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13: Remix

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    If you hear the following lyrics: “Hi, my name is, what? My name is, who? My name is…Slim Shady,” you might think of the Eminem song My Name Is. Or you might think. “Who even listens to Eminem anymore?” But you probably don’t know the origin of the song’s famous beat. The internationally recognized melody was sampled from Labi Siffre’s funky tune I Got The… and Labi Siffre (or Claudius Afolabi Siffre) is a British singer, songwriter, and poet. Siffre’s original song was written in 1975, and Eminem’s remixed hit was released in 1999, twenty-four years later. So, what is a remix and how does it transcend time? A remix is the manipulation and re-arrangement of original materials, modes, and genres into something new. Remix is an active process, and it requires artists to be immersed in the affordances of their respective medium as well as the existing historical, socio-political, cultural, and technological materials of their time. As Victor Wooten once said, “To be a good musician you have to be a good listener.”  

    Image of computer source codes
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Assorted source codes. (Copyright; Ali Shah Lakhani via Unsplash)


    History of Remix  

    The earliest tales we told were passed orally from the speaker to their audience, and each new speaker told a different story, spoke with a different cadence, and considered their audiences as they spoke. While remix had already been an ongoing form, the advent of writing allowed these tales to be engraved using alphabetic text. With each new telling, new elements and details were altered. The stories changed historical contexts, their audiences changed, and their affordances changed. So, they too adapted, and the ethical concerns of such technological developments grew more and more important. There are many types and sub-groups of remix: imitation, alteration, offshoot, parody, revision, mash-up, spin-off, and the like.  


    Terms for Various Types of Remix 

    What It Does 


    quotes or paraphrases other texts in the new text 


    sticks as close to the original as possible 


    stresses the comical and humorous aspects of the new text 

    alteration and revision 

    revises the original in a new way that stresses particular aspects or changes only some parts of the situation (such as updating the language or turning a sad ending into a happy one) 

    offshoot and spin-off 

    focuses on a selected element of the original (such as creating a new story for a minor character) 

    mash-up and hybridization 

    joins together more than one text or mode 


    implies the forceful takeover of another’s ideas or work to make it our own, and often raises ethical issues around authorship or ownership of materials 


    revises the original to make it work for a new purpose or setting or time period 



    Each of these terms stresses a particular dimension of the remix process and the nature of the connection between the original source and the remixed product. While all these terms apply to using established artistic pieces and strategies to create new works, remix, which has alliances with musical recording and sampling, stresses how the newly shaped work can also involve the blending of two different pieces to create an alternate third piece. 


    Remix Today

    Remixes range from sampling a song to completely overhauling a film script. A very common method of musical remix on social media involves the use of small clips that are edited to a beat; the musician subsequently creates a rhythm from an otherwise arhythmic visual medium. So, to remix other works, you must interact with and pay attention to other artists and how they have contributed their own adaptations. Whatever it is that you are remixing should involve a careful look at the genres, forms, texts, images, videos, songs, and stories, recombining and repurposing components of an original source.  

    Remixing applies to genres and forms other than music, of course. After you’ve considered the most important aspects of the element you wish to remix, study the affordance of the new medium you want to use and identify ways to translate ideas from one medium to another. How does a screenplay translate to a TV show? How does a music video become a short, ten second promotional reel? How does anime spring forth from a manga’s original comic-book style? When you are remixing, consider how faithful you want to be to the original material. You can stray away from the prototype but remember to walk the line by keeping the original work recognizable, while also adding your personal touch. 

    Alison Foreman opens her IndieWire article “Disney’s Unending Live-Action Adaptations Ranked, from Pinocchio to Mulan to The Little Mermaid” with the following sentence: “To quote one of the best sitcoms ever: ‘Did you just double dip that chip?’” Disney releases an unending stream of live-action adaptations to its viewers. Obviously, Disney’s marketing teams have mastered the concept of kairos. Leslie Felperin effectively states that in her Hollywood Reporter review of the live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, "This remake of the company’s 1991 animated hit tracks closely to the earlier version’s plot and story beats, includes revamps of all the old songs and arrives just in time to exploit generational nostalgia—to lure viewers who loved the last version as kids and are just becoming parents themselves.”  

