I printed off the syllabus for my Advanced Composition course and scanned it with my eyes. At the top, it stated “Remixing Identity: Theories of Remix, Race, and Ethnicity.” Sincerely confused, I confronted my friend and Google to see what information I could discover about this strange term, “remix.” My friend was no help and Google bombarded me with rap tracks that I had no interest listening to. Remix was still a mystery. Once class began, this enigma became resolved. With the help of Lawrence Lessig, Tashima Thomas, Patricia Aufderheide, Gustavo Romano, Teresa Franklin, and of course, Jean Alger, I have acquired the information necessary to define remix. Along with the ability to describe remix, I am also capable of creating my own remixes-which I did five times over this past semester.
Before Advanced Composition, my only understanding of remix was connected to music. Artists producing remixes of a song is common, however, I had never even heard the term used in any other context. Just in the first few weeks of class, I learned that remix is not limited to music. It can apply to film, texts, and photographs. Without even knowing it, I had previously designed a remix in my dorm: a vision board collage. The definition of remix provided to us in class stated that remix involved “combining cultural artifacts and manipulating them into new artifacts” (January 14, 2016). An even simpler explanation comes from Lawrence Lessig. He is the author of Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy and he asserts that “remix is collage” (Lessig 76). Lessig gives a more uncluttered interpretation, one that encompasses what remix is all about-combining bits and pieces into marvelous compositions. Similar to Lessig, Gustavo Romano’s article, “Of Re/Appropriations”, defines remix as “the recombination of materials. . . traditionally  associated with collage” (Romano 425). Collage is a succinct way of interpreting remix. In Tashima Thomas’ article, “Race and Remix: The Aesthetics of Race in the Visual and Performing Arts”, she declares, “remix is a cultural practice that includes reintroductions of preexisting sources mixed together via the practice of cut/copy and paste” (Thomas 179). Thomas’ perspective claims no original context is being incorporated, the original content is being produced– produced with work already manufactured. This definition of remix contrasts other theorists in that Thomas precisely addresses that new content is formed from preexisting materials from pioneers and not mixed with the remixist’s own ingredients. For instance, in my self-portrait collage, I included photographs of myself and pictures that I had taken; this would not fit Thomas’ perspective, since I involved my personal elements into my remix of other’s work. The interpretations of remix are endless. Remix can even be employed in the classroom, which is a wonderful application in my opinion. Remixing in education is significant because students “desire to “connect, exchange, share, remix and reinvent” (Franklin 1089). After reviewing multitudes of definitions, I consider my explanation of remix as fusing elements of various authors’ works into one composition. Transparent and terse. I believe this embodies what we have been doing all semester: taking author’s work and blending them.
The rules and regulations for remix are often blurry and problematic. Copyright laws frequently squander creativity of remixists. Romano’s article speaks about repurposing, reinterpreting, and reengineering materials for remix, which oftentimes takes something from someone else without permission (Romano). Although copyright laws are in place, the legality of remixing is still pondered. Also, legality does not equate ethicality. What is legal does not always fit someone’s philosophy of morals and vice versa. Patricia Aufderheide’s position concerning legality emulates Lessig’s, in that they both are proponents of reduced legal restrictions on copyright. However, Aufderheide takes a more “don’t worry, be happy” approach and believes Lessig overreacts-an alarmist of sorts. An unanimous feature in almost all theorists’ convictions is the necessity of citations or some substitute that is equivalent. Along with citing sources for a remix, there is an alternative method: fair use. Fair use is “a legal doctrine that [allows] portions of copyrighted materials [to] be used without permission of the copyright owner provided the use is fair and reasonable, does not substantially impair the value of the materials, and does not curtail the profits reasonably expected by the owner” (Merriam-Webster). This principle is generally utilized for news and teaching. I believe that the concept of fair use is beneficial to consumers, without causing harm to the author’s work. My ethics of remix are still forming, but I think that materials should be authorized for people to remix without permission. Giving credit is critical nevertheless; I do not condone stealing by any means. As far as remixing for profit, my thoughts are conflicted. When a remixist sets out to compose a project using someone else’s work and seeks to gain compensation, is that ethical? Is it legal? Individually, I would assert it as ethically unsound and illegal. There are already restrictions in place for the use of an author’s property-copyright laws; however, I believe much of the copyright regulations can be asphyxiating. There is also the matter of altering meaning and intent. I think that modifying the intent is a part of remix. I mean, for God’s sake, I made love poems from The Shining. Talk about changing the purpose of the original text. I consider the aim of the initial author to be the prime element of transformation in the eyes of a remixist. One cannot expect the goals of the remixist to be identical to those of the original author- that would almost defeat the entire principle of remix.
