All posts by MBHP

The Badness Catalog

TBC Screenshot
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Description:

The Badness Catalog is a hybrid digital essay and ongoing project (more on that in “Affordances”). The project argues, in essence, that writing on the internet, and particularly writing that at first appears to be “bad” (unconventional, grammatically erroneous, et cetera) is actually performing serious discursive work, and often takes on a deeper, symbolic meaning than its obvious features. In short, The Badness Catalog argues that meme-phrases (things like “I can’t even”) point to deeper meanings, often unique to life on the internet. Instead of reading them as degenerate writing performances (basically, instead of disciplining them as bad performances), we might read them as deliberate rhetorical or discursive choices, indicating a specific phenomenon or signaling membership in an online community. The Catalog takes a serious, but often humorous, look at these phrases and tries to illustrate how they can be used.

Process:

In my head, I began with my impatience for “Grammar Nazis” on the internet–particularly when those lexical fascists are so fixated on a prescriptivist use of the language that they ignore that new meaning is made in “mistakes” (also, incidentally, I was frustrated by how frequently incorrect the Grammar Nazis were). So I rallied to the defense of these “bad” phrases, because in using several of them, I began to realize they serve an important function–they often describe phenomena that are the result of life on the internet, like “I can’t even”‘s breathlessly dorky enthusiasm, or the flat, perhaps sardonic tonality expressed by a lack of punctuation in certain contexts. I drafted a brief manifesto (originally entitled “The Mission”) and began writing posts. I didn’t necessarily want people to read this in a linear fashion, especially since I fully intend on adding new posts frequently, compiling a sort of menagerie of internet phrases and the phenomena they signify.

In a strange way, I knew the politics of the mission before I really had people or scholars in mind. The site acts as a sort of public pedagogy–a resistance to prescriptivist grammarians and those who imagine a literacy crisis. It took quite a bit of soul-and-hard drive searching before I traced the genealogy of my sentiments back to an interaction between Min-Zhan Lu and a bunch of other comp/rhet scholars and my cultural-studies/postcolonial training, and so I re-wrote my mission statement (now the “Why Do This?” page) to be the scholarly manifesto of my project. The “What Is This?” page is the general population explanation, the PR release–the “Why Do This” page is the scholarly heart of the matter.

Incidentally, I coined what I thought was a new term, “multiliteracy,” but it turns out other scholars beat me to it–and thankfully, they meant almost exactly the same thing I did.

Affordances and Constraints:

Because I’m not exactly a pro at web design, I had to settle for a pre-made WordPress theme–and it’s a wonderful theme, but it imposes a bit of a linear structure on a nonlinear idea. Ultimately, I had to make certain affordance choices in order to present The Catalog as something that continues on–it’s not a one-off WordPress site, but an ongoing project. This meant that I had to really emphasize the new content, which meant moving the manifesto off the front page, since repeat readers don’t need to see that every time. But, at the same time, I didn’t want to hide it from new visitors–hence my constant anxiety about “Why Do This?”, which got moved, renamed, and rewritten half a dozen times, with infinite thanks to the Woodchucks for reading it more than once.

Right now, the biggest constraint I have is organizing my project according to the theme WordPress gives me, which means there’s a way of thinking built in to the site. I’m big on multiliteracy, and so that made me “have a sad,” to quote the LOLcat.

Not to mention the fact that I can’t change the font size. I kid you not.

My face when I couldn't change the font size.
My face when I couldn’t change the font size.

What this form was wonderful with doing was treating and maintaining images–the format is .gif friendly, displays header images on posts without those images having to be in the post, and there’s not a lot of aggressive graphic design interfering with the presentation of the images. Embedding html elements gets a little wobbly, but WordPress and the theme I chose clings happily to practically anything visual. The form also allows a banner menu, footer elements (for categories) and categorical reorganization–meaning the reader can screen posts by category easily, helping with the whole nonlinear thing.

