The Culture of Remix – Hyperlinked Essay

by tsjarvis

Many commentators today are talking about the “age of the remix”, a practice enabled by widespread access to sophisticated computer technology whereby existing works are rearranged, combined or remixed to create a new work. They make it sound as if remixing were a novel phenomenon, but a brief glance at human history reveals that it is in fact nothing new.

In the general conditions of culture: no remix, no culture. Works of art, culture, invention, and creation are informed and inspired by things that we experience in the world around us. Most cultures around the world have evolved through the mixing and merging of different cultural expressions. The question  then becomes what is original, and does it even matter?

Everything is a remix, and that all original material builds off of and remixes previously existing material. We like to remix everything. From film, literature (fanfic) and musicHistory is populated with examples where multiple ideas, you name it are mashed-up, remixed and otherwise recontextualized to create something completely new and ‘original’.Remixing is about  rearranging, combining, editing, and adding ellements to create something entirely new. Remix, as a form of discourse, affects culture in ways that go beyond the basic recombination of material they can create social and cult followings.

This idea of remixing has become so accessible for the public that remixing has created an entirety new subsection know as internet memes. A meme is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. An Internet meme is a piece of culture, seen typically as a joke, which gains influence through online transmission.  Though only a small fraction of the converging bigger picture of Remix, the beauty of memes lies in the idea that anyone can make one. From the vast online variety of tools available we are consuming and creating content at an incredible pace. This raises important questions to how copy right laws operate and deal with the remixing of content.

Many within the cultural industries believe that any unauthorized extract taken from a pre-existing work constitutes copyright infringement. Strictly speaking, they are right. Remixes do violate the copyright in a pre-existing work. But the existing copyright laws do not adequately address the challenges arising from the wealth of amateur creativity facilitated by the tools available within the digital environment.

Given the emergence of today’s “remix” culture, and the legal uncertainty surrounding remixes and mash-ups, the time would appear to be ripe for policy makers to take a new look at copyright law. We need to create a new practice of how we view remix culture after all a symptomatic change to the “original’ content makes an entirely new piece of work.