonomy in determining their respective models for the facilitation of internet traffic (that it might remain a profitable undertaking,) DRM likewise won’t and should not be shelved altogether; the climate of innovation that spurred the current capability of individuals to the extent that remix productions become as compelling as their professionally generated counterparts will not change during the foreseeable future, however. Participatory media are and will remain a shared concern. As television content migrates to the Internet for instance, it is through the accompanying modes of cooperative interactivity that participatory cultures will realize the power of the medium to alter in real time, the culturally instantiated percept of ‘consensus reality.’ If the “medium is the message,” digital cultures will themselves assume the role of the medium, which has in the past been held under the privileged purview of individuals and groups who sought to control the use of applied knowledge and expertise concomitant to the medium’s realm of applicability, i.e. the institutionally credentialed practice of prohibiting entry to the media profession to all but those trained and conversant in its best practices. The TV network as an example, could interface with its networked audience to the point of their respective modalities of production and reception become undifferentiated, not because they have to but for the simple fact that digital cultures are pulling the networks in this direction. This is a strong signal that evidences the direction in which the present ‘media landscape’ is shifting. These productions are what will eventually become the “non-fiction computer games” —interactive media bridging between the individual and the collective, the device and the network, the event and the wider historical period in which an event of any level of significance is situated. Is the idea of interactive, creative commons-licensed media so threatening to the current regime of control that the absolutes of intellectual property and ownership are necessarily engineered into every conceivable gate or system at which the strictures of ownership are vulnerable to being thwarted? Is remix such a threat that it justifies an entity such as Sony Corporation infecting users’ computers with a virus to monitor and prevent illicit (non-sanctioned) copying? Any degree of remix seems too much remix. As an overall pattern, the reluctance to embrace remix elucidates a condition in which authorities on the matter, after having proven their grievances as being of merit see the only viable means of asserting exclusive ownership of Intellectual Property as by establishing copy-protection and perpetuating the legislative overview of what people may or may not be permitted to do to alter original content. This authority has no purview apparently, within the emerging climes of media innovation specific to contemporary web media and new media (sub)cultures. Litigious regimes of media copy-control effectively kill remix as an innovative social project. If many or most of the formats usable by remix culture are coalescing towards the ever-widening bottleneck of a semantically-enabled, innovation-receptive World Wide Web, DRM begins to seem like an unwieldy and obstructive skeumorph, a reactionary artefact from a less industrious stretch of digital culture’s early history when the content producers and distributors remain glibly protectionist, despite the repeated warning signs displayed by the proverbial hand-that-feeds. The remixer has both the imagination and the means to production to contest these previously dominant modes of prescribing and credentialing what constitutes professional production value. If they are to be included in the unfolding cultural origami that are a truly participatory media, a method of compromise must be coupled with a means of monetization, so that cultural production and enrichment are understood as synonyms for economic growth within and beyond the domains of immediate relevance.

“The increasing shift out of a content consuming generation towards a content creating generation has set the stage or climate from which a more culturally literate and empowered generation will adapt and emerge.”
(Lincez p. 8)