URL: http://badnesscatalog.wordpress.com/

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Distributed Communities and Classrooms: Reading Twitter, Teaching on the Internet

I’m going to break the rules a little here and talk about two “texts”–one is a conventional print book about digital writing, and another is a series of videos that help to showcase (I think) the wonderful possibilities of what I call Internet Pedagogy (as in, using the internet to teach) and how to compose it.

First, the scholarly, corporeal text.

Michele Zappavigna’s Discourse of Twitter and Social Media

81Rt2P-OV3LZappavigna’s book, in essence, sets itself out as a truly conscientious linguistic analysis of Twitter (and other high-visiblity, searchable social networks), and it’s mission is to argue for the importance of searchability and ambient affiliation (namely, how distributed communities of discourse are created by indirect reference) on the internet. Zappavigna, in other words, is trying to demonstrate that searchability and ambient affiliation are the key markers of this discourse environment, and that things like hashtags, memes, and typographic tendencies all try to serve these ends (whether the user is fully aware of this or not).

What makes this study refreshing is Zappavigna’s admission that this is a difficult, elusive, and just logistically difficult corpus to analyze, and that we cannot analyze it using only one method–it’s too big, and too complex, and changes too quickly. Incompleteness is part of the game (and indeed, Zappavigna tends to overlook things like one-off hashtags and misreads a few memes, which helped to motivate my own project). The work, as a whole, adopts a “social semotic perspective” (11), meaning it concentrates on real-time group meaning-making and–perhaps uniquely–direct interpersonal meaning-making where the two people negotating meaning are temporally and spatially distant.

In one frustrating moment, on page 101, Zappavigna lets me down, though. She asserts that “Internet memes are depolyed for social bonding rather than sharing information,” which for me is an uncareful distinction growing out of the social semiotic framework of the book. Social bonding is so important to this linguistic/sociological pursuit that Zappavigna neglects to realize that social bonding *only occurs* when information is exchanged in meaningful ways (what these meaningful ways are, of course, must be negotiated). This, in part, became the impetus for my project–to resurrect the idea that memes aren’t just membership badges without an inherent message, but they are ways of saying something so that the group will understand, a highly literate internet shorthand. It’s not just a performance of membership, it’s speaking to the membership.

Of course, just by taking on the language of Twitter as a scholarly subject and asserting that it has real, useful purposes and underlying structures, Zappavigna has already done something remarkable–she’s managed to accumulate a corpus of tweets and show how they aren’t just nonsense or fluff, but rule-bound discourse with its own grammar and conventions, that reaches out for new personal connections. And that’s a pretty big deal.

CrashCourse Youtube Series (or, How to Do Teaching on the Internet So Well We Might as Well Not Show Up Tomorrow)

Crash CourseIf you don’t know about the Youtube channel CrashCourse, by John Green (of The Fault in Our Stars young-adult-novelist fame) and his brother Hank, what have you been doing?

In essence, the channel is arranged into series, usually of several dozen episodes, that basically teach a high-school-plus to undergraduate-level course in a particular general topic. Written by a team of academics and the Green Brothers (the VlogBrothers), they use detailed visuals, a bit of humor, and a lecture-style teaching method to quickly and effectively train viewers in the topic. Each episode is, in essence, a multimodal lecture-essay, with a clear topic, audio, visuals, and the comforting presence of a person in a tweed jacket (usually) talking to your eyes like you’re in the room.

They are almost worryingly effective at teaching (if John Green ever does a CrashCourse series in freshman composition, we will all be fired), and in the case of History and Literature, are unafraid of discussing, dissecting, and identifying their theoretical frameworks, giving teachers a good model of how to talk about this in real-life classes, too. Importantly, these lecture-essays reinforce just how profoundly important visuals are on the internet in order to get your point across, and how important it still is to have (or simulate having) a real, embodied person talking to you. They know just how far you can go with the affordances of the web for teaching, without getting so wrapped up in the internet’s possibilities that they subvert their pedagogical aims.

