This is the Remix
Interactive Media Arts
Prof. Roopa Vasudevan
Lecture: Mondays & Wednesdays, 2:45pm – 4:30pm, room 825.
Office Hours: Wednesdays, 10am – 2pm. Sign up here. If none of those times work, please email for an appointment.
Now, more than ever, technology allows us to reshape existing content in order to create new messages and expressions. What does it mean to utilize “found media” in order to create new work — and how can we use the process to comment on the status quo of our current cultural and social landscapes?
This class explores remix, recontextualization, and reappropriation as artistic tools. We will examine current and past usage of the remix, from its well-known place in popular music to broader forms like YouTube mashups, cut-ups and text generators, Internet memes, culture jamming, and parody. The class will also cover common legal issues surrounding remix culture, such as fair use, copyright and copyleft, and the Creative Commons community and licensing system. These ideas will be further investigated through weekly reading and discussion, student presentations, and critical writing exercises. Students will have the opportunity to utilize their research to create two original remix projects over the course of the semester, utilizing traditional (audio and video editing) and/or generative (web scraping and APIs, glitch and datamoshing) methods.
Prerequisite: Communications Lab
- Gain familiarity with the idea of “remix” as it applies to a variety of artistic media.
- Explore historical and social contexts for these remixes, and the ideas or events that the work may have been inspired by or is commenting on.
- Think and write clearly and critically about remix, and conduct original research into two or more remix works concerning their history, contexts, source material, and impact.
- Create two original remix artworks solely from found material, utilizing both programmatic and traditional methods.
Attendance: You are expected to attend every class session, and to arrive on time. If you are going to be late or absent, for any reason, please let your instructor know ahead of time. Unexcused absences will affect your grade; two (2) or more will result in failing the course. Unexcused lateness of more than 15 minutes will result in an absence for that day.
NYU policy permits members of any religious group to absent themselves from classes without penalty when required for compliance with their religious obligations.
Participation: Participation is very important and will impact grading. All students are expected to pay attention and actively contribute during class discussions. Please pay attention when fellow students are presenting their work and be prepared to give thoughtful, considerate feedback. Keep all feedback related to the work only; personal attacks will not be tolerated.
Equipment: Your project may necessitate the use of equipment from the IMA Equipment Room, depending on your individual needs. Up-to-date policies and procedures for checking out, caring for, and returning equipment will be discussed during IMA Orientation. Be aware that keeping IMA equipment past return dates or failing to adhere to the policies of the IMA Studio WILL affect your grade for this course.
Laptops & Mobile Devices: Laptops are a wonderful tool and strongly encouraged during lectures, as I will be showing a lot of links and demos online with which you might want to follow along. As a general rule, I don’t care if you’re on your laptop when I’m speaking, but there will be a strict lids-down policy enforced during class discussion, or when your fellow students are presenting work.
The use of mobile devices or other personal electronic equipment is not permitted. Mobile devices must be turned off or silenced and put away during class. Doing activities not related to the class, such as recreational browsing of the internet, including all social media websites, email and instant messaging, game playing, and work for other classes, will result in a reduction of your participation grade.
No student may record any classroom activity for a personal use without express written consent from the instructor. If you have a disability such that you need to record or tape classroom activities, you should contact the instructor to request an appropriate accommodation.
Credit where credit is due: This is a class explicitly about re-using content to create new work, which means we are naturally going to be relying on other people’s creative efforts as the basis for our own. However, that doesn’t mean that plagiarism is condoned. Please cite and credit sources, inspiration, and code where necessary. Failing to do so will negatively impact your grade.
Students are expected to read and understand the university’s policy on academic integrity as laid out in the Undergraduate Bulletin. If you have any questions or doubts about plagiarism, please do not hesitate to come to my office hours.
This syllabus is a living document and will evolve every week with links to readings and resources. If you come across anything interesting in your work or research, send it to me and I’ll post it here for the class.
10% Participation and attendance
10% Blog posts: documentation and shorter “think pieces”
20% Midterm project
20% Final project
Assignments are due by the *START* of class on the assigned date. This means if the assignment is not submitted by 2:45PM, you are late.
For think pieces, the late penalty is 5 points off if the assignment is submitted within the first week, and half credit if the assignment is submitted by the middle of term or final week, depending on which half of the semester it is assigned. (PLEASE NOTE: Assignments from the first half of term will not be accepted in the second half.)
