This is the Remix

Creation requires influence.  Ideas are not property. Discovery belongs to us all.

These are just some of the ideas we’ll be exploring in our next unit on appropriated narratives. For perhaps the first time ever in your academic career, I am requiring you to plagiarize.

In doing so, remember Kirby Ferguson’s mantra: Copy. Transform. Combine.

Your task, for this unit, will be to create something that hacks or hijacks, a narrative that is built from as little of your own original content as possible.

The way I see it, you have two broad options (both of which are open for interpretation and hacking themselves):

You may either

  • Create a narrative wherein the source material is appropriated. This narrative can exist in any medium (audio, video, text, image, or some combination therein), and can take the form of a remix, a mashup, or a sampled/collaged narrative.


  • Create a narrative that appropriates a medium. In this case, you would author the content of the narrative, but would hack or hijack the space to house it. If you go this route, I want you to challenge yourself by appropriating a medium that isn’t naturally designed for narrative [social media, for instance, wouldn’t be challenging enough]. You should work to adhere the conventions of the medium you choose but should also appropriate the medium for your own nefarious purposes.

You may call what you do in this unit whatever you like, but here are some basic working definitions as I see them.

A mashup basically juxtaposes two or more existing pieces, and allows them to speak to each other. Mashups usually leave the burden of interpreting the mix to the reader or viewer. A remix is a newly-expanded, altered, jazzed-up version of an existing work. Sampling is using bits and pieces of multiple works in service of the author’s own vision.

Since you will be working with a variety of technical resources, and in a variety of forms, my evaluation of your work will be focused on how well you’re exploring and embodying the concept of the remix, and the nature of appropriation, with the acknowledgement that some of these exercises will be more successful as experiments, and others more successful as narratives.

I want to see substantial effort: if you’re taking an ‘easier’ technical route like found text, or basic image editing, I’ll want to see a body of work (like a Tumblr with more than a few entries), whereas if your project is more ambitious in technical scope (an audio/video mashup or regenerative remix), I’ll care more about the polish than the length of the project.

As with every unit, you should feel free to work individually or in groups. As a method of brainstorming and finding potential group members, by the end of class time on Wednesday, I want everyone to share their ideas for an appropriated narrative in this Google doc.

Whatever you choose, your challenge in this unit will be to create something that feels like it belongs to you, using almost none of your own material. I want you to be thinking critically about what you are sampling, which elements are being remixed, mashed up, or otherwise transformed, and why. Playful, funny, weird remixes are encouraged, but should be doing something focused and purposeful. Hopefully, this will make for an interesting dynamic, and will pose some significant questions about the role of the author, and the notions of originality or creation, especially in the digital world.


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