Is Everything a Remix?

There’s a popular video series online by Kirby Ferguson that argues that all material including inventions, written works, films, knowledge, and ideas are all fabricated from existing source material that can date back to mankind’s LUCA (last universal common ancestor). This project is entitled “Everything is a Remix”, and it states that all material is a remix even when we subconsciously borrow from previous content. This subconscious borrowing is taken from our emulation. This starts when we are toddlers (24-36 months), and we learn the world through imitation and copying. As adults, this same idea applies to us now as we create and remix. Kirby states that, “creation requires influence” and how everything is created through copying, transforming, and combining. This same theory of copying, transforming, and combining applies to the creation of inventions, evolution, and memes. Henry Ford even stated that he, “invented nothing new,” and that he, “simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work.” An example of this was his development of the Model T, and how the copying of previous automobile developments, the transforming of previously inspired inventions, and the combining of these materials were able to create the success of the Model T. The idea of the assembly line and the automobile came before Henry Ford’s time, yet his own innovation to take the ‘discoveries of other men’ led to his own achievement. A remix is defined as ‘combining or editing existing material to produce something new,’ and Henry’s example supports Kirby’s idea that everything is a remix.

Star Wars is an entertainment giant that is based heavily on remix. George Lucas borrows heavily from pulp magazines and elements of the Sci-Fi genre, including Flash Gordon and the use of crawling text and soft wipe transitions. However, going a bit further, we notice that Star Wars is actually based around Joseph Campbell’s structures of myth storytelling. This myth is called Monomyth, and it develops around a character’s procession to a threshold of adventure, which include story elements such as the supernatural aid/helpers, belly of the whale, tests, road of trials, and the elixir that restores balance and order at the end of the hero’s journey. The Monomyth is used in basic storytelling structures we find in modern films and screenwriting, and for Star Wars; consider the following:

Call To Adventure: Luke’s discovery of R2-D2’s “Help Me Obi-Wan Kenobi” hologram on Tatooine.

Supernatural Aid: An elderly Obi-Wan finding an unconscious Luke Skywalker in the desert.

Belly of the Whale: The entrapment in the Death Star’s garbage compactor.

Elixir: Destroying the Death Star.

 

Many of today’s films borrow from Campbell’s theory of the Monomyth, and it’s simply basic screenwriting and remixing. Another great example of remixes in the film industry is Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, and his use of existing material and ideas from older classic films. The majority of the music and story elements were taken from films such as Fists and Fury, Sanjuro, and Navajo Joe. This director is notorious for remixing and borrowing, and this is derived from his fascination, respect, and passion for film. You can view the Kill Bill example here.

In modern social media it is easy to remix songs, films, comics, and written material. On YouTube, people have remixed movie trailers using clips from the source films while adding external music and effects. Through this process, they are able to alter the source material’s genre in order to seek comedy, shock, curiosity, or bewilderment.  Here’s an example of a trailer remix (is this also a collaboration?) of Toy Story clips combined with the second trailer of The Dark Knight.

It is easy these days to create a remix of something and spread it instantly across the globe. Kirby and the readings gives us a new look at the connotation of ‘remix,’ and that it is more than what some think of it as just sampling music from already existing recordings.

Rather, the idea is that everything is a remix.

 

Do you agree on the idea that everything is a remix?

Through diminishing the ability to attain additional human breakthroughs, do copyright laws and restrictions hamper the idea to copy, transform, and combine?

 

 

 

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