[iDC] Re: notes on media remix

Curt Cloninger curt at lab404.com
Fri Apr 21 01:44:05 EDT 2006

Hi Ryan,

For me, at least one significant difference between DJ Spooky 
remixing spoken word Kurt Schwitters with Bill Laswell (what I'm 
calling remixing) and MK12 putting a motion blur on a Mike 
Cina-designed typeface (what I'm evidently now calling "hybridizing") 
is in the intention of the artist and the purpose of the genre.  As I 
read Paul, remixing is a personal cultural survival tactic for him. 
The specific sources (content) are all-important.  As I've written 
elsewhere, the remix is "a sort of talisman/immunization strategy 
against commodification."  As such, it is far from content-agnostic.

Whereas MK12 is hybridizing animation, motion graphics, stop motion 
video, and typography, but they are generating their own source 
content.  None of it is quoted.  It's not allusive to anything.  This 
is a big difference to me.

On a very different but related note, it seems that much contemporary 
theory is an obligatory race to delineate (or manufacture) the 
socio-politico-cultural implications of every freaking thing.  And 
that's fine.  But it clarifies things to first unpack and comprehend 
what is happening on a functional level before overlaying it with 
whatever theoretical grid you subscribe to.  (Can this be done from a 
neutral position?  No.  But some form of transparent functional 
analysis should be attempted nonetheless.) Yes, there is definitely 
something important about the fact that digital media is all 0s and 
1s.  All  the media are stored in the same format.  But to say that 
this digitization of media constitutes/mirrors some sort of 
homogenization/assimilation of actual cultures seems a leap.  Lead me 
there step by step and I'll follow more willingly.

To me, the most meaty thing for a culture theorist to latch onto in 
this whole discussion is the idea of programmability.  Yes, it's 
interesting that all the forms of media are now stored in the same 
format.  And it's interesting that this media can be mixed.  But 
what's more interesting and revolutionary is that it can also be 
programmed/processed.  Is this new programmability a democratizing 
force?  It depends on who is producing the new hybrid forms of media. 
And it depends even more on who is designing the interface to After 
Effects.  What forms of control do these meta-media interfaces 
suggest?  What kinds of built-in, off-the-shelf hybridization options 
are being offered us?  These questions are interesting to me.

Are there any real, functional, operative  differences between Casey 
Reas's Processing language and Macromedia Flash's ActionScript 
language?  Are there any real, functiotnal, operative differences 
between Jitter and Nato?  If so, what specifically are these 
differences, and what culturally do they imply?  It's easy to say , 
"jitter and flash are corporate and not open source, so they 
represent capital and empire."  But is it really that facile?  Does 
an open source programming language or software interface somehow de 
facto lead to the creation of more "liberated" art than a corporate 
programming language or software interface?

This doesn't even begin to address digital media and its 
rerlationship to the network, a topic ripe with cultural implications 
because the network is social, much more than a graphic designer 
offline in a room using after effects.  (In any digital art 
discussion, some net artists always tries to turn the conversation to 
net art.  Ryan, you are busted!)

McLuhan claimed TV was more interactive than film because TV was 
viewed on a screen that constantly refreshed its own lines, and the 
viewer had to interactively fill in the picture that was missing. 
Here McLuhan hones in on some arbitrary technical fact and imbues it 
with an inordinate amount of theoretical importance.  This would mean 
that a DVD of Casablanca viewed on a TV monitor in your living room 
is radically more interactive than a 16mm film of Casablanca 
projected on a screen in your living room.  This would mean that the 
Simpsons on a tube TV is radically  more interactive than the 
Simpsons on hi-def TV.  (Of course McLuhan was forgivably pre-DVD and 
pre-hi-def TV, but his mistake is still instructive.)

We should attempt to acquire a nuanced, foundational grasp of what 
the media is functionally doing before we begin extrapolating its 
cultural implications, or things get really muddled.



Ryan wrote:

Maybe i'm taking this in a totally unproductive, and obviously
irrelevant for some, direction, but it seems like our discussions of
the "remix" seem to keep the focus on an internal reading of
form/content. In other words, we're not really discussing the
implications of all of this input becoming "data" and
reformulated/archived/transmitted through one, dominant systemic
mechanism - even if that system includes the ability to reformat the
data along highly customizable lines (RSS, data visualizations, etc).
i'm wondering if there's something to consider in Galloway and
Thacker's work on notions of protocols and systems as a way to think
about the importance of the framing of all this remixing. And also
critiques of the notions of "hybridity" used in earlier post-colonial
theory seem relevant - the relationship between commodity fetishism and
80s-90s multiculturalism for example could be looked at in a parallel
manner to the fetishism of the remix.
(for Curt - is there really a difference between meaning derived from
"content" - your idea of remixing - really different from meaning
derived from "form" - what you call "hybridizing" [technical
appropriations like motion blurs]?)
Is the infrastructure/frame entirely covered by the shiny, bright
surface of the remix?

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