Beats and Pieces

Thru you

As I may have mentioned once or twice before, I believe that culture is inherently recombinant.

We make stuff out of other things - poems out of words, paintings out of colors, metaphors out of disparate ideas, complex ideas out of simple ones, music out of sounds and so on.

So why is it that remix culture is so much more relevant obvious discussed now?

It's because media has become much easier to reproduce thanks to the radical decentralisation of the economics of cultural production [which is the phrase I'm backing as a substitute to social media - I'm not very hopeful it will catch on.]

So the very building blocks we can use to create have become themselves more complex - just as we moved from using words to long form allusion - and these complex building blocks have the added cultural weight of being part of pre-existing artifacts, which means you can, if you choose, use the web of associations that were built into the original artifact as foundations for your own.

If you want.

The album [for want of a better word] Thru You you see above is entirely generated from 'samples' from youtube [all credited] - each piece of it was made by someone else but the recombinance creates something new from the bits.

[Thanks Conner / Zefrank]

This soundboard that Marissa sent me has kept me entertained [and annoyed the other people in the departure lounge] by letting me create beats and pieces on the fly.

Because the pre-existing artifacts had little obvious cultural resonance, they are relatively neutral instruments.

The soundboard was entirely so - the youtube video less so [each piece has little resonance but the overall effect has some].

But this remixer of Obama from Eclectic Method, because it uses Obama, isn't neutral because of the intense and obvious cultural weight of samples.

When you sample Obama saying hope - it doesn't mean exactly the same thing as just using the word hope.

Which is kind of the point.

I think.

Twestival Embraces Recombinant Culture

In an intense attack of 'lots of the things that excite you coming together in ways you would have never expected', Twestival NYC [see post below] has scored Eclectic Method as the headline act.

Eclectic Method are premier exponents of recombinant culture, evinced by their remix above of Lawrence Lessig's appearance on Colbert to discuss his new book Remix [which is awesome and recombinant culture must read].

Imagine going to an awesome party that raises money for a good cause that has a truly incredible headline act - wouldn't that be good?

See you there, then.

God Bless

Now don't get me wrong - I love my adopted country - it's awesome. Land of the free and that.

But this entirely not ironic juxtaposition of God and Mammon, unity and individual avarice, tickled me purple.

[PS I'm loving the Kodak Zi6 pocket HD camera my awesome brother got me for Xmas. This has been an unpaid, unsolicited endorsement from TIGS]

Recombinant Branding

To paraphrase one of the comments on the tube: this is recombinant awesomeness in its purest form

Ben asked Mike, Bud and I what the implications of recombinant culture are for branding.

Mike's been having a think about it, and Ben has added his thoughts in the comments.

I touch on it in my thesis, and build on it in my piece for the first Age of Conversation and across lots of posts here.

In AOC one I point out while people are primed to pass on ideas, they are primed more heavily to pass on their own ideas:

[There are compelling anthropological reasons for this - to create more minds like your own, because there is strength in numbers.]

[I think I'm allowed to publish a chunk of this now the second one has come out]

Today, brands can’t stick to a single song sheet. People have wrestled back control of brands because each of us has a voice now and we can make ourselves heard – online everyone is equal. If we choose to all sing a different song, the brand’s solo will be drowned out.

Propagation planning is a model for communications that takes this into account. People are our partners in communication. Not a target audience and not just nodes for further transmission, but partners in the production, modulation, development and distribution of brand ideas.

In order to give people ownership of brand ideas, and therefore give them a reason to propagate them, we need to provide tools and assets, give them permission to remix and re-imagine the ideas we create and realise that the more people play with our ideas, the further they spread, the more meaning they accrue, the stronger our brands become.

So...let's do a list like Ben does:

  1. People like to share ideas - or spread stuff - for their own reasons, social and phatic

  2. We would like people to spread our ideas

  3. If we let people mess with our ideas, they become partially their idea, and they are therefore more invested in their propagation

  4. This means lots of additional 'impressions' as different forms of the idea / content spread through different networks

  5. Remixing is a cultural trope and digital behavior that is increasingly prevalent, as media production technologies facilitate easier and easier mashups [and really complex ones like the Thundercats thing above] - kids naturally understand that deploying pre-used symbols is an easier way to make their own things, remix is the nature of the digital and so on

  6. Certain kinds of films are more likely to be remixed than others. Mostly when we make ads we don't make the kind of films that Internet wants to play with. [It's not just films that can be remixed though]

  7. Remixing can be encouraged, prompted, suggested but not controlled

  8. But we don't need to control the conversation for it to be of value [A la Jenkins] 

  9. Brands are aspects of culture and adoption by remix culture is an indication of cultural resonance

  10. Reappropriation, parody, response is all good too

Content and the manipulation and distortion and remixing thereof is a medium - conversations made from content.

