Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ad Hoc Archivists: MP3 bloggers and digital provenance

Now in print and in databases at your local research library:
Ad Hoc Archivists: mp3 blogs and digital provenance
Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies
Vol. 26, No. 1, February 2012, pp. 1-10

Abstract: This paper develops a theoretical framework for understanding mp3 blogging as a form of networked expression. Drawing on a qualitative study of mp3 blogs, this paper sets forth an understanding of the practice as a performance of listening and the blog as a registry of understanding. It argues that mp3 blogs deserve special attention because of the particular audio format at its core – the mp3 – a format that shapes the practice and its reception in particular ways. It considers not only how the practice generates perfect copies of such digital artefacts but also how the generation of provenance helps us to understand the propagation and circulation of copies in digital networks.

Errata: There is a typesetting error on page 8. The line: The insistence is palpable...etc Should not be in the block quote.

Note: This is the first publication based on listening to mp3 blogs and interviews I conducted in 2006-2007. It is not an empirical study but a conceptual investigation of form. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Association of Internet Researchers annual conference in Copenhagen October 16–18, 2008 and an even earlier talk was given at the Australasian Sound Recording Association conference in Melbourne in August 2007. A companion article on the persistence of romantic ideals of creativity in networked discourse is forthcoming and I will post a link here when it is available.

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Rethinking the Rhetoric of remix in Media International Australia

Available now at a research library near you:

Rethinking the Rhetoric of Remix
Media International Australia
No. 141, pp. 17-25

Abstract: How did 'remix', a post-production technique and compositional form in dance music, come to describe digital culture? Is it an apt metaphor? This article considers the rhetorical use of remix in Lawrence Lessig's case for copyright reform in Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy (2008). I argue that Lessig's understanding of remix is problematic, as it seems unable to accommodate its musical namesake and obscures the particular history of media use in recent music culture. Drawing on qualitative analysis of popular music cultures, I argue that the conceptualisation of remix as any media made from pre-existing media is problematic. The origins of remix, I argue, provides a lens for thinking critically about the rhetorical uses of the term in current discourse and forces us to ponder materialities. My aim is not to dispute the word's contemporary meaning or attempt to establish a correct usage of the term - clearly a wide variety of creators call their work remix; instead, this article considers the rhetorical work that remix is asked to perform as a way of probing the assumptions and aspirations that lurk behind Lessig's argument.

Note: I've expanded on this thesis substantially since writing this essay in June/July 2010 and revising in November 2010 (thanks to the wise words of two anonymous peer reviewers!) More recently I've traced changes in the way the word remix functions in popular discourse since the 1970s and also looked at how the metaphors functions in academic discourse. I will post a link here when this work is published.

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