[iDC] Re: notes on media remix
curt at lab404.com
Fri Apr 21 01:44:05 EDT 2006
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.
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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