In essence, as a pedagogical practice on the internet, they remind us just how important it is to engage with our students across several modes simultaneously in order to make the most of our time, but also remind us that a person is still required, and that there’s something to the meatspace classroom. As someone who’s taken online courses with a teacher and zero multimodality, I can say, unless online pedagogy starts to evolve, most institutions are doing a grievous disservice to its online pupils. CrashCourse gives us a model for how to teach people things on the internet, and what sort of tone is appropriate to that situation.

Really, in essence, without CrashCourse, it might have been a lot harder to remember the importance of visuals in my own project, or to understand what sort of tone internet teaching should take in order to stick in the memory of the user. CrashCourse understands the fine line between a boring Wikipedia article and a super-internetty, directionless multimodal mess with no pedagogical aim, and they know how to make a video without it sounding like someone taped lecture slides.

(And I’m not just saying that because John Green stole my lecture cadence, either.)

The Badness Catalog: Digital Essay Draft 1

Yo Woodchucks!

The Badness Catalog is basically live. (Click it to view.)

TBC Draft Screenshot

SUMMARY

While you can read all about the project on the About page (general population) and The Mission page (academic audience), I’ve distilled the salient points here:

This site examines the way a key series of apparent “literacy errors”—errors of established language or custom practices—take on a new life on the internet. Instead of being failures of linguistic proficiency,  these apparent errors in digital discourse take on a metonymic role: they become stand-ins for other ideas altogether, the original apparent error erased and repurposed for new meaning. These “bad” practices—viewed in meatspace as mistakes—become markers of proficiency on the web.

The site focuses on those practices where the experienced writer knows that these behaviors are in violation of traditional literate convention, and uses these “bad” practices to signify in a new discourse community. The focus of this project is to elucidate how this “badness” signifies both meaning and membership: in the words of Michele Zappavigna (thanks Callie!) in Discourse of Twitter and Social Media, how this badness is both ideational and interpersonal, searchable (in that it reaches out to other instances of itself to create new meaning) and indicative of community.

There are basically two major arguments going on here:

  1. “badness” is more often an indication of an unwillingness (or unpreparedness) to read a text. In other words, badness on the internet  is not always the result of a mistake, but sometimes a marker of something other than expected being said.
  2. the process by which apparently bad textual performance is actually expressing something else is not new or unique to the internet. Communication depends on a panoply of external cues  and modes (multimodality) to make it legible–it’s simply that the internet has developed, as all cultural sites do, new cues and modes to suit its needs.

GAPS

In its current state, the framework and scaffolding of the site are complete (the Readings page, notably, is empty as I haven’t yet compiled all my secondary material in one place). About 60% of the evidence/case studies/entries are fully posted at this point–the project will ultimately be longer than 2000 words and will likely not “end” with 685, as I have about a dozen catalog entries of various length planned. By the final submission deadline I plan to have about 10 entries. So keep in mind that while the site’s idea is complete, the project is ongoing and not all the “categories” have been filled out. In short, you could read it in its current state and probably get a very clear idea about the point–but I am going to add more stuff. The posts that exist right now should give you a good idea of what I’m doing–and I wanted to check in before I post more, in case something central isn’t working.

USEFUL FEEDBACK PARAMETERS

The tone is hard to capture here–I’m trying to do intellectual work, but I’m also not trying to crush the thing under the weight of complex prose, except where setup has made that viable. So really, there are three major areas of feedback I’d value:

  • are the entries answering the call I set out, as evidence that badness on the internet is often signficant/signifying? 
  • is the website organized in an easy, but nonlinear fashion? 
  • does it cite sources effectively? There aren’t many, but the affordances of the website make citation a tricky business.

A smaller, more specific question is: should I continue to put a sort of academic-style mission statement as the lead thing in the “The Mission” menu category? Right now it’s “hidden” in the master category itself–meaning you have to click on the words rather than click on an item in the drop-down menu. Should this be more prominent?