For the papers and projects, the late penalty is 5% deducted for being late the first day, and 10% for every day after.
Grades will be posted for each assignment on NYU Classes.
A: Excellent performance showing a thorough knowledge and understanding of the topics of the course; all work includes clear, logical explanations, insight, and original thought and reasoning.
B: Good performance with general knowledge and understanding of the topics; all work includes general analysis and coherent explanations showing some independent reasoning, reading and research.
C: Satisfactory performance with some broad explanation and reasoning; the work will typically demonstrate an understanding of the course on a basic level.
D: Passable performance showing a general and superficial understanding of the course’s topics; work lacks satisfactory insight, analysis or reasoned explanations.
F: Unsatisfactory performance in all assessed criteria.
The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies, ed. Eduardo Navas, Owen Gallagher and xtine burrough. Available to purchase as an ebook, and as an extended digital checkout via the NYU Library.
Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy, Lawrence Lessig. This text is available for free via a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License. You can download a PDF here.
Presentation: This course is organized into several multi-week units. During each unit, I will assign a select number of students to individually create a 5-7 minute presentation on the current topic. Each student will pick one example of the themes and media discussed in class and will present an in-depth look at the chosen work, how it is an example of remix, the elements being recontextualized, and how the work uses those elements in a new and/or improved context.
Think Pieces: During each unit, you will be required to write a short “think piece” responding to a given prompt. These will take the form of 3-5 paragraph blog posts, which should be submitted via the IMA Documentation blog. While they are by no means meant to be formal academic works, the think pieces will be graded on clarity of argument as well as writing style and quality.
Papers: There will be 2 short research papers assigned as part of this class. The first will concern the audio and video/Internet units, and the second will concern the text and contemporary art units. Students will be expected to research and write a 7-10 page paper about either a specific work pertaining to the material discussed in class, or a theme they wish to explore related to the topic at hand. There must be at least 3 sources used in the paper that do NOT come from the assigned reading.
Projects: There will be two projects due during the semester: a midterm and a final. Both of these projects are to be informed by the research conducted for the associated paper. The projects should be composed entirely of material that exists as part of another work. Along with the projects, students will be expected to post comprehensive documentation of the work to the IMA blog, including a description of the project; an argument for how it is informed by the research; details of the process and source material used to make the work; and an evaluation of whether or not the project meets the initial stated goals.
Class 1 (January 22)
– Syllabus overview & assignment submission procedures
– Why are we here?
– What does “remix” actually mean?
ASSIGNMENT: Make sure that you are set up on the IMA blog. If you don’t have access, please let me know ASAP.
ASSIGNMENT: (Optional) Sign up for a free Spotify account if you don’t already have one. It’s not mandatory, but you will find it, really, really helpful.
VIEWING: Watch Everything is a Remix, parts 1 & 2.
READING: “Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal”, Stefan Sonvilla-Weiss (Routledge Companion, pp. 54 – 67)
Class 2 (January 24)
– Read-only (RO) culture vs. read-write (RW) culture
– Collage, montage & the first forms of recontextualization
READING: Excerpts from Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation, Jeff Chang
READING: “Terminological Mix-Up”, Of Remixology, David Gunkel.
Music & Audio
Class 3 (January 29)
– “Revolution 9” and the sound collage
– Hip-hop & sampling
– The evolution of dub from reggae, and hip-hop from dub
– The producer as an artist
– Important moments in the history of sampling
– Watch video on the “Amen Break” and its importance to music
READING: “When Did the Remix Become a Requirement?”, Mike Barthel.
READING: “An Oral History of Sampling: From Turntables to Mashups”, Kembrew MacLeod (Routledge Companion, pp. 83-95)
READING: “How The Grey Album Reinvented The Remix”, Gino Sorcinelli
VIEWING: Finish watching the Amen Break video that we started in class.
Class 4 (January 31)
– The remix as its own musical genre
– Pop music
– The Grey Album and its derivatives
– Girl Talk and mash-ups
– Negativland and “U2”
READING: “Regressive and Reflexive Mashups in Sampling Culture”, Eduardo Navas (PDF available here)
READING: “A Rhetoric of Remix”, Scott H. Church (Routledge Companion, pp. 43-53)
THINK PIECE: Listen to the entirety of Girl Talk’s All Day (available to stream on Spotify, or as a free download here). Then, choose one track to focus on (do not use “This is the Remix”). Look at the songs that were sampled (list and timecodes available here), and try and listen to as many of the original tracks as you can. Using Church’s essay as a jumping off point, write a 3-5 paragraph blog post about your experience. Did you learn anything new by listening to the originals and the mash-up? What do the track juxtapositions say about the original songs themselves, or about Girl Talk as an artist? Do all of the mash-ups make sense, or do some fail in their goal? Why?