    Let’s think about this for a second. Is the corporate giant really making the best decision every time they dish out one of their so-called “revivals?” Foreman does not hold back and delivers a trenchant critique: “By and large, Disney remakes are exhausting regurgitations that tend to undermine the joy of Disney’s most historically significant films.” Yes, remixing your own art can seem conceited and derivative; this decision could even lead your audience to loathe your original story.  

    In terms of box office success, these Disney “remixed” films are performing well. The Lion King (2019) is the #9 highest grossing movie of all-time at the global box office, generating $1.66 billion (“The Lion King”). Thus, the success of a remix depends on the metric: Are you looking for audience and fanbase satisfaction or profit? Raking in huge profits for a remix is an exciting reason to revive an old classic, but it is also helpful to consider how the remix can contribute to an ever-evolving socio-cultural landscape. 

    Disney tried to adapt an old story to a new audience with their remake of the beloved classic Beauty and the Beast. Their marketing ploy was focused on the character LeFou, played by actor Josh Gad. The politics of representation can be trendy and discussions surrounding this issue will grab viewers’ attention. To explain: If you have seen the original film, you must have felt that LeFou had a certain admiration for Gaston (the narrative’s main antagonist) and you might have noticed that this enthusiasm could be misconstrued for love, or infatuation. Disney’s animated film never elaborated on the sidekick’s sexuality; he was repeatedly treated like a sack of potatoes by his love interest.  

    Years later, the company picked up on fans’ intrigue about LeFou’s sexual orientation and decided to create an insensitive and cash-grabbing headline by claiming that LeFou has an “exclusively gay moment” in the 2017 remake. In an interview with The Independent, actor Josh Gad gives a lengthy statement about this issue: “We didn’t go far enough to warrant accolades, we didn’t go far enough to say, ‘Look how brave we are.’ My regret in what happened is that it became ‘Disney’s first explicitly gay moment’ and it was never intended to be that. It was never intended to be a moment that we should laud ourselves for, because frankly, I don’t think we did justice to what a real gay character in a Disney film should be” (Pollard).  

    Indeed, all we got from this live-action retelling was a “blink and you’ll miss it” on-screen waltz between LeFou and another man. And that is why actor Josh Gad spoke out five years later to inform readers about the company’s questionable agenda. Whether you choose to remix your own IP (intellectual property) or other people’s original material, always remember that remix is a chance to expand and modernize artistic pieces, but you must do so carefully and thoughtfully. It is important to be immersed in the zeitgeist of your culture to produce an effective adaptation of various tales, even if they are really old.  


    Remix and Other Concepts 

    Remixing is central to the creative process, whether you are creating a piece using alphabetic text, images, or any other mode. We remix when we draft and revise our own written work to emphasize our personality and ethos. We remix when we alter a rough draft and recreate it to suit different modes and genres. We remix to maximize the circulation potential of our art and reach new fields. We remix when, in aiming to make an original contribution to a particular scholarly field, we locate and integrate the ideas of others in with our own observations, citing appropriately, of course!  When we remix our work for new audiences, we may have to change our language and style, include more images, sound, video, think about different arrangements and juxtapositions of content on the page or screen, and so forth. Adaptation and remix involve knowing how texts circulate and spread via media and culture. Remix also requires us to learn about our audiences and imagine what they would expect from an effective re-envisioning of an original piece. 

    A remix that focuses on genre is quite common in music. Music samples are a great way to transpose compositions from one period to another and from one genre to another. Revivals of classic pieces offer us a chance to contribute to a kairotic conversation. When we remix, we participate in a long history of adaptation, we create new spaces for cultural politics, and we can give voice to individuals and issues that have been ignored or silenced by the mainstream media. As genres become increasingly hybridized, remix becomes the norm. The digital omnipresence of our art has allowed everyone to reproduce, re-imagine, and re-create each other’s work; and with the conundrum of robotic sentience looming large, we are now questioning the very notion of originality. Remix existed before the Internet, indeed, since the beginning of rhetoric itself, and the concept will continue to be a creative (if not financial) goldmine. It’s up to us to recognize the most effective ways to mine it. 

