Remix and Remixability

Posted by Lev Manovich | Tue Nov 15th 2005 6:06 p.m.

Lev Manovich

Remix and Remixability

The dramatic increase in quantity of information greatly speeded up by
Internet has been accompanied by another fundamental development. Imagine
water running down a mountain. If the quantity of water keeps continuously
increasing, it will find numerous new paths and these paths will keep
getting wider. Something similar is happening as the amount of information
keeps growing - except these paths are also all connected to each other and
they go in all directions; up, down, sideways. Here are some of these new
paths which facilitate movement of information between people, listed in no
particular order: SMS, forward and redirect function in email clients,
mailing lists, Web links, RSS, blogs, social bookmarking, tagging,
publishing (as in publishing one
  • mez breeze | Tue Nov 15th 2005 7:01 p.m.
    Quoting Lev Manovich <manovich@jupiter.ucsd.edu>:

    >
    >
    > Lev Manovich
    >
    >
    > Remix and Remixability
    >
    >

    ie:

    >Date: Tue, 16 Oct 2001 02:55:07 +0000
    >To: poetics, rhizome, spectre
    >From: "l][m][att][r][ice" <netwurker@pop.hotkey.net.au>
    >Subject: _This Cybagenic Lattice_

    . ..
    . . . . ..

    A c][r][][ab-like][yst][al][ repeating. . .
    . .

    In disarray, a molten swathe of n.ter.face][s][ts
    mimic simul.crated spaces.
    In describing, yr structure is musty,
    n.distinguishable from the
    mas][ticated][s,
    a graphic urn of
    circuitry rust.

    In b.tween][ning][, pat.turns of repetition
    ][like looped n.testinal lattice][
    is in ][& of][ IT.s][h][ell.f
    repeated
    ][the uni.f][r][ied cell][.

    ..
    . ..
    . . . . ..
    . . .A most fungalmental repetition property. . .
    . . . . .
    . ..
    . . . . ..
    . ... .
    .. .

    This Cyb.age.nic Lattice in its
    ][& of IT.self][ ubersymmetry.
    We n.itially shrink ourselves ][in][2 3 di][ce][mensions.
    4 ][si][m.plicity, 3 types r coded:

    .C.quential.

    . .Replification.

    . . .Helix.

    .C.quential: U perceive & reproduce via regular successions. No gaps allowed. No
    m.maginative rigor. U may ][& will][ b visualized like this. U represent a
    sell][out][.F - the human unit of repeditive n.elasticity.

    [4 e.e.g, u r 1 of the sell.Fs. if u look out, u c the same reflective sell.Fs @
    0, 90, 180, & 270 d.grees because a c.quential repeats itself @ predicable
    ][culturally-d.][greed n.tervals.

    . .Replification: U repeat consistently. U r not able 2 distinguish successive
    patternings ][@ 0 and 180 cultural d.gree][d][s][. U find replification easier
    than advancing. U m.ulate. U ][re][produce as if it were progressive.

    . . .Helix: U spiral and poll][inate][ute. U.re c.oiled c][ultural][entrics
    reorder & re.route. U burn the sell.F. U.re c][h][ells can traverse the
    vir][mens][t][r][ually & geocentrically g][l][athered.

    . ..
    . . . . ..

    If the helix s.][c][el][l][ves were seen in ultradimensions, they would
    completely fill the Cybagenic & Ge][c][o.d.fined Lattrix.
    . . . . ..
    . ..

    _______

    >Date: Tue, 16 Oct 2001 05:12:17 +0000
    >To: 7-11, audiovision, beatrice, convergence, fibreculture, florian
    >From: "l][m][att][r][ice" <netwurker@pop.hotkey.net.au>
    >Subject: _This Cybagenic Lattice_ [translation]

    _This Cybagenic Lattice_ [interlingual rendition].

