Tag Archives: Remix

Final Draft: Remix as “Concept, Material and Method” in FYC

My digital essay project asks what we stand to lose–as scholars, teachers, and students of writing–by insisting that multimodal composition and traditional academic writing participate in fundamentally different modes of making meaning. Though many other scholars have productively registered the dissonances between these two kinds of composition, in my essay I consider what we might stand to gain by listening for the resonances. Ultimately I suggest that the lens of “remix” can help us, and our first year writing students, to see academic and multimodal composition as founded on a set of shared intellectual practices– and so doing, help us to find new ways to bridge past and future, academic and public discourse, alphabetic and non-alphabetic writing.

If that didn’t convince you to check it out, in my essay I do close readings of the two texts below, and argue that they participate in very similar intellectual practices of making meaning. Don’t you want to see me try to make that move?


This essay really developed out of a blog post I wrote for this seminar in response to Lawrence Lessig’s Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. Though I was completely on board with his enthusiasm for possibilities of free, open, remix culture, I was troubled that he felt it necessary to argue that multimodal/digital remix is somehow more complex than alphabetic/academic writing. As I thought about it more and dove into the scholarly literature, I realized that Lessig made two assumptions that were widespread in discourse on multimodal comp: 1) that these are two completely different practices of producing meaning, and 2) that alphabetic (and academic) writing is our past and multimodal comp is our future. These realizations led to the first two parts of my digital essay: “The Same Refrain” and “History/Futurity.” The next two sections, “Textual Layers” and “Resonance and Dissonance” developed out of my attempt to define what I saw as the real similarities between the two seemingly disparate types of texts.

Affordances & Constraints
In my essay, the most obvious affordance I took advantage of was the ability to embed video, which allowed me to isolate and showcase pieces of the music I was close reading. (Close listening?) But I also tried to make strong use of links throughout my essay, which I found to be a much more elegant and rich form of citation than clunky scholarly citation styles. Also, although there are few images in my project, I tried to use them suggestively rather than literally, to correspond to the kind of theoretical/conceptual work I was trying to do. It’s something that seems to work in this medium, but would probably look ridiculous in print. Lastly, no other medium would allow me to extend this project over time in public as a website permits me to do. I’m really looking forward to sharing my remix-focused teaching materials and blogging about my teaching experiences in the fall!

The biggest constraint was trying to manipulate the architecture of my website. WordPress themes are incredible, on the one hand, because with very little effort, they make your work look polished. On the other hand, they are unreasonably difficult to alter or customize in any way. It reminded me how badly I want to become proficient at writing code (I took a couple of intro-level courses on Python and Java, and absolutely loved it). This makes me think that to get serious about digital academic work and making best use of its affordances, we’re going to have to get a lot more technologically proficient.

Remix and FYC: 1st Draft

Okay gophers, I can’t lie. This thing is a hot mess: http://remixandfyc.wordpress.com/

Summary: I argue that there are some problems with the way scholarship in rhet/comp is thinking divisively about multimodal writing vs. alphabetic writing in the composition classroom, and ultimately suggest that the concept of remix can help us to highlight the similarities in the kinds of intellectual practices we want students to take on inside the academy– within and across modalities. Though I haven’t yet been able to get the posts in the right order on the website, here is how I’ve broken this essay down:
1) Key Terms: I try to define what I mean by “alphabetic writing” “traditional academic writing,” “multimodal composition,” “digital composition” and “remix”– and the relationships between them.
2) The Same Refrain: I argue that the way we’ve come to differentiate sharply between the ways that alphabetic texts and multimodal texts produce meaning is problematic.
3) History/Futurity: Some Discursive and Conceptual Snags: I try to show that one problem with the scholarly discourse around alphabetic and multimodal writing is the assumption that alphabetic writing is an almost-extinct practice of the past, and multimodal writing is the future.
4) Textual Layers: I haven’t written this section yet, but I will argue that we can conceptualize traditional academic writing as a practice of selecting and layering pieces of other texts to produce meaning in the same way that multimodal composing does. This intellectual mode of making meaning is the practice of remix. I plan to work through two specific examples: one piece of alphabetic academic writing, and one piece of multimodal remix (probably a musical remix).
5) Resonance and Dissonance: Again, not yet written, but I will argue that a key feature of the practice of good remix, in alphabetic and multimodal forms, is the ability to recognize and control the resonances and dissonances produced by the rubbing together of these layers/pieces of other texts. I intend to continue working with the same examples from the section above to show how this intellectual practice works on both alphabetic and aural levels.