    When we engage in a sustained, ongoing conversation about a big idea or question, as we are asked to do in writing and other classes, we inevitably employ remix. In our research, we draw from past and contemporary voices that have weighed in on the conversation, and we synthesize these voices with our own evolving perspectives. We are part of a perennial conversation in the humanities: Who are we? How do we live? What do we value? This conversation began long before we arrived, and it will continue long after we leave, for it is a conversation of cosmic proportion.  

    One of the most obvious and important ways that a researcher participates in remix is through citation. We locate texts that expand our conversations and excerpt them in our work assigning credit to the original source. We adapt texts, films, and tales by recontextualizing them into new conversations, and sometimes into new modes of communication. Certainly, we can also spot examples of an abuse of remix where creators will only rehash the same story by slapping on a fresh coat of paint to maximize profit.  

    We must be careful when handling material that belongs to other cultures and artists. Appropriation is something to be conscious of when we are working with other people’s texts, and it is important to attribute with care our use or citation of others’ works. Appropriation involves a series of missteps: locating something that does not belong to us, removing it from its intended context, and claiming it as our own. It is a hostile takeover of someone else’s work or creative expression; it’s a colonization, if you will. Appropriation is perhaps the worst rendering of privilege. It is the assumption that we can take whatever we want from someone else without consideration or consequence. Often, the concept is associated with cultural appropriation: the act of assuming someone else’s cultural markers, without deference to the cultures and traditions those markers may symbolize.  

    Accordingly, one way that appropriation manifests in rhetorical communication is plagiarism. When we draw from others’ work, and when we remix that work into something new it is important that we do so ethically. Here’s a simple rule of thumb for remix: Give Credit Where It’s Due. We also must be conscious of the broader context of the work we are drawing from, which may include the social or cultural impact of the original work or may represent the lifetime of scholarship and lived experience of the writer/artist. You wouldn’t use an excerpt from a speech by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to sell potato chips, right? Right. You wouldn’t casually crib from someone else’s life work and try to pass it off as your own, right? Ethical remix includes considerations of copyright law and fair use. When used conscientiously, remix enhances the original material. And when you remix conscientiously, you demonstrate an ability to respectfully contemplate other voices and integrate them into your own perspectives. Next time you consider remix, think of the translator whose job is to bridge cultures with the power of language. The translator is always careful to show a mastery of language in translation while also remaining transparent and hidden behind the original piece and its intended meaning. 


    Remix in AI-Assisted Writing 

    A system that always errs on the side of avoiding transgression is hamstringing itself from ever achieving human-level creativity, which is often grounded in a rejection of tropes and norms. (Ippolito et al.) 

    Man in room with a record player
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): A man in a room with a record player. (Copyright; Chill Lover Radio via Unsplash)


    AI-assisted writing has reached new heights with recent experiments turning to professional writers and expert creatives for inspiration. The article Creative Writing with an AI-Powered Writing Assistant: Perspectives from Professional Writers clearly states that the machine is still lacking the capacity for subversive creativity, which is probably the most valuable kind of creativity. This eighteen-page article relates a study conducted with writers of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds who belonged to various creative writing fields: novelists, short story writers, poets, educators, comedians, and game designers (Ippolito et al.). The participants were tasked with writing a story that spanned 1,000-1,500 words in length. They were left to use the AI writing assistant without any prior explanation of the affordances of the model. In this study, the AI chatbot was Wordcraft and each creative person had a different workflow. Some used Wordcraft as a research assistant, others took to considering the bot as a writing partner, while others created prompts that would push the software to rewrite sentences in more interesting ways. The relationship between the writer and the AI-powered assistant is primarily governed by the concept of remix.  