    Imagine a crab-like information retrieval moment. Envisage datacyst crystals
    reiterated through electroid transmissions. Think the design disarray of
    dimension facets gone molten, of interfaces constructed to mimic simulcrated
    non-geodefined spaces. In this projected conception your fantasized structure
    is, however, musty and indistinguishable from a traditionally masticated mass.
    You end up conceptualising a representation akin to a graphic urn of earthed
    circuitry rust.
  • Regina Pinto | Wed Nov 16th 2005 3:27 a.m.
    Regina Celia Pinto and Isabel Saij:

    The Big Sheep
    http://bigsheep.blogspot.com

    Send us your sheep to be remixed or remix the sheep of our blog.

    ...............................................................................................................

    Lev Manovich

    Remix and Remixability

    ..............................................................................................................

    > Since the introduction of first Kodak camera,
  • Michael Szpakowski | Wed Nov 16th 2005 5:08 a.m.
    Yes - this seems on the nail, if a tad schematic.
    The potential to express large amounts of different
    stuff in ones and zeros, so sound and image and text
    and procedure confront one another as *equals* and
    moreover in some sense the *same coinage* seems to me
    also to be behind/parallel to a general renewal of
    interest in the gesamkunstwerke, and this not only in
    the networked world.
    But the elephant in the room here is the massive
    amount of stuff (ie. most stuff) not yet (and probably
    never) reducible to, and exchangeable in, this
    coinage.
    The difference between an image of a painting and that
    painting's surface and presence (& I'm not talking
    *aura* here, just the fact of that raised and lumpy
    surface),or the distance between the wonderfully
    accurate Strad sample called in by an extremely
    nuanced Sibelius file compared to a performance by a
    human on a real Strad,or smell,or taste,or dance...
    I'm not dissing the virtual, I love it; also I'm not
    setting up a simple human/machine opposition - those
    networks and channels are, of course,chock full of
    humanity. There's just a further dialectic at work...
    michael

    --- Lev Manovich <manovich@jupiter.ucsd.edu> wrote:

    >
    >
    > Lev Manovich
    >
    >
    > Remix and Remixability
    >
    >
    > The dramatic increase in quantity of information
    > greatly speeded up by
    > Internet has been accompanied by another fundamental
    > development. Imagine
    > water running down a mountain. If the quantity of
    > water keeps continuously
    > increasing, it will find numerous new paths and
    > these paths will keep
    > getting wider. Something similar is happening as the
    > amount of information
    > keeps growing - except these paths are also all
    > connected to each other and
    > they go in all directions; up, down, sideways. Here
    > are some of these new
    > paths which facilitate movement of information
    > between people, listed in no
    > particular order: SMS, forward and redirect function
    > in email clients,
    > mailing lists, Web links, RSS, blogs, social
    > bookmarking, tagging,
    > publishing (as in publishing one
  • Dirk Vekemans | Thu Nov 17th 2005 8:17 a.m.
    A very impressive synthesis of the dominant view. I've admired and enjoyed 'The Language of New Media" because of it's power of synthesis and clarification too. Here, however, in the field of what you rightly call info-aesthetics, i think the picture is very restrictive and when it's put like this, backed by the power of your authority, i fear it may become normative. It already is, in many ways.

    Mez's reaction to this is perfectly clear, i think. It's amazing how fast and accurate she can produce these things. I feel that if you're missing the point of what the Poetics of New Media could be (too, besides what you make of it here and although the description you give here goes for most of what's being produced), she's bang on to it and putting it to good use.

    There are suggested paths in your own work too,however, indications that you choose to neglect here, they seem overriden by the methods of the power grid now. It's a pity, somehow. Don't think the world needs more of this modular function N=new function(newnewnewnew newness=new newnewnewnew()){it=N;N(it);}. It tends to get blown away by the hurricanes caused by the continuous postponement of urgently needed action partly generated by it. If there's a futuristic science quality in the model you're describing it might be that of how to let things slip into oblivion efficiently. Unintended, sure, and i might be the fool to read it in it, but that's what it spells for me.