With all that said, I set out to compose five of my own remixes. A self-portrait, a profile over my grandma, an ethnography about ISIS, an authoethnography for high school English teachers, and a remix of identity of The Shining transformed into love poems. I made it my mission to give credit where credit was due, yet, sometimes citing sources was near impossible for the items I was manipulating. Reflecting on my personal definition of remix, I made a collage for my self-portrait. My original plan was to conceive a video mash-up of clips that represented me, but my skills were not advanced enough. I resolved to manufacture a collage, since I had experience making my vision board. I collected my photos and words from Bella Grace, Nash Country Weekly, and Brides of Oklahoma magazine. I also printed off some personal photos from my laptop, along with some images I accumulated from Google and my Pinterest account. My focus was to construct a large, analog visual that depicted my personality and passions. I cited all of the photographs; however, citing the words I cut out was hopeless. Elements of my collage that I aimed to stress were my positivity, my love for coffee, and my obsession with Adele and Reba. I incorporated Mamma Chia bottle caps on my foam board to add a 3D aspect and to highlight my zeal. Adding to the 3D feature, I included Starbucks drink stoppers and a coffee sleeve to display my infatuation with caffeine. I think the overall disposition of my collage is amiable, serene, and joyous. My self-portrait will be included in my final three.
When I commenced my profile remix, I struggled choosing between my dad and my grandma. Both have been life rafts for me and I owe so much to each of them. My dad fought for my sister and I in a five year custody battle-thousands in legal bills and heaps of stress never rattled him. My grandma, Meme, was a safe haven and my best friend growing up. I lived with her for over half my life and she really assumed the role of a mother for my sister and I. I ultimately selected Meme. I picked her because not only is she an integral part of my life, but she is now 95 and I thought making her a video would be a kind gesture to show her how much she means to me. I am also named after her and I mystically believe that being bestowed with the name “Suzanne” makes us closer than her and my sister or cousins. Unlike my self-portrait, I began in iMovie and stayed there. I sectioned the video into two parts: WAVES and Meme. The video is titled “Suzanne Stephens: Before & After.” The before section of the title refers to the part of her life devoted to marriage and raising children; the after part begins around when I was born because I was the first grandchild to call her Meme. I filmed old photographs of her from the 40s for the WAVES portion. I also discovered a film of WAVES in WWII and spliced it with Meme’s personal photographs. I then set it to Betty Hutton’s, The Navy Song (Join The Navy). I chose to dedicate a section of the video to Meme’s stint in the Navy because I feel it represents her selflessness early on in her life. Today, she is volunteering royalty, but I wanted to display her characteristic of benevolence from her twenties. In the opening shot, her official Navy portrait swells on the screen as the question, “Why did you join the Navy?” At the conclusion of the WAVES half, I put her answer, “I just wanted to help.” This sums Meme up quite accurately and forms a harmonious transition into the Meme section of the film. The second half, Meme, incorporates quotes that tie to Meme’s favorite things. The screen switches off from quote to a video clip throughout the portion. A theme in this half of the movie is also Meme’s love for helping others. In the film, a News on 6 clip presents Meme in her element: The Knittin’ Kittens of Tulsa. The Knittin’ Kittens are a group derived from the RSVP, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. Their job is to knit scarves, hats, and blankets for children in Tulsa’s poorest areas and the newborn babies at surrounding hospitals. I hope to convey Meme’s volunteering heart in my remix. The background music is simple and joyful, just like Meme. This project will be in my portfolio and I plan to exhibit it to my grandma soon.