In My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts, N. Katherine Hayles’ investigation of how textual artefacts evolve in time elicits insights into how the properties and motives inherent to the production and dissemination of texts provide also a sub-textual explication of how the culture which gives rise to the text’s creation is ordered socially and hierarchically. This would indicate a possible precedent for media mutability as a shared concern (the right of individuals to alter media as extending not from legislated permissions to do so, but predicated rather by one’s inalienable rights of freedom of thought and expression.) This relates to remix if one considers new media and traditional media types as functioning similarly– as a datum providing a base measure of which entities in our society are regarded as the authoritative sources and practitioners of best production, publishing and licensing practices. To an extent, the availability and popularity of tools to effect remix works may be considered either as proxy indicators of how individuals may be systematically predisposed to innovation, or otherwise coerced into observing their place within a social hierarchy. The degree of social disparity in groups and the extent of dissimilarity among individual personalities examined on the scale of societies could provide insight into nature and origins of influences motivating the proffering of our collective attention, which is to say that both the consensus perception of what constitutes truth, (insofar as there are truths which lend substance or authenticity to a creative work) and credentialing practices related to epistemology are socially constructed. When populations mentally converge upon and provide for a particular text or idea a psychic habitat, it reveals some measure of information about a cultural value system. For instance, the social order in the West has in past instances been in the very least, reflective of an tendency to privilege the intelligentsia, and at the most extreme, to associate with the intelligentsia a closer ordinal approach to apotheosis (explaining why Einstein is regarded as being intellectually in closer proximity to the mind of God and than nearly anyone else.) If cultural literacy and empowerment are co-present, and the methods by which this literacy and empowerment are brought into being are collaborative and temporally-distributed, Hayles demonstrates how Efrain Kristal’s analysis of the writings of Jorge Luis Borges substantiates the cultural viability and spirit of remix:

“Positioned somewhere between Weaver and Benjamin is Jorge Luis Borges. Here we may refer profitably to the brilliant work Efrain Kristal has done on Borge’s idea of translation. Kristal shows compellingly that Borges thought of all writing as translation… the sense of all writing as a stab in the dark at articulating meanings that always remain to some extent elusive. Rather than hoping for a common substratum that would provide the key to universal translation or evoking a “pure language” indistinguishable from the Word of God, Borges delighted in thinking of all writings as drafts in progress, imperfect instantiations never fully one with the significations toward which they gesture. In this view, texts are provocations that go in search of meaning (echoing McGann); when they become instantiated in a given set of words (and we may add, a given medium and performance in that medium), they necessarily miss some possibilities even as they realize others. Hence for Borges it is entirely possible for an original text to be unfaithful to its translation (in the sense of being inferior to its successor), for the translation may realize more fully possibilities that were only nascent in the “original,” for temporal priority does not signify ontological priority when the original is regarded as simply one draft among many.” [3]

If the jest of Hayles’ argument were to be implicated in support of remix, we might come to understand remix as being less a profligate misappropriation of the creator’s objective intent than a translation from one set of socio-cultural percepts into another. The means towards these translational ends may range from transgressive to beneficent, in which case the remix may present useful and meaningful elaborations upon the original inasmuch as these same elaborations may be considered disruptive or destructive.

If it is a set of constraints that are useful in directing the creative processes which preempt a particular body of content being brought into existence, (i.e. that a given market’s apparent receptivity to an original IP, coupled with a widely registered demographic trend and pattern of behaviour can be translated into a substantive motive for a studio to pursue development of a film, video game or television series) these same constraints might provide a capacity for remix to function as a systematic exploration of creative constraints, playing with notions of authenticity, as well as parlaying an original work into something that resonates with a contemporaneous perspective or ideal. Remix deals with social patterns and percepts in which the nature of those constraints can be framed and reinterpreted, so that constraints are considered less the inviolable inputs of the creator’s (and producer’s) intellectual endeavours than an open invitation (ideally extended by the creator,) favouring reinterpretation of the constraints informing the development of the original work, be it a film, a piece of music or the rendition of an fictitious world characterized by the cast of a TV series. Borges had this to say about reinterpretative endeavours, understanding them as the mechanisms that enrich the text through the cross-acquaintance of minds and contexts, which the translation is necessarily able to effect as the by-product of its production:

“Literature is not exhaustible, for the sufficient and simple reason that a single book is not. A book is not an isolated entity: it is a narration, an axis of innumerable narrations. One literature differs from another, either before or after it, not so much because of the text as for the manner in which it is read.” [4]