    It's a very usefull text, though, your quality of writing, the clarity is a commendable achievement in our dark age and it deserves better than these hasty remarks or those beneath. Not that i'd get near your clarity or Mez's accuracy, but i might be temted to give it a serious go anyway, if i can find some time, later. I might not be able to, but information matters.

    greetings,
    dv @ Neue Kathedrale des erotischen Elends
    http://www.vilt.net/nkdee

    > -----Oorspronkelijk bericht-----
    > Van: owner-list@rhizome.org [mailto:owner-list@rhizome.org]
    > Namens Lev Manovich
    > Verzonden: woensdag 16 november 2005 11:07
    > Aan: RHIZOME; nettime-l@bbs.thing.net
    > Onderwerp: RHIZOME_RAW: Remix and Remixability
    >
    >
    >
    > Lev Manovich
    >
    >
    > Remix and Remixability
    >
    >
    > The dramatic increase in quantity of information greatly
    > speeded up by Internet has been accompanied by another
    > fundamental development. Imagine water running down a
    > mountain. If the quantity of water keeps continuously
    > increasing, it will find numerous new paths and these paths
    > will keep getting wider. Something similar is happening as
    > the amount of information keeps growing - except these paths
    > are also all connected to each other and they go in all
    > directions; up, down, sideways. Here are some of these new
    > paths which facilitate movement of information between
    > people, listed in no particular order: SMS, forward and
    > redirect function in email clients, mailing lists, Web links,
    > RSS, blogs, social bookmarking, tagging, publishing (as in
    > publishing one¹s playlist on a web site), peer-to-peer
    > networks, Web services, Firewire, Bluetooth. These paths
    > stimulate people to draw information from all kinds of
    > sources into their own space, remix and make it available to
    > others, as well as to collaborate or at least play on a
    > common information platform (Wikipedia, Flickr). Barb Dybwad
    > introduces a nice term ³collaborative remixability¹² to talk
    > about this process: ³I think the most interesting aspects of
    > Web 2.0 are new tools that explore the continuum between the
    > personal and the social, and tools that are endowed with a
    > certain flexibility and modularity which enables
    > collaborative remixability ‹ a transformative process in
    > which the information and media we¹ve organized and shared
    > can be recombined and built on to create new forms, concepts,
    > ideas, mashups and services.² [1]

    "Dramatic increase in quantity of information"? A dramatic increase of encoding and recoding of information you mean. If what we get is more, it is more obscurification and more sell-out, more humans able to feed the hungry beast that only produces itself. Believing that putting your body 'n soul through the automated transformative process of any Web, 2.0 or 8.1 or whatever version, as if some company is responsible for marketing it, creates something new is an illusion people live with to give their escapist actions the meaning they're trying to avoid at all costs.
    >
    > If a traditional twentieth century model of cultural
    > communication described movement of information in one
    > direction from a source to a receiver, now the reception
    > point is just a temporary station on information¹s path. If
    > we compare information or media object with a train, then
    > each receiver can be compared to a train station. Information
    > arrives, gets remixed with other information, and then the
    > new package travels to other destination where the process is
    > repeated.

