Remix it like Disney, Warhol and Picasso

My generation has more or less grown up with remixed material from all genres but one of them has received particular attention – remixing music. Funnily enough I can confirm that there have been times I have happily listened to a song when it dawned on me and I suddenly thought: ‘No way! This is the original?!’ So, yes, it has happened that I knew a remixed version of a particular song before I even knew an original had existed. Strange isn’t it? Not so strange if you ask me. Let’s take a closer look at this statement made by a young and inspiring remixer (watch his manifesto on: http://films.nfb.ca/rip-a-remix-manifesto/?film=1): “Disney himself was a sort of remixer, because many of the first animated films produced by his company were based on stories in the public domain”. In the very detailed description that accompanies the short film it states that stories like Snow White, Alice in Wonderland or Cinderella were simply not copyrighted anymore so Disney took the ideas and produced them as films. A genius mind combined with these great stories – masterpieces of film history were born.

Another area where remixing is used, noticed or not, is contemporary art. Especially Andy Warhol and all those other great pop art artists have famously transformed existing photos into something new and different. It provided a new view on the commercialized world and had a great impact on following artists. Even Picasso converted natural shapes into abstract paintings and did this with using an incredibly detailed system. He remixed images of nature. Again, an utter genius. I think it is exactly that part of remix culture that makes it so interesting and important – to create a new view on something already existing. It takes creativity and thought to produce a good remix of a song or just generally a piece of art and so for me the result can only be classed as art, too.

So generally I have come to the conclusion that remixing is a good thing. As long as it stays within copyright rules it’s even better, but I don’t mind the homemade remixes either. Probably because I don’t own a business that could possibly lose money through not authorized, published material. But also because I think that we should work with our collective intelligence and contribute from each other in an inspirational way rather than a commercial one. So let’s hope that this little blur between copyright and creativity brings out more genius minds in creation like their legendary pioneers.

Viva la vida real!

It has always fascinated me why people feel the need to build up a second identity online. In a way, I am taking part in this digital phenomenon through my nearly daily use of social networking sites. I am creating a virtual identity through publishing carefully selected information about myself. But to me, games like “Second Life” operate on a different level. The textual experience is a lot more intensive than the one we find on Facebook and friends. In Second Life you can buy and achieve everything you could in real life, the only difference is, that it is much easier. But where lies the fascination that lets some users even become addicted to the game and shut themselves away from the real world?

I have never been a fan of projects that imitate real life in such a detailed way. When I think of Second Life or World of Warcraft I think of a stereotype: A computer geek that is not very popular or possibly just feels misunderstood who seeks compensation through their virtual second chance at a social life. For the users that get physically addicted to playing and the reported cases that have even dropped out of school to fully commit themselves to the game this might even be true. But I think the times that only this type of user fully engaged with the experience are long gone. Today, you can find gamers of every age, social group and academic background. Naturally, some ethic groups might be more strongly represented than others, but it is not so important where you come from. I think what plays into it more is what you have failed to achieve in real life. That could be the car you could never afford, your perfect-match partner or the holiday you have always dreamed of. Second Life is built on people’s desires, hopes and wishes and as we all have them, it is a pretty sure business for its creators. You can give your dream another shot without the effort of going out and putting your words into action, you can stay at home with a cup of tea. Nice and easy. It appears that the more you miss in your real world, the more you can get attached to the thought of reaching it with a few clicks.

Although looking at this project with a slightly sarcastic egde, I also feel sorry for the ones that can’t seem to escape it anymore. I'd like to think that the good old personal, real life approach gets you further than sitting at home dreaming of what could have been and putting up with the 2D substitute on your screen. Viva la vida real!


Copyright - A comment on the Lars Ulrich and Chuck D interview

The violation of copyright, especially in the music business, has in recent years, created many serious problems for the artists that depend on selling their records. The countless platforms providing any internet user with pretty much anything they desire have developed to be the biggest enemy of artists and record companies. In the interview with Lars Ulrich, drummer of the band Metallica and Chuck D of Public Enemy it becomes quite clear how far apart opinions about download culture can divide from each other. Lars Ulrich states that he is strictly against the possibility of downloading music from the internet. He explains that the most important aspect for the artist is the control they have over what they produce. He makes it sound like his main concern led with the intellectual property of every artist. In the first part of the interview it seems that Ulrich’s main concern was the artistic value of the work. Later on it becomes quite clear that his main concern is the loss of profit. For the artist to be able to “keep the control” in my eyes means, that the artist should be able to control their output. I agree that it is difficult for the music business to keep up with the changes and deal with the great availability of its produce. However, there has also been a change in the way the internet has contributed to the success of artists and music in general. Chuck D argues, for example, that a download service also provides a platform for the artist to increase their popularity as the material can spread a lot quicker and easier. He has a good point and it has shown in many cases that online platforms and download sites have improved the position of many artists and even made them successful in the first place. I think downloading has mainly increased the awareness about the music industry in general. More people have access to the material and the amount of people visiting live concerts has actually increased on the back of that. In my eyes new forms of music being available online like the project “Spotify” are the way forward. To use the labour that the online community provides by placing adverts within the program just as sites like Facebook have done for years is a good way to be able to guarantee profit to the artist as well as making music available for the broad mass.