READING: “Remixing Culture And Why The Art Of The Mash-Up Matters”, Ben Murray.
READING/VIEWING: “A History of Subversive Video Remix Before YouTube”, Jonathan McIntosh.
Video, YouTube & the Internet
Class 6 (February 7)
– Presentation: Ewa
– Video art and the art of the video mash-up
– YouTube, the Internet & Video
– The supercut
– The re-cut
READING: “Remixing Movies and Trailers Before and After the Digital Age”, Nicola Maria Dusi (Routledge Companion, pp. 154 – 165).
READING: “Remixing the Remix,” Elisa Kreisinger (Routledge Companion, pp. 480 – 486).
READING: “Political Remix Video as a Vernacular Discourse”, Olivia Conti (Routledge Companion, pp. 346 – 357)
ASSIGNMENT: Determine your topic for your first paper. Send me an email describing what you would like to write about by midnight on Sunday, 2/11.
Class 7 (February 12)
– More video & Internet
– Internet memes
– LOLCats, the Rickroll, and going viral
– Mash-ups of Internet memes
VIEWING: Everything is a Remix, Part 3.
READING: “Bed Intruder Meme: A Perfect Storm of Race, Music, Comedy and Celebrity”, Andy Carvin.
THINK PIECE: Find two videos that perform different remixes of the same source content. Write a 3-5 paragraph blog post comparing and contrasting the two. How are they similar? How are they different? Is one more effective than another? **Please try to avoid the videos shown in class.** Due Thursday, February 15
ASSIGNMENT: Continue work on your first paper.
Class 8 (February 14)
– Workshop with Jiwon
ASSIGNMENT: Continue work on your first paper. Bring in 3 copies to class on 2/26 for workshopping.
NO CLASS FEBRUARY 15 – FEBRUARY 21: Spring Festival
Class 9 (February 26)
– Paper workshopping in class
MIDTERM PROJECT: Using the research done for your first paper as a jumping off point, create either an audio or a video remix. Your project must address the themes, media, or contexts discussed in your research and you must be able to articulate the connection. Your project can take any form you wish, but you may not record any new source material for this project (everything must already exist as part of another work). Due Wednesday, March 14.
Class 10 (February 28)
– Share midterm ideas
– Generative Video Remixes & Glitch
ASSIGNMENT: Finish your first paper.
Class 11 (March 5)
– PAPER #1 DUE at the beginning of class.
– Presentation: Julia
– Resource: Videogrep by Sam Lavigne
– Resource: Some good glitch tutorials
– Resource: Echo Nest Remix API
– DEMO: Basic datamoshing and glitch techniques
ASSIGNMENT: Continue work on midterm project.
Class 12 (March 7)
– CODE DEMO: Using the YouTube API
– Resource: YouTube API Documentation
– In class time to work on midterm project
Class 13 (March 12)
– In-class project workshopping
Class 14 (March 14)
– Present Midterm Projects
READING: Introduction and Part 1, sections 1-4 of Lessig’s Remix.
READING: “The Cut-Up Method”, William S. Burroughs
Class 15 (March 19)
– Burroughs and cut-ups
– Early forms of textual remix
– Fan fiction
– The “reclamation” of language
READING: “It’s Not Plagiarism. In the Digital Age, It’s ‘Repurposing.”, Kenneth Goldsmith
READING: “Man and Machine”, Susan Orlean.
READING: “Turn Around, Stop Thinking, Couple Wanted”, Angie Waller. (Please also visit the Love Unknown website.)
Class 16 (March 21)
– Generative text and social media
– CODE DEMO: RiTA and Markov Chains
THINK PIECE: Choose three Twitter accounts (could be run by a bot/program, or by a person) that you believe are utilizing text-based remix effectively. Write a 3-5 paragraph blog post in which you analyze both the source text that each account is drawing from, as well as the remix itself. Why do you think the creator(s) of this account chose the source material that they did? What is effective about using Twitter as a medium?