    There are such 'twentieth century models of cultural communication'. There are others too, less restrictive and more informative of the real, i think.
    >
    > We can find precedents for this ³remixability² ­ for instance
    > in modern electronic music where remix has become the key
    > method since the 1980s. More generally, most human cultures
    > developed by borrowing and reworking forms and styles from
    > other cultures; the resulting ³remixes² were to be
    > incorporated into other cultures. Ancient Rome remixed
    > Ancient Greece; Renaissance remixed antiquity; nineteenth
    > century European architecture remixed many historical periods
    > including the Renaissance; and today graphic and fashion
    > designers remix together numerous historical and local
    > cultural forms, from Japanese Manga to traditional Indian
    > clothing. At first glance it may seem that this traditional
    > cultural remixability is quite different from ³vernacular²
    > remixability made possible by the computer-based techniques
    > described above. Clearly, a professional designer working on
    > a poster or a professional musician working on a new mix is
    > different from somebody who is writing a blog entry or
    > publishing her bookmarks.
    >
    > But this is a wrong view. The two kinds of remixability are
    > part of the same continuum. For the designer and musician (to
    > continue with the sample
    > example) are equally affected by the same computer
    > technologies. Design software and music composition software
    > make the technical operation of remixing very easy; the
    > Internet greatly increases the ease of locating and reusing
    > material from other periods, artists, designers, and so on.
    > Even more importantly, since every company and freelance
    > professionals in all cultural fields, from motion graphics to
    > architecture to fine art, publish documentation of their
    > projects on their Web sites, everybody can keep up with what
    > everybody else is doing. Therefore, although the speed with
    > which a new original architectural solution starts showing up
    > in projects of other architects and architectural students is
    > much slower than the speed with which an interesting blog
    > entry gets referenced in other blogs, the difference is
    > quantitative than qualitative. Similarly, when H&M or Gap can
    > ³reverse engineer² the latest fashion collection by a
    > high-end design label in only a few weeks, this is part of
    > the same new logic of speeded up cultural remixability
    > enabled by computers. In short, a person simply copying parts
    > of a message into the new email she is writing, and the
    > largest media and consumer company recycling designs of other
    > companies are doing the same thing ­ they practice remixability.
    >
    The continuum you're describing is a simulated continuum of the discrete. Next you move to taking that simulation for the real and start expanding its explanatory power to other media that are in themselves limited by their discreteness, reinforcing the illusionary powers maintained there. Now what is the one requirement for a process that needs to project itself as being suspended in a timeless eternity, the ideal of immediate availability, the fabrique of the utopia where every solution to every problem is database-extractable instantaneously? Exactly:

    > The remixability does not require modularity - but it greatly
    > benefits from it. Although precedents of remixing in music
    > can be found earlier, it was the introduction of multi-track
    > mixers that made remixing a standard practice. With each
    > element of a song ­ vocals, drums, etc. ­ available for
    > separate manipulation, it became possible to OEre-mix¹ the
    > song: change the volume of some tracks or substitute new
    > tracks for the old ounces. According to the book DJ Culture
    > by Ulf Poscardt, first disco remixes were made in
    > 1972 by DJ Tom Moulton. As Poscard points out, they ³Moulton
    > sought above all a different weighting of the various
    > soundtracks, and worked the rhythmic elements of the disco
    > songs even more clearly and powerfullySMoulton used the
    > various elements of the sixteen or twenty-four track master
    > tapes and remixed them.²[2]
    >
    > In most cultural fields today we have a clear-cut separation
    > between libraries of elements designed to be sampled ­ stock
    > photos, graphic backgrounds, music, software libraries ­ and
    > the cultural objects that incorporate these elements. For
    > instance, a graphic design may use photographs that the
    > designer bought from a photo stock house. But this fact is
    > not advertised; similarly, the fact that this design (if it is
    > successful) will be inevitably copied and sampled by other
    > designers is not openly acknowledged by the design field. The
    > only fields where sampling and remixing are done openly are
    > music and computer programming, where developers rely on
    > software libraries in writing new software.

