Response to “Embrace the Remix”, “Everything is a Remix”, and Lethem’s “The Ecstasy of Influence”

After watching Kirby Ferguson’s video series and Lethem’s excerpt, I found that plagiarism is not necessarily something wrong to do but something that we need to be aware of. Since our birth, we imitate and learn from our parent’s basic behaviors, such as eating with a spoon/chopsticks and making sounds with our voice. Later, we adopt the culture surrounding us, such as how to greet, how to dress, and how to speak. Of course, everybody is different in personality and characteristic; thus, we not only copy what our society provides us but also reform these traditions slightly to suit our tastes, making each of us special. For example, different writers like to write with different hand shapes and with unique handwritings, but the idea of using a pen/pencil to write words is the same. In perspective, a copy is not longer an imitation when we apply our own preferences and choices. Therefore, the copy becomes the “original” when other copies similarly copy the copy. (I am playing with words here.)

We usually connect different ideas together to create and discover something new. As presented in Kirby’s Everything is a Remix, many films, such as Stars Wars, created their scenes by recreating other films’ scenes in order to entertain the audience. Big corporations, such as Apple, imitated the idea of the Xerox computer to create a personal computer, the Mac computer, for households. The configuration of present keyboards may have originated from the piano, and the printing technology was invented through the availability and existence of other materials such as ink and paper. Lethem’s work presents various examples in literature and music in which famous works can be found as a combination of other famous works. In essence, our plagiarizing nature enable us to make original things through the reformation of the copies similar to the mutation of the DNA in organisms.

However, we also suffer from loss aversion as mentioned in Kirby’s series and implied in The Ecstasy of Influence. We can feel that we have lost our “original” work when others try to copy and recreate it, and we often say that our work was “stolen”. This case can be represented in Apple’s strategic aquisitions in which Steve Jobs practically fought against others who have a similar idea to his inventions with lawsuits, when Apple also clearly copied and used others’ main idea for profit. Nonetheless, this loss aversion is just an illusion, because owners are still practically owners of their work, and fulfilled ideas cannot be easily “stolen”. For what I know in my experience, our works are the source that provides inspiration for others to advance what we have created, since I, too, have copied and reformed countless times.


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