Not Newness: Wherein I Don’t Say Anything Unexpected

Banks’ first moves threatened to drive me nuts. He posits, as many other eminent compositionists have, that we now live in a remix culture, and that this paradigm was launched by DJs. That scared me, as far as an assertion goes, because (as you all now know), my whole soapbox is: We have already, always lived in the RW, remix, intertextual culture, this paradigm is not new at all, perhaps only disrupted by the Enlightenment’s love of the image of the lonely artist operating in a vacuum to create works of sacred creativity. This is not new!

No doubt part of this is me taking pleasure in everyone else finally realizing, as I have in the course of accidentally becoming a genre theorist, that all writing is remixing (genre, after all, might be seen as a shared convention of what you remix from, with deviations/scratches being celebrated as innovation) and that the stodgy literary elitism of the past century (and this century still) has no legs left to stand on: it posits that remixes are inherently derivative, that genre texts are inherently inferior to the romantically-conceived, independent artiste writing a truly unique work of universalizeable and immortal literature, and this position simply cannot be sustained. Neither, really, can the laws that pretend it’s true. Just ask the RIAA.

Even if you literally show me pictures of myself writing my novel at 4am in a locked room, I will not buy the idea that there’s an un-remix-ed version of writing, or that this is new. There are novels in the room, and in my head, so no. Nope. No.

Nope.
Nope.

But then, within syllables, Banks saves himself (see page 2)–this is a book about locating African American cultural agency inside a paradigm that has suddenly returned to the fore after being mythologized out of modernity by a system built to construct African American as “other” (in the same way non-Enlightenment, non-European, “non-modern” groups get Othered to create the Us). The DJs hearken back to oral storytelling–the griots–meaning that this is not new, that this is just one way of looking at it that might be cool.

Digital Griots is a tool for reimagining what is going on–for scholars who have discovered the model in a new fashion, not an absolute pronunciation of the newness of the system itself. The DJ is “a figure through whom African American rhetoric can be reimagined in a new century” (2). The griot maintains the past within the present (see epigraph on 10), which of course makes the distinction really fuzzy. The way it ought to be.

That, at least, makes the academic in me happy. And it also helps to explain the really weird phenomenon that happened on Twitter–somehow, Tweetku has taken on a life of its own and has its own twitter, but we’re not sure if we made it or if we just happened to be doing the same thing while it was already there all along. Remix obfuscates historicity. The agent (the romantic author) blurs into the griot (the person speaking right now, the re-vision) (156).

My attempts, and our fixation, with locating an originator are probably possible but really counter to how the internet works structurally–the internet does not make allowances for the purity (and the myth) of the original. CNN’s silly attempts, every week, to find out about the source of viral things feels about as in-touch as their five weeks of coverage for a plane crash: they’re fixated on originators. Likewise, TV news networks talk about the hacker collective Anonymous as if it’s a thing, with leaders or consistent members. It is *not*. That’s the point. There’s no satisfying author at the end of the trail of remixes.

I did not make this image. It did not spring solely from me. I do not know who made it, and even if I did, it's an appropriation of another text.
I did not make this image. It did not spring solely from me. I do not know who made it, and even if I did, it’s an appropriation of another text.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t protect remixers work, or reward particularly effective innovation, its just that we need to acknowledge that

  1. we’ve been doing that to certain remixers, called authors, but not to others,
  2. nobody operates in a vacuum (see the most recent presidential election’s key debate), and
  3. academic culture still creates systems of value, good or bad, around arbitrary distinctions between remix and original, derivative text and magical “springs fully formed from the head of the author, like Athena from Zeus” literature.
  4. Tweetku probably went viral somehow.

    This image is a pastiche of several memes, combined with a famous internet haiku. There are too many potential layered remixes here.
    This image is a pastiche of several memes, combined with a famous internet haiku. There are too many potential layered remixes here.

 

“CAPSLOCK IS CRUISE CONTROL FOR COOL!!1ONE1!”: Performed Badness on the Internet

For my project, I’m thinking about the prevalence of deliberate or (sometimes) ironic badness in discourse on the internet. By badness, I don’t mean being bad (like the cool kids in high school bad), but instead, the deliberate use of the appearance of rhetorical or cultural nonliteracy—things like deliberately transposing “your” and “you’re,” writing in all caps, spelling things idiosyncratically, “cartoonish” drawing techniques, and misidentifying cultural icons.