    For example, the writer gives the machine a prompt, and then the machine transforms the prompt into a sentence. Since AI creativity remains in its infancy many, if not all, of the sentences are then re-written by the author. But there was one consensus about AI-assisted writing: It can be a useful brainstorming tool. In fact, the article states: “Participants found suggestions from Wordcraft to be helpful for worldbuilding and detail generation even when they did not end up incorporating the exact wording of the suggestions into their stories. For example, ET used the chatbot interface to home in on the appearance of the Worm-Mothers, the god-like entities in their story. Wordcraft suggested details such as the Worm-Mothers swallowing birds whole.” (Ippolito et al.)  

    The process of brainstorming involves an infinitely repeating process of remixing, polishing, and re-arranging ideas that will be included in the final draft of a story. Accordingly, we need to consider the importance of not offloading the creative process onto the machine and foregoing the need to come up with ideas ourselves. Instead, we encourage you to look at AI-assisted writing as a gateway to a productive writing process and a fun back-and-forth remix between humans and machines—one that must be cited if it is consulted, as with any other source. 


    Remix Activity 

    This chapter discusses the ubiquity and prevalence of remixes as well as their different uses, formats, and presentations. Review the arguments made throughout the text before diving into this chapter’s activity: Remixing your favorite artworks.  

    When you remix pieces you love, consider how you are absorbing the original material, synthesizing them and allowing them to grow through the process of remix. 

    Here are a few ideas for remixes, but feel free to expand beyond these suggestions. Find your own methods and reasons for remixing if that feels right to you. Write an essay that documents how you came up with your remix and the process of creating it: 

    • Remix a film you love by re-writing it under a completely different Genre. For example: Write a synopsis/logline if Mulan were a horror film instead of a children’s animated drama. 

    • Create a spin-off based on your favorite fictional character. For example: How about an entire show dedicated to the life of Uncle Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender?  

    • Sample a recording of an old song you think is interesting and create a new song out of that sample. For example: Sample Billie Holiday’s music and use the scratchy vinyl and old-timey quality for a lo-fi beat. 

    • Remix a story to adapt its political concerns to modern socio-cultural issues. For example: Write a version of The Notebook that strays away from the quintessential tropes of the heteronormative love story.  


    Works Cited 

    Chill Lover Radio. “A Man in a Room with a Record Player.” Unsplash, 9 January 2023, Man in Room with a Record Player [].  

    Eminem. “My Name Is.” The Slim Shady LP, Aftermath Entertainment/Interscope Records, 1999. Spotify, My Name Is []

    Felperin, Leslie. “‘Beauty and the Beast’: Film Review.” The Hollywood Reporter, 3 Mar. 2017, Beauty and the Beast [].  

    Foreman, Alison. “Disney’s Unending Live-Action Adaptations Ranked, from ‘Pinocchio’ to ‘Mulan’ to ‘The Little Mermaid.’” IndieWire, 22 May 2023, Disney's Live-Action Adaptations []

    Ippolito, Daphne, et al. “Creative Writing with an AI-Powered Writing Assistant: Perspectives from Professional Writers.” Arxiv.Org, November 2022, Creative Writing with AI []

    Lakhani, Ali Shah. “Assorted Source Codes.” Unsplash, 11 May 2019, Assorted Source Codes [].  

    “The Lion King (2019).” Box Office Mojo, Lion King []

    Pollard, Alexandra. “Josh Gad: ‘We Didn’t Do Justice to What a Gay Character in a Disney Film Should Be.’” The Independent, 29 Apr. 2022, We didn't do justice [].  

    Siffre, Labi. “I Got The…” Remember My Song, Parlophone Records Ltd, 1971. Spotify, 

    Wooten, Victor. “Music as a Language: Victor Wooten at TEDxGabriolaIsland.” YouTube, uploaded by Tedx Talks, 19 May 2023, Remember my song []


    13: Remix is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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