READING: “The New Polymath (Remixing Knowledge)”, Rachel Falconer (Routledge Companion, pp. 397 – 408)
Class 17 (March 26)
– CODE DEMO: Tracery
READING: Part 2 of Lessig’s Remix.
Class 18 (March 28)
– Presentation: Cristian
– CODE DEMO: Twitter API & Node.js
– Final paper prompt available here
READING: “Appropriation in Contemporary Art”, Hayley A. Rowe
READING: “Readymade Operations”, Bettina Funcke
READING: “Instagram, an artist, and the $100,000 selfies”, Hannah Jane Parkinson.
VIEWING: Everything is a Remix, part 4.
Contemporary Art & Culture Jamming
Class 19 (April 2)
– Remix in contemporary visual art
– 26 Modern Takes on Famous Paintings
– Graffiti and street art
– What is culture jamming?
– The Yes Men
VIEWING: The Yes Men Fix the World (available on YouTube here).
READING: “Race and Remix: The Aesthetics of Race in the Visual and Performing Arts”, Tashima Thomas (Routledge Companion, pp. 179 – 191)
THINK PIECE: Pick one visual artist/activist working with remix as a foundation of their practice, and write a blog post in which you discuss the common recurring elements that you find throughout their work. How do they utilize remix, and to what end? Are they pulling their source material from common places, or are they utilizing really diverse material instead? Why is remix an integral part of their body of work? Be specific and reference at least 2 specific works in your final post.
ASSIGNMENT: Send me an email by the end of the day on Friday, April 6, telling me what youd like to write your final paper on, and the ideas you’re planning on looking into.
NO CLASS APRIL 4: Spring Recess / Qingming Holiday
Class 20 (April 9)
– Guest Lecture: Will Owen
READING: “Of Re/Appropriations”, Gustavo Romano (Routledge Companion, pp. 425 – 431)
READING: “Locative Media as Remix”, Conor McGarrigle (Routledge Companion, pp. 358 – 373)
Class 21 (April 11)
– Net Art, IoT and contemporary art
– Upcycling and re-use
FINAL PROJECT: Using the research done for your second paper as a jumping off point, create either a text-based, 2D or 3D art-based, or Net Art remix. Your project must address the themes, media, or contexts discussed in your research and you must be able to articulate the connection. Your project can take any form you wish, but you may not create any new source material for this project (everything must already exist as part of another work). Due Wednesday, May 9.
Class 22 (April 16)
– Presentation: Tyler & Cassie
– Discuss final project ideas
– Paper workshopping in class
ASSIGNMENT: Finish your second paper.
READING: “Deconstructing Shanzhai: China’s Copycat Counterculture”, William Hennessey.
Knockoffs & Shanzhai Culture
Class 23 (April 18)
– Guest lecture: Christian Grewell
Class 24 (April 23)
– PAPER #2 DUE at the beginning of class.
– What is Shanzhai?
– The rise of counterfeit goods in China
VIEWING: RiP!: A Remix Manifesto, a film by Brett Gaylor
READING: “Can I Borrow Your Proper Name?”, Cicero Inacio de Silva (Routledge Companion, pp. 96 – 103)
READING: “Peeling the Layers of the Onion”, John Logie (Routledge Companion, pp. 296 – 309)
Copyright, Fair Use & Licensing
Class 25 (April 25)
– Presentation: Annie
– Authorship in the age of the remix
– Copyright and legal hazards faced by remix artists
– 99Designs: 5 Famous Copyright Infringement Cases
– Stanford University: Summaries of Fair Use Cases
READING: “Copyright and Fair Use in Remix: From Alarmism to Action”, Patricia Aufderheide (Routledge Companion, pp. 270 – 282)
READING: “Reflections on the Amen Break”, Nate Harrison (Routledge Companion, pp. 444 – 452)
READING: “The Letter U and the Numeral 2”, Colin Berry.
VIEWING: Clay Shirky: Defend Our Freedom to Share.
NO CLASS APRIL 30: China Labor Day Holiday
Class 26 (May 2)
– Discuss final project progress
– Discussion of viewing
– What fair use is… and what it is not
– The Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA)
– Creative Commons
ASSIGNMENT: Continue work on final project.
Class 27 (May 7)
– In class time to work on finals
– One on one meetings to discuss final projects
Class 28 (May 9)
– Present Finals
IMA SHOW (May 11)
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