    Wow, everybody is now making modular IKEA solutions, and surprise, surprise: it all works in the IKEA world! Ofcourse with all of this succes we needn't limit ourselves to present day solutions:
    >
    > Will the separation between libraries of samples and
    > ³authentic² cultural works blur in the future? Will the
    > future cultural forms be deliberately made from discrete
    > samples designed to be copied and incorporated into other
    > projects? It is interesting to imagine a cultural ecology
    > where all kinds of cultural objects regardless of the medium
    > or material are made from Lego-like building blocks. The
    > blocks come with complete information necessary to easily
    > copy and paste them in a new object ­ either by a human or
    > machine. A block knows how to couple with other blocks ­ and
    > it even can modify itself to enable such coupling. The block
    > can also tell the designer and the user about its cultural
    > history ­ the sequence of historical borrowings which led to
    > the present form. And if original Lego (or a typical
    > twentieth century housing project) contains only a few kinds
    > of blocks that make all objects one can design with Lego
    > rather similar in appearance, computers can keep track of
    > unlimited number of different blocks. At least, they can
    > already keep track of all the possible samples we can pick
    > from all cultural objects available today.
    >
    > The standard twentieth century notion of cultural modularity
    > involved artists, designers or architects making finished
    > works from the small vocabulary of elemental shapes, or other
    > modules. The scenario I am entertaining proposes a very
    > different kind of modularity that may appear like a
    > contradiction in terms. It is modularity without a priori
    > defined vocabulary. In this scenario, any well-defined part
    > of any finished cultural object can automatically become a
    > building block for new objects in the same medium. Parts can
    > even OEpublish¹ themselves and other cultural objects can
    > ³subscribe² to them the way you subscribe now to RSS feeds or
    > podcasts.
    >
    > When we think of modularity today, we assume that a number of
    > objects that can be created in a modular system is limited.
    > Indeed, if we are building these objects from a very small
    > set of blocks, there are a limited number of ways in which
    > these blocks can go together. (Although as the relative
    > physical size of the blocks in relation to the finished
    > object get smaller, the number of different objects which can
    > be built increases: think IKEA modular bookcase versus a Lego
    > set.) However, in my scenario modularity does not involve any
    > reduction in the number of forms that can be created. On the
    > contrary, if the blocks themselves are created using one of
    > many already developed computer designed methods (such as
    > parametric design), every time they are used again they can
    > modify themselves automatically to assure that they look
    > different. In other words, if pre-computer modularity leads
    > to repetition and reduction, post-computer modularity can
    > produce unlimited diversity.
    >
    > I think that such ³real-time² or ³on-demand² modularity can
    > only be imagined today after online stores such as Amazon,
    > blog indexing services such as Technorati, and architectural
    > projects such as Yokohama International Port Terminal by
    > Foreign Office Architects and Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los
    > Angeles by Frank Gehry visibly demonstrated that we can
    > develop hardware and software to coordinate massive numbers
    > of cultural objects and their building blocks: books, bog
    > entries, construction parts. But whether we will ever have
    > such a cultural ecology is not important. We often look at
    > the present by placing it within long historical
    > trajectories. But I believe that we can also productively
    > use a different, complementary method. We can imagine what
    > will happen if the contemporary techno-cultural conditions
    > which are already firmly established are pushed to their
    > logical limit. In other words, rather than placing the
    > present in the context of the past, we can look at it in the
    > context of a logically possible future. This ³look from the
    > future² approach may illuminate the present in a way not
    > possible if we only ³look from the past.² The sketch of
    > logically possible cultural ecology I just made is a little
    > experiment in this method: futurology or science fiction as a
    > method of contemporary cultural analysis.
    >
    > So what else can we see today if we will look at it from this
    > logically possible future of complete remixability and
    > universal modularity? If my scenario sketched above looks
    > like a ³cultural science fiction,² consider the process that
    > is already happening on the one end of remixability
    > continuum. Although strictly speaking it does not involve
    > increasing modularity to help remixability, ultimately its
    > logic is the same: helping cultural bits move around more
    > easily. I am talking about a move in Internet culture today
    > from intricately packaged and highly designed ³information
    > objects² which are hard to take apart ­ such as web sites