The next remix I commenced was the remix of an existing text. I have always loved poetry and had recently learned about blackout poetry from Pinterest. It is commonly utilized in the classroom and that interested me because I am a Secondary Education major. The basic concept is to rip a page from a book and choose words from the page to form a poem. The remixist has the option of decorating the page to add more flair and aesthetic appeal. I decided to compose blackout poems from Stephen King’s The Shining. Instead of keeping the horror theme, I altered the mood and created love poems. I divided the poems into three categories: love lost, companionship and admiration, and erotic. I put the poems in an album with a paired explanation beside it. The explanation is just to clarify meaning; I thought this would be a beneficial feature, since poetry often has several interpretations. My project is simply titled, “The Shining in Love Poems.” The purpose of The Shining remix is to eliminate the author’s original intent of terror and replace it with tenderness and passion. I decided to alter King’s purpose of panic to love because I thought happiness was the farthest thing from terror; I thought it would be interesting to see how far I could stray from the frightening tone. My goal actually worked out smoother than I had anticipated. For example, I ripped out a random page toward the back of the novel and it ended up being an attack/ murder scene. I then transformed it into an intense sex scene; it turns out that the phrase, “[s]he lay breathing harshly for a time, unable to move,” has two very distinct meanings (King 589). This remix will be the final project incorporated in my portfolio.
The next remix is the authoethnography. This was one I had an idea for since January, but never acted on it until the last minute. I did not know how I wanted to present this remix or even what materials I would use. My idea was to produce a project over high school English teachers. After contemplating the presentation format, I landed on a parody website. Originally, I wanted to imitate Buzzfeed, then changed my mind to Bustle. Bustle is an online media source targeted to females; it includes information on current events, fashion, books, and lifestyle. I titled my website, which is really more like a blog, Hustle: The Overworked English Teacher. I choose that name because it rhymed with Bustle and teachers always seem to be running around nonstop. The site is similarly organized to Bustle in that it shares complementary tabs. Hustle includes a news, classroom, lifestyle, and book category. I collected articles from various websites, including Education News and Ed Week. I also searched Pinterest for the majority of the material I used. I will not be displaying this project in my portfolio because it is far from finished and I do not consider it my best work. My final remix is my ethnography. After our talk on nationalism, it got me thinking. I am a deeply patriotic person and since the ethnography is about a group that I do not belong to, I considered what the antithesis of the United States is. That brought me to ISIS. ISIS constantly is featured in the media, so I decided to gather newspaper headlines and article titles to represent ISIS on a cardboard trifold. I decided I not only wanted to incorporate American headlines, but other countries as well as to eliminate bias. Although, nothing can be said to defend ISIS, I wanted to present multiple viewpoints. I chose to exhibit this project with a small, cardboard trifold. The United States headlines and articles will be in the middle, and on the other two sides, there will be European and Asian headlines. The purpose of this remix is to demonstrate how destructive and savage ISIS is through media coverage around the world. This remix also will not make it into the final three because it is underdeveloped and incomplete.
In the past four months, I have been presented with loads of information dealing with remix and identity. Included in this are definitions of remix, copyright laws, and examples of remix compositions. Before I was a blank slate, but now I am aware of the ethics and restrictions that surround remixing and the importance of developing personal views on remix. In developing my five remixes, I have learned that citing sources is a bitch, it is a breeze to create sexually explicit poetry, and you can never use too much Mod Podge. On a more serious note, I have acquired my own personal definition of remix: that remix is collaging bits and pieces of materials from others, by changing the intent or not, and creating something fresh. Many things old into one thing new. I also agree with Aufderheide when it comes to copyright laws; I think they are a little too suffocating at times. My final projects that will be presented in my portfolio are my self-portrait, my profile, and my remix of a text. Overall, this semester, I have gained a completely new perspective of the behind-the-scenes of creation.
Aufderheide, Patricia. “Copyright and Fair Use in Remix: From Alarmism to Action.” The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies (2014): n. pag. Print.
Franklin, Teresa. “Embracing the Future: Empowering the 21st Century Educator.” Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 176 (2015): 1089-096. Print.
King, Stephen. The Shining. New York: Anchor, n.d. Print.
Lessig, Lawrence. Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. New York: Penguin, 2008. Print.
Merriam-Webster. “Fair Use.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2016.
Romano, Gustavo. “O Re/ Appropriations.” The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies (2014): n. pag. Print.
Thomas, Tashima. “Race and Remix: The Aesthetics of Race in the Visual and Performing Arts.” The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies (2014): n. pag. Print.