Context emerges through the in-mixing of climates of social, economic and political opinion. For the purposes of discussing remix as a mode of creative inquiry and media discourse especially relevant to the historical continuum comprising all of traditional and new media, it may be surmised that by correctly ascertaining a period’s receptivity to change in the form of user-directed creation and experimentation, one will have indeed adapted a crucial capability of insight that is advantageous for media producers to possess. Despite the growing pains that accompany disruptive change, openness to new ideas yields the greatest potential to alter a climate of opinion in a given context, as a climate of opinion cannot exist apart from its readership. The readers at present (re: remixers) are what give rise to new forms of cultural intelligence, which in turn enables the readership to differentiate itself from its predecessors. If a climate is intellectually open and willing to interpret an apparently novel act of creation as the translation of some previous creator’s project (albeit from a certain number of degrees of remove), the remix is more so the reconstitution of its precedent’s narrative position, belief system and contextual constraints than it is the temporally-disjunct (i.e. novel) appropriation of the creative inspiration informing the work to which the remix refers. A remix may be understood simply as a re-approach of ideas or content that were once perceived as the essential characteristics of the period during which they emerged. Through remix, nothing new will ever grow old so long as the process of renewal draws the original work into correspondence with the creative outputs of those situated in the present, again and again through self-replication and voluntary mutation that a remix may effect, for better or for worse, through its basic operations of copy, excerption and reconfiguration.

Hammering square pegs into round slots is in effect, the modus operandi of DRM and copy-kill. As regimes of media control, they are wholly enforceable in a retail market that numbly accepts the materiality-over-data primacy typified by disc-based media formats. Even if the eventuality of empowerment-centric change comes to pass and remix no longer elicits the derision of major media companies who may regard it as the occupation of an avant-garde fringe, there are still a ways to go. Once there no longer exists the long term assurance of disc-based media models as being stable and supported in the marketplace, (a major factor influencing Microsoft Corporation’s decision not to include an HD-DVD drive in the factory install of the XBOX 360… don’t impose onerous limitations to entry when the HD DVD drive can be integrated in subsequent versions of the console) we might rest reasonably secure in the likelihood that most of the (interactive) news, entertainment and educational media coming down the pipe will have its origins in a server. A portent to the death of disc-based media as per Sony Corporation’s more recent UMD folly is to be found in a editorial as follows:
“Consumers don't want your single-purpose, proprietary formats; they don't want to be sold the same product over and over again in different boxes; and they sure as hell don't want the media companies to try and dictate what the market will look like. Consumer demand will dictate that; it always has, and as Sony has found out very expensively over the last year, it always will. The question now is whether the Japanese giant can avoid exactly the same pitfalls with Blu-Ray - and, perhaps, whether the ferocious battle between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray is going to turn out to be a pointless one for both sides, as consumers increasingly look away from physical disc formats for their media, leaving the dinosaurs to duke it out over a market nobody really cares about any more.” [5]

The abandonment of “a market nobody really cares about” necessarily entails bypassing the legislative badlands of copy-kill and in turn, the Bisphenol-A off-gassing polycarbonate plastic sarcophagi to which disc-based digital media are restricted. Remix brings with it the incentive to reinvent the present by sampling past practices and performances (insofar as they may be captured in the media through which we attempt to access them), and in doing so, could mark the end of certain strains of material obsolescence. It may in time emerge that it is entirely desirable that media end up in permanent residency on our hard-drives, without the by-products of manufacturing, retail and unwieldy market controls filling out the interstices that lie between creators and (potential) remixers. The directness and certitude of creative retransmission without legal sanction is what punctuates the question to which remix may provide, in fits and starts, an answer, thus resonating all the more loudly:

“How can the sharing of experiences between co-creators including all generations, increase the transmission of patterns, histories and cultural logics?” (Lincez p. 17)

The precondition to the directness of interpersonal communications is intimacy; the transactional adhesive that brings the creator to his or her audience and in turn engenders loyalty on their part. The degree of certitude that the creator’s work is performing the work it was designed to do is what the creator uses to build a reputation and legacy. This is the social function of sharing within remix culture. It is sharing that achieves also a kind of balance, so that through the sharing of experiences in a social performance situation, one is revealed as both desiring of and able to realize this type of in-situ social equanimity. To remix is to play then, with tensions as they occur amongst culturally disparate groups and individuals, play that is enacted by elaborating upon the qualities inherent to the “tension between the potential of a sample that is and the remix that might be.” (Lincez p. 14)

