Media and Place: February roundup – REMIX

By Jerome Turner on March 16th, 2023

In February, the Media and Place cluster met to share and discuss our responses to the first of the creative prompts for the year: Remix. The extended and only slightly rambling version of the prompt gave members a little more to go on:

Prompt: Remix – The origins of thinking about the nature and purpose of music ‘remixes’, but also thinking now in terms of Facebook, Tiktok videos of people responding or sometimes just watching other videos – what’s the value / experience of the Tiktok ‘duet’? Prior to some of these practices, we might have thought of them in terms of Hall’s encoding / decoding third model of audience response: “negotiated”, but what new ways are there to think about these remix practices?

Three of our members presented their responses (we hesitate to call them ‘work’, because these are also a space to be playful, creative and inventive in subject matter, format or presentation), and they were discussed in detail by the rest of the cluster members present.

Grassroots Birmingham news in the 1970s

Dave Harte started us off by reading his piece on grassroots Birmingham publications of the 60s and 70s, which he reflected on being a great and well-timed opportunity to consolidate some of his current research interests. In presenting a ‘kind’ of journalism, it got Ross Hawkes reflecting on his own PhD work, a sense of deja vu in that it presented the same debates regarding driving factors for alternative media publishers. We questioned whether grassroots news should try and replicate a news format or aim for creativity – (Kirsten Forkert gave the example of Novara Media) – does a ‘new look’ journalism need to be different, or protect (and therefore copy) traditional standards?

Jerome Turner added that this also brought up a familiar theme of professionalism vs amateur, where amateurism can often positively be understood in terms of an authenticity that audiences find valuable and relatable, and we considered the example of Youtubers, where production is often “more about the content than the delivery”. These themes of professionalism frequently come up in undergraduate journalism teaching, where we ask “what does professionalism look like” and then disrupt the discussion by pointing to the immediate but often unpolished value of citizen media ‘witnessing’ – in short the tone and presentation can be unprofessional but still effective, or more so because of it.

David Bowie, remixed

Sam Coley played and talked us through a selection of remixes of the Bowie class, Let’s Dance. He discussed how remixes can be thought of as “cultural interpretation for new audiences or other cultural approaches”. In some of these examples, like Puff Daddy’s heavy sampling of Bowie in Been Around The World (below), it is perhaps not always obvious that the sampled section has been slowed down to suit the reversioning. In the dub version that Sam also played us, it’s much clearer, and we discussed this idea that songs would be remixed for such different cultural spaces, offering new layers of interpretation. Sam’s recommended reading on the subject is Lawrence Lessig’s Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy.

We also discussed the distinction between sampling and remixes, with Jerome asking if remixing was sometimes seen as a ‘lazy’ or uncreative means of production – any Vanilla Ice fans may be disheartened to hear that Sam felt Ice Ice Baby‘s use of Queen’s Under Pressure fell into this category. However, in the Bowie / Puff Daddy case, Bowie was involved in the production, so this might rather be seen as collaboration. By allowing his work to be reimagined as remixes, Bowie opened the door to diverse new audiences, thereby helping to regenerate his fan-base.

The ‘cover version’ or even lip sync, as frequently seen on platforms such as Tiktok, was another variation we discussed.

A rough typology of Tiktok

Jerome’s response was a rough typology of Tiktok content, driven by a suspicion that much of what he saw there was ‘remixing’ content in a derivative way. Whilst this was often the case, these ‘remixes’ were approached in a variety of different ways, enabled by a platform that seems ignorant of copyright issues e.g. people reposting other people’s home videos or sections of television shows, without permissions. What he didn’t encounter so much, in his hour spent flicking through videos, was repeated references to or versions of ‘trending’ memes. Issues of copyright were brought up by Rachel-Ann Charles (a self-confessed Tiktok addict), and we questioned whether Tiktok should give additional guidance or features on crediting sources (beyond the Duet feature), and how that might change the platform.