    > made in Flash ­ to ³strait² information: ASCII text files,
    > feeds of RSS feeds, blog entries, SMS messages. As Richard
    > MacManus and Joshua Porter put it, ³Enter Web 2.0, a vision
    > of the Web in which information is broken up into
    > ³microcontent² units that can be distributed over dozens of
    > domains. The Web of documents has morphed into a Web of
    > data. We are no longer just looking to the same old sources
    > for information. Now we¹re looking to a new set of tools to
    > aggregate and remix microcontent in new and useful ways.²[3]
    > And it is much easier to ³aggregate and remix microcontent²
    > if it is not locked by a design. Strait ASCII file, a JPEG, a
    > map, a sound or video file can move around the Web and enter
    > into user-defined remixes such as a set of RSS feeds;
    > cultural objects where the parts are locked together (such as Flash
    > interface) cant. In short, in the era of Web 2.0,
    > ³information wants to be ASCII.²[4]
    >
    > If we approach the present from the perspective of a
    > potential future of ³ultimate modularity / remixability,² we
    > can see other incremental steps towards this future which are
    > already occurring. For instance, Orange <orange.blender.org>
    > (an animation studio n Amsterdam) has setup a team of artists
    > and developers around the world to collaborate on an animated
    > short film; the studio plans to release all of their
    > production files, 3D models, textures, and animation as
    > Creative Commons open content on a extended edition DVD.
    >
    > Creative Commons offers a special set of Sampling Licenses
    > which ³let artists and authors invite other people to use a
    > part of their work and make it new.²[5] Flickr offers
    > multiple tools to combine multiple photos (not broken into
    > parts ­ at least so far) together: tags, sets, groups, Organizr.
    > Flickr interface thus position each photo within multiple
    > ³mixes.² Flickr also offers ³notes² which allows the users to
    > assign short notes to individual parts of a photograph. To
    > add a note to a photo posted on Flickr, you draw a rectangle
    > on any part of the phone and then attach some text to it. A
    > number of notes can be attached to the same photo. I read
    > this feature as another a sign of modularity/remixability
    > mentality, as it encourages users to mentally break a photo
    > into separate parts. In other words, ³notes² break a single
    > media object ­ a photograph ­ into blocks.
    >
    > In a similar fashion, the common interface of DVDs breaks a
    > film into chapters. Media players such as iPod and online
    > media stores such as iTunes break music CDs into separate
    > tracks ­ making a track into a new basic unit of musical
    > culture. In all these examples, what was previously a single
    > coherent cultural object is broken into separate blocks that
    > can be accessed individually. In other words, if ³information
    > wants to be ASCII,² ³contents wants to be granular.² And
    > culture as a whole? Culture has always been about
    > remixability ­ but now this remixability s available to all
    > participants of Internet culture.
    >
    > Since the introduction of first Kodak camera, ³users² had
    > tools to create massive amounts of vernacular media. Later
    > they were given amateur film cameras, tape recorders, video
    > recorders...But the fact that people had access to "tools of
    > media production" for as long as the professional media
    > creators until recently did not seem to play a big role: the
    > amateur¹ and professional¹ media pools did not mix.
    > Professional photographs traveled between photographer¹s
    > darkroom and newspaper editor; private pictures of a wedding
    > traveled between members of the family. But the emergence of
    > multiple and interlinked paths which encourage media objects
    > to easily travel between web sites, recording and display
    > devices, hard drives, and people changes things. Remixability
    > becomes practically a built-in feature of digital networked
    > media universe. In a nutshell, what maybe more important than
    > the introduction of a video iPod, a consumer HD camera,
    > Flickr, or yet another exiting new device or service is how
    > easy it is for media objects to travel between all these
    > devices and services - which now all become just temporary
    > stations in media¹s Brownian motion.
    >
    >
    >
    > October 2005
    >
    >
    > NOTES
    >
    > [1] ³Approaching a definition of Web 2.0,² The Social
    > Software Weblog <socialsoftware.weblogsinc.com>, accessed
    > October 28, 2005.
    >
    > [2] Ulf Poschardt, DJ Culture, trans. Shaun Whiteside
    > (London: Quartet Books Ltd, 1998), 123.
    >
    > [3] ³Web 2.0 Design: Bootstrapping the Social Web,² Digital
    > Web Magazine <
    > http://www.digital-web.com/types/web_2_design/>, accessed
    > October 28, 2005.
    >
    > [4] Modern information environment is characterized by a
    > constant tension between the desires to ³package² information
    > (Flash design for instance) and strip it from all packaging
    > so it can travel easier between different media and sites.
    >
    > [5] http://creativecommons.org/about/sampling, accessed
    > October 31, 2005.
    >
    >
    >
    >
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