Importantly, I want to examine this broadly-defined internet-cultural practice in terms of its uses to signify things other than mockery of the “nonliterate.” There are rhetorical functions, and cultural meanings, assigned to these practices above and beyond their original signification of being a novice at internet communication—being a n00b or “bad at internets.” Many of these practices obviously started as internet users mocking novice users by imitation, but the practices have since moved beyond that easy sign-signifier relationship into something more mythicized or abstract, coming to carry meanings well beyond simply “badness.”

Anyone who’s been in a class with me (or within earshot in the office) knows my academic interest in “bad” texts, and this grows out of that interest. Why does the culture of the internet take up these rhetorical errors and reprocess them to mean something else? What does it mean that “badness” has become a necessary and influential rhetorical practice? What trends to we see in what the badness is supposed to express?

Why, in other words, would we be bad on purpose?

Question CatTake, as an example, the LOLCat meme—why do they spell poorly? Why do they rely on an archaic digital technology–WordArt and MSPaint—to the point where it becomes deliberately labor intensive (and later necessitates special software to emulate the limitations of the older stuff)? What are they expressing that can’t be expressed by other means? How does performed nonliteracy express internet-cultural literacy?

There are, of course, other examples—the Doge meme, using ALL CAPS WITHOUT PUNCTUATION TO SIGNIFY LIKE SUPER IRONY YOU GUYS, the “ALL THE [things]” meme and its strange artistic style. Why and how do these (intentionally) poor performances of internet composition express deeper meaning?

This is obviously far too big a project for 2000 words, but it’s an experiment (and a “why?” question), so I don’t think the objective is really to arrive at a set answer, but instead to examine ways of reading which don’t immediately assume “badness” is a marker of nonliteracy or a non-significant message (i.e. noise). There’s actually some scholarly work being done on this topic in other areas (traditionally ignored texts and literatures, for example), so there are some existing frameworks I can bring to the investigation, just to see how they work with the internet.

Bullet Point Version:

  • Texts: Cat Memes, Other Memes, Famous Webcomics, a handful of Big Blogs (the ones that resemble traditional media in their readership patterns). There’s no shortage of materials to choose from.
  • Key Question: Why is “bad discourse” on the internet used to express things other than nonliteracy? How do these things become imbued with secondary meanings and rhetorical functions?

    Irony Spelling Man
    Notice how ornate this dude’s face is even though his body is cartoonishly badly drawn? Also, textual irony, lots of it.
  • Format: I imagine a WordPress article, fairly traditional, in the genre widely used by Cracked.com (in a comic fashion)—an argument, with several examples, accompanied by images or short Youtube clips close reading those examples. Close reading “live” (i.e. in the Youtube clip) and in the text surrounding it permit compressed, digestible, and visually-reinforced conclusions suitable for fast, internet-style reading.

Questions/Issues:

In a weird way, this is an argument that operates using traditional scholarly modes, so I’m not quite sure about the format. It’s in a gray area between a one-off essay and an ongoing project, so I’m not sure if it needs a WordPress to itself, or if it might just live as a web article. Thoughts? As my other blogs posts indicate, I still frequently struggle with scale.

I’m also struggling with a good term for “badness” that gets at what I’m talking about.

This argument also strays across a comp/rhet, historical, and cultural studies series of frameworks in a way that I anticipate might be hard to organize. Furthermore, as far as I know, it’s fairly difficult to trace the provenance of rhetorical practices on the internet, given the volume (and huge gaps) in history-keeping or archiving.

Twittering in the Wings: On Credentials and Institutional Compliance

While this is probably the textual equivalent of multitasking, I’m going to attempt to respond to Dr. Harris’ observations about critical discourse on twitter, since it actually has a lot to do with what I want to respond about regarding Fitzpatrick. This will all hopefully fit together in a moment.

