Posted in response to an interesting question from a student about remix culture:
Very thought provoking questions. I think it’s helpful to keep the first part of your argument in mind – the interdependence of creation and use. To a certain extent everything that is ‘made’ is made with an intended purpose. What’s fascinating is how adding people to that mix can muddle the original purpose and, in the process, come up with an unexpected outcome.
That said, it’s important to also remember that everything is to some extent or another derivative – it all comes from somewhere and is layered on to our histories at every turn. Novelty is rarely truly ‘new’ but always a ‘re-imagining’ in light of shifting contexts.
Context is something that we haven’t really explored much, or at least enough, in this class but is a necessary thing to consider. Culture, it can be argued, is a context – a structure or set of rules for interpreting things. Contexts change and so then does the way we look at and use things.
Now if we take a look at the examples you bring up about analog-like interfaces for digital interaction – moving away from joysticks and toward physical interfaces – I’ve been thinking about that myself. I find it interesting (and am writing about that elsewhere on my research blog) that we tend to forget that ‘digital technology’ was first intended to replace the analog but now is moving full speed toward replicating it. Web 3.0 is a movement toward ‘intuitive searching’ where your computer will need to learn what you mean rather than just what you ask – after all, computers are only as smart as the people who program them.
Remixing is an interesting thing to me insofar as it is not a new phenomenon but rather a re-birth of how we survived for centuries. When you watch an Antiques show you often hear about how surprising it is that a piece of furniture or art survived untouched when most of its brethren were stripped and used again for another purpose. Remixing was a way in which to ‘reuse’ long before recycling recognized that our society was moving too far toward consuming the new and discarding the old. Reuse was a way of life and remix culture, to my mind, is a way of returning to our roots of self-reflection and creative salvaging rather than always assuming that ‘new’ is ‘better’ or that ‘old’ is ‘useless.’