This is the Remix
Interactive Media Arts
Prof. Roopa Vasudevan
Lecture: Tuesdays & Thursdays, 11:15 AM – 12:30 PM
Recitation: Fridays, 11:15 AM – 12:30 PM
Office Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays from 1:00pm to 3:00pm. 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. Students will have the opportunity to experiment with both traditional and programmatic methods of remix, such as audio and video editing, by exploring Web APIs (YouTube, SoundCloud, and Echo Nest), and through the application of generative coding techniques. The class will also cover common legal issues surrounding remix culture, such as fair use, debate over current copyright laws, and the Creative Commons community and licensing system. All of these ideas will be further investigated through weekly reading assignments, class discussion and presentations, and the development of original remix projects utilizing the themes and techniques discussed in class.
Attendance: You are expected to attend every class session, and to arrive on time. If you are going to be missing class, please let me know AHEAD OF TIME so we can figure out a way to make up the missed material. Two (2) absences or more will result in a failing grade. Unexcused lateness of more than 15 minutes will result in an absence for that day.
Participation: Participation is very important and will impact grading. All students are expected to 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: This course may necessitate the use of equipment from the IMA Equipment Room. Policies and procedures for checking out, caring for, and returning equipment will be discussed during IMA Orientation (September 9 or 12, mandatory) as well as in class. Be aware that keeping IMA equipment past return dates or failing to adhere to the policies of the IMA Lab WILL affect your participation grade for this course.
Laptops: 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 lids-down policy enforced during class discussion, or when your fellow students are presenting work.
Presentations: This course is organized into several multi-week units. During each unit, I will assign 2 or 3 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.
Collaborative work: During some of the topical units, a mini-project will be assigned pertaining to the technologies discussed during those particular weeks. These mini-projects are collaborative and cannot be completed alone. However, midterm and final projects can be completed individually if desired.
Blog posts: There are reading and viewing assignments throughout the semester. You will be required to write a short response to each of these (minimum one paragraph), and post it to the class blog. You will also be required to post a response to each project on the blog, detailing your process and linking to documentation of the work. Even for collaborative projects, every student MUST post his/her own documentation.
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.
Required text: Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy by Lawrence Lessig (available for this class’ purposes ONLY here)
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 & attendance
10% Blog posts (responses to readings/viewings)
15% Unit mini projects
20% Midterm Project
30% Final Project
Class 1 (August 30)
– 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: Watch Everything is a Remix, part 1. Write a short response to the viewing and post it on the class blog.
Class 2 (September 1)
– Read-only (RO) culture vs. read-write (RW) culture
– Collage, montage & the first forms of recontextualization
ASSIGNMENT: Read excerpts from Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation by Jeff Chang. Post a response to the class blog.
ASSIGNMENT: Read “Remixing Culture And Why The Art Of The Mash-Up Matters” by Ben Murray. Post a response to the class blog.
ASSIGNMENT: Choose a song that is based heavily around samples. Research the origin of those samples — where they came from, the artists, and the historical period(s). Write a blog post discussing your research. What surprised you? Do you think the samples were chosen with any kind of message or underlying meaning in mind? HINT: Whosampled.com is a fantastic resource to begin your research.
Class 3 (September 6)
– “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
– Nice little video on the “Amen Break” and its importance to music
ASSIGNMENT: Watch Everything is a Remix, part 2. Post a response to the class blog.
ASSIGNMENT: Read “When Did the Remix Become a Requirement?” by Mike Barthel. Post a response to the class blog.
MINI PROJECT: In teams of 2, create a 1-to-3 minute audio remix. Use *ONLY* found material in order to make your new piece. Begin work on your audio mini-project before next class. Try to meet with your partner at least once before the next class session and come up with an idea for what you want to make. Post your ideas to the class blog (or email to me if it’s not back up); we’ll be discussing them next time.
Class 4 (September 8)
– The remix as its own musical genre
– Pop music
– The Grey Album and its derivatives
– Girl Talk and mash-ups
– Negativland and “U2”
ASSIGNMENT: Read “Regressive and Reflexive Mashups in Sampling Culture” by Eduardo Navas. Post a response to the class blog. (PDF available here)
MINI PROJECT: Continue work on mini-project. Try to identify all of the samples that you’d like to use before next class. Post a list of them to the class blog, and explain how they fit in with the themes of the piece you are making.
Class 5 (September 13)
– Presentations: Anthia, Marjorie, Villa
– In class time to finish audio project
ASSIGNMENT: Finish your audio mini-project. Please post a link to the finished piece on the class blog.
Don’t forget about the blog post documenting the work (this is done individually)! As a reminder, this should include:
– A link to a working project
– A description of your process
– An evaluation of whether or not the project met your goals, and why
Class 6 (September 18)
– Present audio mini-projects
ASSIGNMENT: Read introduction and Part 1, sections 1-4 of Remix. Post a response to the class blog.
ASSIGNMENT: Read/watch A History of Subversive Video Remix Before YouTube. Post a response to the class blog.
Video, YouTube & the Internet
Class 7 (September 20)
– Video art and the art of the video mash-up
– YouTube, the Internet & Video
– The supercut
– The re-cut
MIDTERM PROJECT: Create a video mash-up. You can do this either programmatically, using the YouTube API or another API of your choice, or you can construct it using more traditional video editing software. The source videos should be re-arranged to tell an entirely different story (term used loosely) from the initial intent. You can shoot new footage to complement the remixed content if you need to, but the project should be made from at least 75% found material.
ASSIGNMENT: Come up with an idea for your midterm project. Post your idea to the documentation blog, and be prepared to discuss in class.
