Like Susan said, we recently went to a DJ Spooky lecture. Although it’ll take more than this simple post (and this simple mind) to digest the volume of information he dropped that night, I thought he brought up a bunch of interesting and relevant thoughts about the convergence (or collision) of the individual and the corporate, art and artifact, content and context. I’ll try and condense it all as much as possible but he was deep and I might get lost somewhere in the middle here.
His philosophy is summed up in the title of his 1st book, Rhythm Science. Basically, it’s all about remixing. Western society has always thrived on “sampling” in some form or the other. Throughout history and across media platforms innovation has come out of the deconstruction of a source and repurposing of its elements in combination with other disparate elements. In the world of Art that manifested itself in Andy Warhol’s repetitive icons of pop culture as art, or Marcel Duchamp’s found objects. As a Jamaican, I’ve grown up around that same phenomenon as it pertains to Reggae as sound systems regularly incorporate beats, riffs or melodies from other genres in their mix.
The beauty of the time we’re living in is that the accessibility of the tools and media by which this assimilation and mixture can take place exponentially magnifies our ability to innovate.
Increased bandwidth availability gives us unprecedented access to more information; cheaper image, video and audio manipulation software gives us the ability to create and now “media outlets” such as YouTube, Flicker, MySpace, Creative Commons and blogs give us more places to distribute those creations. The cycle then continues as more people discover those creations and put their own twists on them (remix), redistribute them, and so on and so on.
To some extent this is nothing new, just a continuation of an appropriation process that’s been in the works for ages. What I ( and DJ Spooky) feel is significantly different about what’s going on now is the number of sharing platforms available to us. For those in the business of manipulating perceptions this means that the public has the ability and platforms to talk back using the same vocabulary thought to be the exclusive domain of an elite few. The feedback loop is changing from just customer satisfaction surveys to full blown campaigns. For example, check out these remixes of the Apple “Mac vs PC” tv spots. Gay Marriage, A PC user’s rebuttal
and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Do a search for “mac ads” on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean.
It’s what some like David Armano are calling the Conversation Economy (at least that what I understand that term to mean for a better description listen to this podcast on The Engaging Brand).
While this tide shift suggests advertisers should seriously consider changing at least the way they think about their brands, for designers like myself it reminds me to look for inspiration outside of my little bubble. As I listen to one of the mix CDs DJ Spooky gave out at his talk, I hear the layers and overlapping and am inspired to do some creating of my own. Hopefully something that’ll spark creativity in someone else and perpetuate the movement and help someone else embrace their inner DJ. REMIX!