I’ve had 5 people ask me that in the past week. It wasn’t a particularly busy week either. One guy was on the elevator, the other was a fellow member of an extra-curricular activity group. They were regular people who just didn’t know what it was.
So here it is: A remix is made when two elements are joined to form a new, different element with a different meaning. Kind of like a compound word (newstand, ladybug, ladyfinger, etc).
The word ‘remix’ is now used everywhere as a synonym for ‘combination’ to give things an edgy, hip connotation. It’s kind of like when everyone put the letter ‘i’ in front of their product to make it seem more youth-orientated. (Have you seen the iTwist, a new food-like product from KFC that encourages consumers to “remix” their value menu routine?)
In a new media context, a remix is the combination of two different pieces of media to form a new piece of media. For example, a voiceover and Hollywood movie can be remixed together to form a new video. Remix works best when the source materials are totally different from each other, like Romantic Comedies vs. Biblical Dramas, or when they comment on or critique the other.
Why is this important? We have greater access to technology that allows us to pick apart media and put it back together again in new and different and hilarious and very exciting ways. This means we can talk back, make fun of and critique the media using their own language.
What remix means for pop culture and Hollywood.
I’d be a fan of a lot more stuff if I didn’t have to constantly compromise my politics to be entertained. With remix, we can reedit tired narratives into more subversive ones or pay homage to the awesome narratives that do exist. We’re remixing to show, rather than just tell, what we want to see in pop culture and Hollywood. When we see work that represents our values and principles, it deepens our sense community, closing the gap between critic and fan.
What remix means for feminism.
Remix and feminism go hand in hand. For young women and girls, it’s a way to take back our identities from corporate commodification and the use of appropriation in the remix process allows for images of woman and femininity to be rearticulated and redefined by the author. As a result, women become authors, resignifying the practices, discourses, and institutions on which oppression is based in real time.
What remix means for copyright.
Part of the fun of remix is that it allows us to use our collective Fair Use rights. Fair Use is the portion of copyright law constantly under threat by corporate content creators like Warner Brothers and MGM. They don’t want us to have access to their content but fortunately, under the law, we do for purposes of comment, critique, homage and education. By making more remixes, we consistently push the boundaries of ownership and threaten Corporate power. This is a really good thing. Why should the big companies own all of popular culture? Fair Use rights are like a muscle. If we don’t use them, we loose them.
“Mashups, remixes, subs, and online parodies are new and refreshing online phenomena, but they partake of an ancient tradition: the recycling of old culture to make new. In spite of our romantic cliches about the anguished lone creator, the entire history of cultural production from Aeschylus through Shakespeare to Clueless has shown that all creators stand, as Isaac Newton (and so many others) put it, “on the shoulders of giants.”
In fact, the cultural value of copying is so well established that it is written into the social bargain at the heart of copyright law. The bargain is this: we as a society give limited property rights to creators, to reward them for producing culture; at the same time, we give other creators the chance to use that same copyrighted material without permission or payment, in some circumstances. Without the second half of the bargain, we could all lose important new cultural work just because one person is arbitrary or greedy.” – Best Practices in Fair Use
What remix means for activism.
Remix allows us to dismantle precious brand identities that companies spend millions on in an effort to convince us that buying their product will make us happier, slimmer, prettier, richer, etc.
What do you think remix is or isn’t? And how do you describe it to other people who ask?