Don't be mean - be green!

When we were given the task to film our own campaign without it actually being an assessment two thing shot through our heads: Firstly, it had to be funny. Secondly, it obviously had to have some sort of message. We are not sure if the latter has eventually been shown but maybe this entry gives me the chance to explain that it did have a message – even if it was a rather minor one. From what we heard most of the other groups seemed to tackle quite serious problems like bullying or drugs. In our eyes that was enough seriousness for the course project so we decided to come up with something that would be entertaining rather than shocking.

Possible topics for our campaign included: “The Anti-Valentines-Day-Campaign” and “The Casting-for-Craig’s-Festival-Tickets-Campaign” but in the end the choice had to be “The Campaign for being Green”. We all know the adverts that that praise “green energy” or “greener travelling” and I agree that it is important to be active in saving the environment but on the other hand is not every company that claims to “be green” sticks to what they promise. It is ironic that especially airlines talk about “greener flying” when it is that exact way of getting from a to b that is actually one of the biggest causes for pollution. No new type of fuel will change this, at least not for now. So we have taken this new, booming market of “green advertising” and created a parody. Our campaign starts with a clip that shows how disastrous the consequences could be if we keep polluting the air and the temperature of the earth is rising. This rather dramatic video in line with the title of the campaign lets the viewer assume that they are going to see a project against destroying the environment. But just like the media tell us every day, we started being green, just a bit more literally than one would have expected.

We painted ourselves green and after an introductory interview with voices about the campaign we went out on the street to celebrate greenness. I was lucky enough to be one of the two green people and I have to admit it was fun. Being mute (-we don’t actually know why green people are mute, but they were-) my green partner and I showed how much harmony being green can spread. People on the street were waving at us and the interviewed gentleman in the video even thought it was “very springlike” – although it was a freezing 4 degrees outside. It is actually surprising how many smiling faces one can achieve just by being different but friendly. Filming and cutting the video with the new Flip Camera was incredibly easy and I was surprised how little effort went into creating a decent video clip including fading scenes, background music and credits. Filming the “Campaign for being Green” was a lot of fun and I hope that our viewers enjoyed it as much watching it as we did filming it.


To be or not to be - with a virtual identity.

When I started to work on the first essay about my media usage it became clear quite quickly that a major part of the report would describe the role of social networking. This surprised me as in the past I would heavily disagree with living my life online and becoming dependent on this virtual community. The more I thought about how often I really used social networking sites and what impact they had on my everyday life I realized that I had put a lot more time and trust into this phenomenon than I originally gave it credit for. I finished the essay and despite spending some of the 1000 words writing about Facebook with a ciritcal edge it made me think and analyse my online actions a little bit more. I thought to myself: what do I actually get out of being networked with friends, colleagues and people I might have only seen once, but that made a great addition to my friends-count? It dawned one me that I WAS creating an online identity and that it went in line with the development I had naturally made since coming to university. I wanted to be part of it. Well, at least for the first few weeks (maybe even months, although I don’t really like admitting that). Thinking back to how I engaged in non-stop status updating and making sure enough photos were taken in any one night out to be uploaded and create a decent photo album, yes, I definitely was a good example for a student who was trying to prove a point through social networking.

At university, Facebook is everywhere. Every faculty, course, society and of course, every student has an account. But why is this way of communicating so popular and why do we try not only to gain “real” friends but also prove to them online how many other people are competing against them in contests like: “Who likes more of my statuses?”, “Who gets more tags in the latest photo album?” or “Which person will I possibly even add as my virtual sister or brother?”.
I think it is to do with the fact that many of the insecurities we have in real life and face-to-face interaction are simply cut out. We don’t apply the same kind of modesty when it comes to how many people we actually do interact with. In a face-to-face conversation we would hardly tell our opponent about the brief chat with the guy from our course which now results in knowing him enough to say hello next we meet him. Neither would we explain the exact poses of every single photo we have taken with 35 different people in only one night. On Facebook, it’s much easier. We add the guy we had the chat with to our friends and upload all photos of the night. This is much more subtle, however, maybe even more effective than the real life conversation. We act like we’re just trying to give our friends the opportunity to look at what we have been up to and share those great moments with them and the guy the possibility to stay in touch. How generous of us. Well, really, we’re showing off. We all know about this condition but there is a secret truce that nobody can ever speak about that side of sharing, tagging and adding. Strange.

Personally, I am glad that this initial period of stress about keeping up to date with all online developments is over. I have gone back to focusing on real life experiences but still remain to keep an interested, however, amused eye on this virtual identity provider, they call “Facebook”.