Sunday, January 29, 2012
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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