Gaps/problems: Oh so many. You can see from the above that I’m really only halfway done. I also need to work in a bibliographic page in addition to linking out within the posts. I need to figure out how to rearrange my posts so that they show up in the right order on the home page. [Update: Figured out how to get them in the right order. Pro tip: It’s a total pain.] I’d love to figure out how I can group the posts under different tabs, so that the current ones all go under “Theory”; and so that I can add posts this summer under “Materials” (putting syllabus and lesson plans for an E110 course centered around remix) and in the fall under “Practice” (updates and reflections how how it works in practice). I also have an incredible amount of material in note form responding to different scholarly texts on multimodal vs. alphabetic composing, but very little of it has made its way into my essay yet 😦

Feedback: I’d love to get some feedback on the general shape and organization of my argument as I’ve laid it out above, and on the actual prose as it is emerging in my first few posts. Are there gaping holes you see already? Can you follow my argument? Is it too obvious, repetitive, dull? Aside from needing to get the posts in the right order, what do you think of this format for my essay? I was originally going to do a video, and that increasing felt wrong for the content. Do you have any suggestions for aethetics/format/style? Visuals/images/audio/video?

I really appreciate any feedback you’re able to offer at this stage. I’m sorry I don’t have a more complete draft to share!

With gratitude,

Shakespr: (Re)creationally Writing Hamlet Online Draft 1

Hello there!

Link to digital essay: Shakespr: (Re)creationally Writing Hamlet Online

Summary of Project:

The prologue of my piece covers this in a bit more detail, but to summarize, I’m interested in how tumblr represents, remixes, remediates, and recreates Shakespeare. In doing so, I’m looking specifically at Hamlet on tumblr and how users read and rewrite the text.


So far, I have a lot done in notes (whether my annotated bibliography or handwritten notes on the primary sources) and a lot done with the digital essay format itself. While I love tumblr, it is not always the easiest to work with when you’re trying to do something it wasn’t exactly designed for: structure an argument. What that boils down to is that I’ve spent significant time at the start wading through primary sources to find the specific ones I want to talk about directly, and many many more hours constructing the anchor posts themselves, and inserting the infrastructure of links, tags, metadiscourse, etc. Basically, this means that I still have substantial work to do in more of the writing itself. That being said, with what I have so far, I have gotten a lot of the more gritty, time-consuming work completed.


At this point, feedback in three main areas would be of superb help.

1)      The format: Like it? Does the first post sufficiently explain how to move through the essay? Did you get lost at any point in terms of where to go next? Also – I’m thinking of adding a page – perhaps in my about page – for tags. I’m hesitant to do that at this point because it’s a lot of post editing across the entire blog, but I will happily do so if you think that will help the piece as a whole (including the pieces that are not discussed within the main body of the essay). I’m also thinking about whether to include a “random” page that will take readers to a random post on the blog.

2)      Sources: I’m not really working from any particular scholar (which is why the dramatis personae is under construction), but I do think I may include some of the larger ideas about fandom – such as Henry Jenkins’s “acafan” (academic fan) or some of Lessig’s work with remixing. Would the work benefit from these larger theoretical ideas?

3)      In terms of my argument, I am positioning this not as a strict closed-form piece that starts with the thesis. Instead, I’m starting with my questions and moving toward my overall argument. For this format, do you think this structure will work for you as readers?

Thinking through Banks’s Terms

From our work in class 4/18: Some ways we tried to define and capture the essence of each of the terms that Banks uses in Digital Griots.


  • “interruption” (1)
  • hey! / bridge


  • Junction / “looping” (7)
  • “layering and repetition” (7)
  • Burkean parlor


  • “Who you wit!?” – Bernie Mac (111)
  • “relationships, allegiances and influences” (26)
  • “calling the roll” (26)
  • citation/reference
  • authorizing/promoting


  • Bringing together
  • Facilitative/collaborative
  • Griot’s role = “create conditions where a community can create its own collaborative text”


  • Builds from mix but more self-aware
  • Historicity in action creates generative story
  • Calls attention to its own fissures and stitches
  • “back in the day” narrative (87)
  • draws attention to its own “not-newness”


  • Artifact, collection
  • “compilation of others’ texts and ideas…” (138)
  • personal and public

Falling in Line and Getting “In Step”

(Apologies for the slight lateness; hopefully I’ve not kept anyone awake in anticipation for my post).

I approached Adam J. Banks’ Digital Griots with interest, but as many of the previous posts have mentioned, I was unsure of where I was headed once I started reading. This was perhaps not because of any major failing on Banks’s part, but because his book forced me to reevaluate what I expect of a book of the pedagogical cum autobiographical sort (without belaboring generic conventions too much).

After taking Melissa Ianetta’s experimental one-credit “Literature Pedagogy” seminar in Fall 2012, I was no stranger to the academic Bildungsroman, as it were: the most memorable of the texts of this type that we read in that class were Jane Tompkins’s A Life in School and Elaine Showalter’s Teaching Literature, which are as much about the life of the teacher as the methods and materials she discusses along the way. Even though Banks’ book does not really resemble Tompkins’s or Showalter’s in its content in this way, I did still find myself wanting to put it squarely in with theirs, to make it make sense in the ways that theirs had (even if I did not like some of what came out of both).