“Beyond connecting two or more complimentary sounds or capabilities the remix is able to transcend time and generations by re-capturing, re-using and re-contextualizing the knowledge and content of the past.” (Lincez p. 37)

Remix may be conclusively understood as the product of temporally-disjunct performances, the social effect of which is seen as greater than the sum of its component performances working alone and separate within the temporal continuum which restricts the human lifeworld to the here and now. The idea of remix culture as a legacy-building system provides a segue into remix as a cultural logic having greater potential longevity than if its terminal point were only as far off as next novel shift in cultural bricolage.

Being as it is that humans leave traces of themselves behind, we may trace the overall pattern of trace deposition as being akin to cultural stewardship. These are behaviours that have been ever-present throughout the most recent stretch of our evolution, if not throughout the deepest reaches of our evolutionary past. Recent evidence suggests that our earliest ancestors were conversant in the creation and disambiguation of abstract symbols at a far earlier time than was previously understood. Lawrence Barham reported to BBC news recently of evidence discovered in Zambia testifying to the use of mineral pigments and ochre, a possible indication of the first use by humans of paint [6]. If used to mark the body, the finding situates the first known example of abstract thinking (and by extension, symbolic communication) more than one hundred thousand years prior to the previous estimate. It would seem that trace deposition has evolved in parallel to the human organism, through to the more recent and obvious inventions of print, cartography and literature. These are systems of signification that extend from, and are built upon natural language. Having bifurcated into many possible applications and re-configurations of purpose, they are undoubtedly durable, yet the most likely reason impelling their invention would indicate that as traces, these systems of signification provide us with the symbol and image-based media for denoting the phenomena existing within and essential to our perpetuating our creations (tools) and stories (procedures to effect their manufacture) throughout future generations. Our legacies are thereby the adapted forms of organization defining the human lifeworld– systems of signification that provide human cultures with some degree of informational continuity. They are the illusions we render, and the sounds we produce, demarcating between matters of grave importance both present as well as not immediately available to detection by our senses.

“In seeking legacy one wants to be visible and used within a remix. Remix makes visible and thus ensures a form of legacy for those who have been included.” (Lincez p. 38)

Legacy is stated above as residual evidence of the remixer’s presence, their body of work made visible for all of time. The contribution one makes remains behind as a trans-temporal (timeless) interactive-media instantiated performance brought about by the act of remix. Legacy in this case, aspires to attain the same longevity and relevance as that inherent to the (past) creator’s original work. If the original attains longevity, it may be in part the result of the remixer’s act of excerption. The act of excerption propagates the original, as long as excerption is skilfully and sensitively followed through in a manner that lends legitimacy to remixer’s act of appropriation. The original work is able to retain and accrue its own legacy through the dynamic progression of evolving social contexts. This longevity and relevance becomes exterior to, but not totally apart from the original, through the novel (semantically regenerative) work performed by the remix. Past performances are excerpted from, so as to provide indirect support for the contemporary project, one that might not otherwise flourish if not for the fertile grounds provided for by a past which retains no tenure, aside from copyright, over creative projects and dialogues situated in the present.