Disrupted Expectations

Now you see it, now you don't.

Well, actually, you never saw it, but your brain told you it was going to be there and the disruption of expectation is what imbues the sequence with its emotive weight.

Disrupted expectations seem to lie at the heart of lots of emotional responses.

It's what lies at the heart of most jokes:

An incongruity of register is comic on account of its recognised deviation from the expected norm. This stress on expectations makes it feasible to reduce the joke, for example, to the product of a set of formal criteria (a build up of expectations followed by a disruptive punchline) without paying any heed to what the joke is about.
[from here]

Obviously it's more complicated than this - the cultural conventions around jokes establish an expectation of the unexpected - but in essence this is how the form usually works.

Deviation is also what triggers attention - preferential looking indicates that infants spend longer looking at things that deviate from their norm.

The philosopher Daniel Dennet says that our brains are in essence anticipation machines - that a fundamental aspect of cognition is the necessity of forming expectations, based on direct or indirect experience, for how things are in the world.

Research based on this idea suggests that there are all kinds of cognitive and affective events triggered by expectancy violation - including heightened memory activity, which makes sense as your brain is re-building part its model of the world.

This is probably why comedic advertising seems to work so well - but as the film above shows, it can work on other parts of the emotional spectrum just as well.

[Thanks to ToniAnn for the link]

Becoming Fictional


Bud's report on being one of the MadMen twitters is now available - you should go and read it.

I spoke about the glimmer of inflection the episode suggests before and the report makes it very clear that Bud has embraced a convergence culture position to mainstream media.

The convergence in question is not the device / bill convergence of telecoms providers but rather the convergence of modalities.

A blurring of producer and consumer, broadcaster and receiver, writer and reader - a theoretical vision espoused by French deconstructionists that becomes literally real in this digitised networked convergent media culture.

Or something.

Anyway, it's awesome - go read it.

Motrin Palimpsest

[Via a Chroma Tweet]

So - you know what I was saying below about digital content being a palimpsest? An invitation to overwrite?

The Motrin ad that caused such a stir among tweeting mothers yesterday has been rewritten today.

The original can be seen here.

There is perhaps a conversational content flow, a communication cycle: read, react, remix, rewrite, renew, reinitialize.

Or other things that begin with re.

Up to you, really.

Digital Palimpsests


[Taken somewhere in Rio]

Yesterday I updated the previous post but as well as adding a couple of lines at the bottom I re-wrote some of the body text, in a way that indicates it has been re-written - I turned the post into a palimpsest.

And then I began to see them everywhere.

A palimpsest is a manuscript that has been overwritten. It comes from way way back in the day when parchment or vellum was expensive and durable so scribes would scrape off what had been written and write over it. But, inevitably, trace of what was there are left behind, making the new text an iterative build on the previous.

A wall of street art is an urban version - each work builds on / writes over the other. Toilet door graffiti is the same.

In the digital world, everything is a palimpsest.

Wikis are pure - each overwrite can completely erase what came before or it can build on it, add and comment.

But all digital content can be re-written. I can go back and change any post. Any video or image can be retroactively altered, overwritten. Digital content exists in constant flux.

This builds on the idea that content is a process, the beginning of a conversation, a substrate for additional creation.

Endlessly iterative, with each iteration adding some new element, some new lease of life to the original.

Each remix is simply the next step in an ongoing journey through recombinant culture.

Content becomes conversation.

Layer tennis is a literal expression of this - creative consequences for CS3 - but any piece of digital content should be considered as a palimspsest from the outset. 

Whether or not you want them too, someone will have something to add.

Interesting: A History of Recombinant Culture

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: remix culture)
This is the talk I did at Interesting NYC a while back. 
It was a lot of fun. 
It is a companion piece to the other remix culture pieces on TIGS
The slides are directly below so if you click as you see me clicking, you'll get the full effect. 

Convergence Culture Consortium

C3 Newsletter

A couple of weeks back I wrote this article TIGS manifesto thing for MIT's Convergence Culture Consortium Newsletter.

The piece was a prose extension of the presentation I gave at Interesting NYC, which is itself derived from an earlier prose version I wrote ages ago.

Faris' newsletter piece lays out the artistic legacy of "recombinant culture," that which has most recently manifested as the remix, the fanvid, and the mash-up. In doing so, he makes an implicit argument not only for remixing as legitimate, transformative, creative work that goes beyond mere copying (and, implicitly, beyond "piracy"), but is in fact integral to the new media landscape.

Ontological translation comes full circle, updated with reference to things like Ubiquity [which will change everything once it actually works].

You can read the whole thing here.

The closing note was written by media scholar Alice Marwick, who kindly gave me permission to repost her work, about the nature of cultural logic of celebrity.

It's awesome and hopefully she will post part 2 on her blog.

Alice will be speaking at FOE3 - yet another reason why you should be there.