As simple as it seems, I don’t think the technical allowances of Twitter allow for one-off critical discourse, particularly not when that critical discourse is actually critical. It’s easy to say, on Twitter, that “I really like what this scholar is doing here bit.lylink #tweet #epic”, but rather intensely more challenging to compose a response which might take issue–as my own stilted interactions with Tom Standage show. It’s impossible to fit Joe’s sentiment about the big-name panel in a tweet, particularly when he needs to spend more time on careful wording than concision. “Big-Name Panel was so TEDIOUS #4c14 #yawn #probablyshunnedforever” is not a satisfactory critical response, but it’s impossible to say “Saw Big-Name Panel, which was well-selected, but disappointing. Want to know more about Panelist’s ideas on [Issue-at-Hand], particularly when it comes to [Academic Soap-Box Issue] #4c14 #bigname” without pulling a + or a “(1/2) (2/2)”, which simply wastes more precious characters and risks dissolution in the sea of hashtag-filtered responses.

The perpetual personal surveillance that Twitter builds in doesn’t help, as a person can find your tweet about them even if you didn’t @ them. Twitter is all credentialed gossip, but none of the gossip can stay gossip, and the credentials can quickly become an albatross.

Seems Legit.
Seems Legit.

Twitter seems built primarily for praise, forwarding, or snark. Academic publication, as Fitzpatrick frequently points out, is built for analogous, but strategically different aims (11). Rarely is our praise unqualified (see: all of our blog posts on every author), but academic forwarding, (genteel) snark, and idea development are key–which is precisely why the current academic publication system hardly works better for these purposes than Twitter. Joe can’t tweet that the big name panel was tedious in the same way he can’t really publish a book out of Duke University Press about how tedious the panel was entitled [Big Name Panelist] is Silly. The peers are watching, and the credentials are at stake. An uncareful move might make Joe’s economy of reputation go the way of the Russian actual economy–and thus, academic speech has developed both an “ethical obligation to listen” (43), a means of gatekeeping (Peer Reviewed Publications), and a discourse based more on precision and diplomacy than concision (which is wonderful, but also not suited to microblogging). (For more thoughts on publishing, see Katie’s x5 post and all the comments on it regarding a new system of credentialing, funding, and publication not wholly unlike some of Fitzpatrick’s suggestions).

Fitzpatrick points out that this existing system of credentializing is necessary but restrictive–for instance, the abuse of institutional sponsorship to propagate outdated ideologies is protected by this system–and a more Twitterian, algorithmically-based system is similarly restrictive “bean counting” (47) reminiscent of the disastrous evaluation policies of No Child Left Behind (collective shudder). The disqualification of these open systems wholesale–emblematic in the early-2000s institutional dismissal of Wikipedia even as that publication does not employ this system–is not unlike the myth of Read Only culture I mentioned last week: it is, as Fitzpatrick put it, an artifact of an obsolescence-phobic “political project aimed at intervening in contemporary public life, perhaps with the intent of shoring up a waning cultural hierarchy” (2).

That’s why I’m glad Fitzpatrick gestured towards hybrid systems–while I still plan on writing monographs, it’s nice to think someday I might be able to write an article and put it out on the web for academics to read (since my field has no 100% applicable journal) and still have that publication “count.” Unlike Twitter, the web generally is not structured as to preclude academic forms of writing, and the fact that we tend to ignore that potential institutionally is disappointing. If the academic publication industry is a “zombie” system, shuffling along in an unsustainable fashion, academic writing in *form* and *aim* is less a zombie than (oh boy here we go) a cyborg–something not necessarily integrated with current technology that might be enhanced or reformulated to include it without particular difficulty.

Like the technophobic antagonists in every “Good Cyborg” story ever, though, we have to get over our institutional fear of this technology if we want it to work.

Official Tiny Leaves
Credentials: I Got ‘Em

My point, oddly, is this: the fact that Dr. Harris has no way to properly critique a panel for being tedious or nonproductive is already indicative of the serious problems facing not only academic discourse and publication, but the system of institutional influence and credentials that might allow the abuse of power by those who benefit from being able to be boring on big-name panels.