“Remixers are tuned to recognize the value of cultural patina (i.e. the layers of content: knowledge, identities, expression and voices built up over time.) This awareness can be seen as a motivating force driving Creators to create because they understand that their works/ideas will become part of this Cultural Patina… and possibly secure them a lasting and extended legacy which will be translated back into other cultures over time and context. We leave a mark, make a noise, leave something behind in knowing others will see, hear and interact with it/you; this gives meaning and purpose to participating in something larger than self.” (Lincez p. 39)

Legacy is heretofore revealed in time as patina, deposited by the participants interacting to effect the creation of a remix. Legacy can also be understood as a one-way communication with the potential to expand into a dialogue through a small modicum of the imagination’s exercise. If asked whether there exists the technological viability of the temporally disjunct performance, John Q. Walker would respond optimistically. The Raleigh, North Carolina-based computer scientist, pianist and mathematician is in part responsible for the emergence of a pernicious strand of cultural debate centred on what he has termed “reperformance.” In a recent Globe and Mail article, Walker provides an account of a performance of Glen Gould’s Goldberg Variations generated entirely by piece of software developed by Walker’s Zenph Studios. The program can extract from an original high-resolution MIDI recording the data needed to mechanically reproduce all of its detail in minutia. The program in effect, plays a composition that exhibits physical the characteristics of production identical to that of the original composer, in effect analyzing the composer's recording as a proxy method for reconstructing the composer's physical habitude of performance.

“There are about ten different musical attributes that we analyze, including pitch, moment of impact, strike velocity, duration, how the note ends and the angle of the key when it’s depressed. We can do everything we want with the instrument through the computer.” [7]

The Goldberg Variations were first recorded in 1955. In spite of the time since elapsed separating the original performance from the present, the effect is nonetheless profound for those who have observed a ‘reperformance.’

“At the Japan Foundation, some people who knew him, and heard him play, started crying.” [8]

Much as with remix, the notion of forcing those without agency or the voice to exercise it into a dialogue with the remixers of the future could be construed as a more technologically evolved method of puppetry. Controlling the dead pianist through the re-instantiation of his or her performance characteristics in a cybernetic medium could be seen as an affront to artistic and creative conventions governing the ownership of work. ‘Reperformance’ could thus be understood as a cyber-system which confounds the sacred nature of human creative agency as something immanent to the temporally-finite reality of biotic embodiment. If remix operates through the availability of content creation tools facilitating the creative work of remixers, reperformance is then a weak signal of the possible ways that remixers toolsets are likely to evolve in the near-term. Through the wide availability of technologies such as that being developed by Zenph Studios, future remix culture will have at its disposal not only the digitized content of past creative endeavours, but the potential to achieve a new creative objective, which is the unlimited uptake of the virtual performance characteristics specific to and extending from the contexts shaping the creations of past creators. Remix may eventually elicit not the incredulity of those representing the interests of highly accomplished masters of performance-based creative endeavours, but rather optimism. The focus will fall upon possibilities within the medium; the unseen and conjoint presences of interactive digital media and reperformance technologies as a new and fertile cultural ground upon which we are able contemplate in unknowable depth the effects of digital media on ourselves. The hybrid media forms that may come into being through the infusion of remix with the digital, mnemonic and neurokinetic trace of reperformance may see the emergence of new types of bricolage with even greater ontological latitude. The future modalities of digitally- instantiated creativity will confound our current notions of authorship, but only to the extent that we fail to evolve also the mechanisms by which we ensure that the ineffable human signature is always immanent to the things that we create.


Research Sources

Excerpts appearing in grey taken from:

Remix: Basic Behaviour Report, prepared by Matt Lincez
Beal Institute for Strategic Creativity
File created: Friday September 22, 2006

1. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media (reprint, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 1994),

2. Q&A with Tim Berners-Lee, article by John Markoff, The New York Times News Service, excerpt from The Globe and Mail, September 28, 2006

3. N. Katherine Hayles, My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts. The University of Chicago Press, 2005 p. 114 ISBN 0-226-32148-7

4. Jorge Luis Borges
source of quote:

5., Editorial dated Thursday, March 30, 2006

6. BBC News Colourful beginning for humanity,
Article by Jonathan Amos, dated Sunday September 10, 2006


7. The Globe and Mail, excerpt from Unveiling a Virtual Variations,
Article by Colin Eatock, dated September 25, 2006


8 The Globe and Mail, excerpt from Unveiling a Virtual Variations,
Article by Colin Eatock, dated September 25, 2006


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