Class 8 (September 22)
– More video & Internet
– AutoTune the News
– Brian Williams Raps
ASSIGNMENT: Watch Everything is a Remix, Part 3. Post a response to the class blog.
ASSIGNMENT: Post a link to your favorite YouTube (or other video sharing service) remix video, and analyze it. Talk about the source material, why you think the video was remixed, what the remix does well, and what it could do better. **Please try to avoid the videos shown in class.**
PROJECT: Continue work on midterm project. By Tuesday, have some of your primary video sources selected and ready to play for the class.
Class 9 (September 27)
– Internet memes
– LOLCats, the Rickroll, and going viral
– Mash-ups of Internet memes
ASSIGNMENT: Read Part 1, section 5 & Part 2 of Remix. Post a response to the class blog.
Class 11 (October 11)
– Presentations: Angela, Guillermo, Vanelly, Zeyao
– DEMO: Basic datamoshing and glitch techniques
– In class time to work on midterm project
RECITATION (October 13)
– CODE DEMO: Using the YouTube API
– Resource: YouTube API Documentation
– In class time to finish midterm
Class 12 (October 14)
– Present midterms
ASSIGNMENT: Read “The Ecstasy of Influence” by Jonathan Lethem. Post a response to the class blog.
Class 13 (October 18)
– Burroughs and cut-ups
– Early forms of textual remix
– Fan fiction
– The “reclamation” of language
– Generative text and social media
MINI PROJECT: In teams of 2, create a text-based remix. You can either do this programmatically, using code, or you can do it by manually picking and choosing source text to use. Use *ONLY* found material in order to make your new piece, do not write anything new.
ASSIGNMENT: Read “Man and Machine” by Susan Orlean. Post a response to the class blog.
ASSIGNMENT: Begin brainstorming your text remix project with your partner. Post a brief description of your proposed project to the blog, along with a description/link to the source text you’re thinking about using as well as how you plan to execute the remix. One post per pair is fine, but please include both names.
Class 14 (October 20)
– CODE DEMO: RiTA and Markov Chains
ASSIGNMENT: Choose a Twitter account (could be run by a bot/program, or by a person) that you believe is utilizing text-based remix effectively. Analyze both the source text that it’s 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? Post a response to the class blog.
ASSIGNMENT: Continue work on your mini project.
Class 15 (October 25)
– Presentations: Dyadra, Richard, Luna
– CODE DEMO: Using social media APIs to remix text
ASSIGNMENT: Continue work on your mini project.
RECITATION (October 27)
– In class time to finish text mini-project
ASSIGNMENT: Finish your mini-project. Don’t forget about the corresponding blog post!
Class 16 (October 28)
– Present text mini-projects
ASSIGNMENT: Read Part 3 of Remix. Post a response to the class blog.
Contemporary Art & Culture Jamming
Class 17 (November 1)
– Remix in contemporary visual art
– 26 Modern Takes on Famous Paintings
– Graffiti and street art
MINI PROJECT: In teams of 2, create a work that utilizes found material in a painting or sculpture, or which culture jams an existing, known entity. Final works are encouraged to be physical and/or 3D, although screen-based works will be accepted if there is a strong reasoning for them.
ASSIGNMENT: With your partner, come up with an idea for your mini-project. Post the proposal to the blog, and be prepared to share your idea and references to example or inspirational works in class on Thursday.
ASSIGNMENT: Watch Everything is a Remix, part 4. Post a response to the class blog.
ASSIGNMENT: Read “Instagram, an artist and the $100,000 selfies” on The Guardian. Post a response to the class blog.
Class 18 (November 3)
– What is culture jamming?
– The Yes Men
ASSIGNMENT: Watch the documentary The Yes Men Are Revolting (available on YouTube here). Post a response to the class blog.
Class 19 (November 8)
– Guest Lecture: Anthony Warnick (Cleveland, OH, via Skype) on his personal practice and utilizing remix as an artist
NO CLASS NOVEMBER 10 (however, there IS a recitation November 11!)
Class 20 (November 15)
– Presentations: Justin, Linda, Mary Kate
– Upcycling and re-use
RECITATION (November 17)
– In class time to finish visual art/culture jamming mini-project
ASSIGNMENT: Finish your mini-project. Don’t forget about the corresponding blog post!
Class 21 (November 18)
– Present mini projects
FINAL PROJECT: Come up with an idea for a final project. This is extremely open ended; the only stipulation is that the content you are using to create the work must come 75% or more from other sources. Post your proposal to your blog, and be prepared to discuss in class next week.
ASSIGNMENT: Read “Deconstructing Shanzhai: China’s Copycat Counterculture” by William Hennessey. Post a response to the class blog.
Knockoffs & Shanzhai Culture
Class 22 (November 21)
– Discuss final project ideas
– What is Shanzhai?
– The rise of counterfeit goods in China
Class 23 (November 22)
– Guest lecture: Christian Grewell on Shanzhai design culture
ASSIGNMENT: Read “Inside the Knockoff-Tennis-Shoe Factory” by Nicholas Schmidle. Post a response to the class blog.
Class 24 (November 29)
– Presentations: Sara, Zeerak, Kevin
– Shanzhai as its own design culture & identity
ASSIGNMENT: Read this Wired article about Negativland’s “U2” legal troubles (which should be familiar from our music unit). Post a response to the class blog.
Copyright, Fair Use & Licensing
ASSIGNMENT: Watch Clay Shirky: Defend Our Freedom to Share. Post a response to the class blog.
Class 26 (December 6)
– 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 (December 8)
– In class time to work on finals
– One on one meetings to discuss final projects
Class 28 (December 12)
– Present Finals