Case and point: last year I attended a conference on a prevailing issue in academia, and a very powerful, established academic (and Federal Funding magnet) gave a keynote speech on the issue. The speech was a tedious patchwork of outmoded ideology, institutional policy nonsense, statistics from the 1990s, and clearly-appropriated ideas on a series of projected slides. At the end, a room full of normally semi-revolutionary academic activists clapped.

Nobody said or tweeted a word.

Sentence Forming Nathan Fillion

The Mythical Read-Only Culture

While I was reading Lessig’s Remix, I realized something.

I have never seriously imagined myself to have inhabited an RO environment. In the same way, I’ve never even considered a desire for privacy, at least not as Lessig describes it (or RO media).

When it comes to privacy, perhaps the reasoning behind this is obvious: I’ve used Amazon forever, and so I’m not super creeped out (technical term) for its fairly on-point suggestions for my buying choices. I’ve never imagined that I wasn’t being monitored. Perhaps, in addition to my (apparent) digital nativity, my years at Catholic School panopticon and SEC-compliant businesses, my urban residence and only-child status created this.

I don't see any citation here.
Shakespeare’s estate did not get paid for this.

When it comes to content creation and consumption, then, it should not be surprising that I’ve tended (on some fundamental level) to view all content as “public.” When I started writing fiction as a kid, it started out (as Lessig notes on 81, via Jenkins) as an “apprenticeship” of remixing–not in the literal fanfiction sense, but in the archetypical sense. I copied works’ conventions in order to enact their genres, only gradually moving away from this obvious forms of appropriation to the more abstracted forms: the practice of genre and audience awareness, of rhetoric, of convention employment. All writing (and all creativity) is always remix, even if the remix is marked (as many are) by the refusal to pull content from the expected sources.

I first wrote fiction because I found the fiction I liked to be insufficient, and sought to practice creation in order to fill these gaps. I became a Literature Academic because it appeared, to me, that literature scholarship *really* needed my help. As egotistical as that sounds, I doubt anyone reading this isn’t nodding right now (if you’re the nodding type), or gesticulating in some way. You finish your BA in English out of a love of books, but what carries you through the apprenticeship of graduate programs (MA, MFA, PhD, whatever) is knowing that you need to fill a gap you’ve found.

Our greatest fear.
Our greatest fear.

I’m not really sure RO culture really exists outside the minds of a few people at the RIAA. I’m not even sure Lessig thinks it exists (or at least, in 2008, believed that it would survive the decade). For any of Remix‘s other flaws, the hybrid culture Lessig describes has a high degree of veracity.

This is (maybe?) a vindication of Chris and Callie’s insistence that Broadcast Media is not passive, at least in the Michael-verse, because I can’t for the life of me think of a time when I imagined something to be really read-only. Lessig’s notes on remix in education, too, seem obvious given my history of writing and my current pedagogical (and theoretical) tendencies to see conventions, genres, and appropriations as the backbone of a text, and the meaningful recombination of research data plus new observations from that recombination to be the height of professional writing (see: all instructions for academic writing ever).

I can only hope Lessig’s right about the law catching up to the culture—of ditching its enterprise to perpetuate/create the RO culture myth—since it never occurred to me prior to today that the AMVs I consumed avidly just 8 years ago were in some way potentially illegal. I always considered the arguments in favor of royalties in music and film to be predicated on an elitist belief that film and music, as less-accessible-therefore-less-pedestrian arts than writing, were therefore more worthy of reward. As more and more of our readings gesture towards it (however remotely), I begin to get the impression I was right–that digital means gradually break down access barriers to new forms, and threaten the cultural elite that benefits. Much of the drama around the Internet has to do with controlling access, with creating artificial scarcity—with inventing the myth that an RO culture ever truly existed, much in the same ways other reactionaries create nostalgic mythic pasts to defend.