Naturally, this resulted in frustration on my part because in many cases, that was not what Banks wanted to do—he wanted to tell me about DJ’s and griots and community, but he did not necessarily want to tell me why, for example, he did not formulate his community course with any other partners from his academic community (57-58), or very much detail about the types of students/experiences from each of the classes he brings up in his chapter on “Mix.” There came a point when I had to very sternly remind myself of “the grand law of criticism” suggested in an 1888 article by novelist R. E. Francillon in the Victorian girls’ magazine Atalanta: “Never blame anybody for not doing what he did not make it his business to do [….] Never find fault with good work of one kind because it is not good work of another” (352).

Nonetheless, I had expected Banks to proceed in a certain way at the outset, which explains the sense of displacement. I had expected him to begin by outlining what a griot was and how the concept would come to shape his theory of teaching and praxis; in reality, I do not think he actually defined the term at length until page 23. “Old/new contract!,” I wanted to shout, even though I had long before looked up the term out of curiosity. I found myself noting (with some amount of confusion) places where I felt he flitted around from one topic to the other, seemingly presenting a “shallow” (52) skimming of the deeper ideas he was alluding, or where he seemed to be bashing me over the head with certain points (I get it, “DJing is Writing/Writing is DJing” (1)).

Of course I realize that his entire book, not just the parts that draw attention to themselves as such, is “enact[ing] as well as [stating] an argument”. It took me a while to stop standing around awkwardly in the corner and to allow myself to go along with the “groove,” however tentatively.

This is a fairly true-to-life portrayal of my (therefore nonexistent) dancing skills.

What I initially saw as a random comment was actually a scratch, what I saw as mind-numbing repetition was a chorus. While I still have my reservations about Banks’s book (which will surely come up in class), I acknowledge that the remixing he does within it is not random written chaos; it is innovative in not just the ideas it is presenting but also perhaps in the way it (and the projects it describes within it) reform the expectations for “academic” writing. It is akin to a piece by Girl Talk—like “In Step” from the album Feed the Animals—complicated to the point of sometimes being frustrating, but richly layered enough to merit multiple listens.

Yet, I wonder why this book came in the form of, well…a book? If in this case, as in others, “the Internet would not do” (62), why not? Why not create the project as a multimedia, multimodal, multicultural text if this is what Banks is invested in?

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.


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.


All White Remix

When I walked into Alison West 206 on February 11 for my first day as an English instructor, I expected to have at least one black student in my section. But no. When I called roll, white person after white person said “here.” And when they look at me (and heck, even at the headshots of the people whose writing we read), it’s all whiteness.


Why does this matter?

It matters because that isn’t reality.

So when Banks writes in Digital Griots: African American Rhetoric in a Multimedia Age that his purpose is to scratch and interrupt, to play between two disciplinary conversations, one about African American rhetoric and one about composing in multimodal forms (2), I want to go with him. I find his writing to be self-reflective, engaging, and inviting.

But I also feel hypocritical because I haven’t figured out, as a white person teaching white students, how to talk responsibly about race and power. Or more importantly, how to do the work that Banks writes about in his compelling social commentary about rhetorical strategies used by digital griots.

How can DJs’ creative and rhetorical moves come into play when I’m teaching white first year students how to enter the scholarly conversation? Or to see the bibliographic essay as a mixtape, as Banks suggests? How can I help students try “sampling” through their use of someone else’s idea that is vital enough that they don’t just cite it but make it a “looped” and “continually repeated” part of their own creations (26)?

I feel convicted because I know that Banks is right that the “acts of writing, the social networks and cultural contexts in which they occur, and the technological networks in which they take place and are disseminated still involve systems of power, still reflect relationships  between individuals and groups within those systems” (154). My own writing as well as the E110 writing I assign are embedded within a “system of power” that unconsciously excludes or dismisses voices and perspectives of minorities, even as the academy tries to make room for people whose voices were silenced for much of history.

In short, I am utterly persuaded of the richness and possibility in flow, layering, rupture, and remix of hip hop. That process (and indeed, the product of a remix) appeals a great deal more than the staid and patchwritten research paper drafts that cross my desk.

On the positive side, the technologies available to us and to our students can open up startlingly rich combinations, as Banks deftly and creatively discusses (and indeed, performs) in his book.

The question I am left with is this: if “black griotic traditions call for an approach to writing that is committed to the range and flexibility to ‘teach in the idiom of the people'” (155), what can we do if the people in the classroom are. all. white? What then?