This section considers important moments in history that have informed the development of remix as a rich cultural activity encompassing various forms of media. While the concept of remixing was originally made popular in music culture during the late 1970s, throughout the 1980s and 1990s the act of recombining pre-existing material was often used to reference and contextualize prior acts of recombination in other media. One of the aims of this section is to trace how such events took place. Conceptualizing and understanding the reach of remix practices is another crucial challenge historians face. For this reason, the selected texts also explore some of the key moments in music and other media that inform remix as an interdisciplinary practice.
1) “Remix and the Dialogic Engine of Culture: A Model for Generative Combinatoriality”
In this chapter I introduce a new transdisciplinary view of the generative principles behind remix and hybrid works. My approach draws from research and theory on dialogism (from Bakhtin to sociolinguistics), generative semiotics (Peircean semiosis), and generative-recursive models of language and symbolic cognition (from linguistics, cognitive sciences, and computational theory). Expressions and artefacts associated with remix emerge from the generative, dialogic, and recursive-combinatorial processes for meaning making that underlie all cultural symbolic systems. The generative dialogic process activates recursive functions like intertextual presupposition and embedding of prior expressions in new expressions at both the lexical and encyclopedic levels (combinable units and networks of genres, types, and symbolic relations). We can mobilize this interdisciplinary knowledge base for reframing current debates about authorship, common culture, and intellectual property. Recentered within fundamental generative processes, remix and hybrid works have much more to tell us–not as reified products, but as interfaces to the generative, collective, and unfinalizable meaning-making processes that enable cultures to be cultures.
2) “A Rhetoric of Remix”
Scott H. Church
Contrary to common perception, remix is not a new or strictly technological practice. Rather, it is a communicative process that shares common objectives with classical rhetoric. Remix bridges pre-modern and postmodern eras through its use of sampling, imitatio, kairos, and invention in the cultural production of texts. In this chapter, I discuss the rhetorical antecedents to remix, represented by the classical rhetorician Isocrates. I conclude by analyzing a mashup by the remix artist Girl Talk, and isolate elements of Isocratic rhetoric located therein to showcase how classical rhetorical theories can shed light on the contemporary practice of remix.
3) “Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal: Reflections on Cut-Copy-Paste Culture”
Current remix practices evolved along with popularization of computers and corresponding communication technologies around the globe. Media convergence, the transformation of hitherto analog texts, pictures, photographs, music, movies, art works into universal encoded digital data marked out a revolutionary step in post-industrial modalities of production, communication, reception and perception of audio-visual information. From a historical standpoint the appropriation, imitation, re-use and re-combination of significant styles, materials and artifacts pervades almost all cultural epochs in the process of creating something new. In this chapter I discuss early experimental forms of combining visual and literary art, sound and music, stage design and performance along with the notion of meme and recurring patterns in popular culture as to broaden the understanding today’s remix practices.
4) “Toward a Remix Culture: An Existential Perspective”
Campanelli examines Vilém Flusser’s utopian reflections about the advent of a telematics society in the light of the perspective of remix culture. In a remix culture, a work is never completed, it is rather a relay that is passed to others so that they can contribute to the process through new remixes. This dynamic was already obvious to Flusser who assumes that in an information society based on dialogue messages are addressed to the recipients so that they can synthesize (remix) them in new messages. The chapter offers a journey that reaches some important theoretical assumptions (Levi-Strauss, Tarde, Le Bon) underlying the contemporary remix culture and tries to frame the remix as a pervasive mass phenomenon in which the creation of new information becomes the fundamental criterion for distinguishing between the heterogeneous cultural forms labeled as remix.
5) “An Oral History of Sampling: From Turntables to Mashups”
In this chapter I present a five-part oral history of hip hop, remix culture and its inevitable conflict with copyright law. Part I is a prehistory of digital sampling, documenting the ways that 1970s hip hop DJs developed an approach to music-making that continued into the digital era. In Part II, I provide an overview of the impact of digital sampling technologies in the 1980s, which contributed directly to what is often referred to as “the golden age of sampling,” roughly from 1986 to 1992. Part III is an account of the copyright infringement lawsuits that exploded in the wake of that golden age, and in Part IV, I explore the ethical—rather than legal—implications of remixing practices. Part V brings us into the twenty-first century, discussing the mashup phenomenon before concluding this oral history with some more general observations about sampling from artists, lawyers, and record company owners.
6) “Can I Borrow Your Proper Name? Remixing Signatures and the Contemporary Author”
Cicero Inacio da Silva
The contemporary act of Remix challenges several authorship concepts. This practice culturally permitted that authors could use parts of other people’s cultural artifacts in their own artwork and invented what today is called Remix. On the other hand, Jacques Derrida, in reply to this position states that there is no artwork without a signature, opposing this position about authorship. It is necessary that a signature precedes an artwork representation by means of promoting its cultural and social receptivity, which would recognize and authenticate the “signature”. When remixing, someone is lending other people’s signature pieces to create a new one in the cultural world. This chapter discusses what kind of ethical issues we would need to clarify to understand why Remix changed the way that we are dealing with subjectivity related to the proper name.
7) “The Extended Remix: Rhetoric and History”
Many scholars of digital technologies and networks have called “remix” the defining characteristic of digital culture, using it as shorthand for all that is new, digital and participatory. Borschke offers a critique of such claims by comparing and contrasting the history of remix as an analog cultural practice and artifact with the discourse about remix in digital culture. She considers the use of “remix” in contemporary discourse as a rhetorical strategy and asks whether the assumptions and aspirations that underpin this rhetoric obscure the aesthetic priorities and the political implications of analog copying practices.
8) “Culture and Remix: A Theory on Cultural Sublation”
This text surveys different definitions of the term culture to evaluate its relation to the act of remixing in historical terms. The argument revolves around the questions, “What kind of culture are we becoming when we consider remixing an important element in creative production?” And, “What exactly is culture?” Culture is defined to develop an argument on what role remix plays in the larger context of history. The concept of the avant-garde is presented as a cultural example in which remixing is at play explicitly on two regenerative layers and is juxtaposed with social media in order to understand how a new type of economy is developing. Ultimately, this analysis exposes the reasons why, historically, creative production appears to resist established patterns of production, but eventually is sublated by cultural economies and becomes vital for capital as a whole.