[iDC] The Remix discussion

john sobol john at johnsobol.com
Sat Apr 15 18:03:53 EDT 2006

On 15-Apr-06, at 4:23 AM, Danny Butt wrote:

> We need an anthropology of new media theory in the worst way. If only 
> to "prove" the ethno-cultural construction of the scene

Although I wouldn't call my book Digitopia Blues – Race, Technology and 
the American Voice (Banff Centre Press, 2002) an 'anthropology of new 
media theory', it does attempt to provide a transcultural historical 
framework for understanding contemporary digital culture. In it I argue 
that the values of those who embrace contemporary digital culture are 
often aligned with the values of members of predominantly or intensely 
oral cultures. I also explain that the values that oralists and 
digitalists share typically stand in direct opposition to those 
belonging to members of literate cultures.

This is relevant to our discussion because eurocentric theory 
fetishizes textuality (I write therefore I am). Many non-eurocentric 
ideas and practices cannot be rendered as text and are therefore 
excluded from our textual/theoretical discourses. Basically, I would 
argue  that 'theory' is itself a eurocentric construction that 
expresses a state of cultural hyper-literacy. If this sounds weird just 
consider how post-modern theoreticians and academics seek to 'read' the 
entire world as 'text'. For Derrida et al this is no mere metaphor but 
the way things are. Thus it is hardly surprising that our theoretical 
writings are eurocentric since eurocentrism is inexplicably intertwined 
with literatism. (Which is not – just for the record – to say that only 
white folks can/should read and write, but rather that europe's 
imperalist history is deeply inscribed with the imposition of literate 
systems of exchange, education, governance etc. on non-literate or 
mildly literate peoples whose social character is/was based on the very 
different organizational imperatives of the human voice).

On 12-Apr-06, at 4:18 PM, Paul D. Miller wrote:

> hey folks - as usual, this is waaaayyyy too Eurocentric.
> Arghh! When will people look at other stuff... This gets to be a drag.

OK, I'm not afraid to display my honest ignorance. Who should we be 
talking about? Japan and Korea seem a place to start. Can anyone fill 
us in on how remix cultures in Asia-Pacific differ from those of either 
Bambaata-San or Max Ernst's wily children?

And while there are worlds of difference between the far east and the 
far west, they share a level of national wealth and infrastructure that 
sets them both apart from what is happening in India, Peru or Nunavut. 
Are remix cultures different there? How and why? Or are they the same? 
Or nonexistent? I'm something of a technological determinist, as the 
above paragraphs make clear, so my guess is that the differences are 
less than some might expect, but I admit to not knowing and would be 
glad to hear informed opinions.

Also, although regrettably I rarely get to attend the many 
cool-sounding events you folks put on, I have nonetheless juried 4 or 5 
major new media festivals and the non-eurocentric submissions to those 
fests have been in the extreme minority. Is this because the work 
doesn't exist due to digital divide issues or is it that it is thriving 
in places that my outreach never reached? If it is thriving, who's 
doing it and where is it? Your comment, Paul suggests the latter. So 
bring it on, who's doing important work that needs wider recognition?

My book concludes by making the argument that the ascendance of digital 
connected culture has resulted in the beginnings of a renewed form of 
colonial repression for oralists. For despite their intuitive grasp of 
the open-ended narrative teleology and interactive processes that 
characterize many digital media applications, oralists have had almost 
no impact on the internet’s development due to their collective 
socio-economic marginalization. This hypothesis invites the question: 
collectively, what would oralists do with digital tools if they had 
them? Will the same oral sensibility (improvisational, tactile, 
experiential, dialogical, asynchronous) that led early hiphop DJs to 
treat records as datasets to be diced and spliced instead of as passive 
artifacts to be mechanically decoded, enable the non-eurocentrists of 
the world to redefine and reinvent digital tools if and when they get 
their hands on them?

I hope so. And I'm waiting for it. Does anyone see this happening?

bluesology • printopolis • digitopia
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: not available
Type: text/enriched
Size: 4487 bytes
Desc: not available
Url : http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/attachments/20060415/2afa67b3/attachment-0002.bin

More information about the iDC mailing list