Thursday, 10 October 2013

Reading Video Games: NBA 2K

Sport is unique in its ability to bring people together. Fans are simultaneously divided and connected through the inherent "us vs. them" mentality that sporting leagues provoke. Their connection to the players has always been somewhat distanced as professional athletes are often akin to quasi-gods. Video games can close this gap to an extent. Legendary basketball player Lebron James says, the video game series NBA 2K "is among the coolest and purest ways for fans to connect to the NBA" (Whitaker, AllBall Blog, 2013). How much closer can you get to Lebron James than pretending to be him... or at least controlling the avatar of him? James' statement is especially true when considered in light of the four distinguishing characteristics of video games: multimediality, virtuality, interactivity, and connectivity (Rassens, 2005: 373). 

The range of sport represented in video games is immense. Cricket, NBA, FIFA, NFL, NHL, UFC, WWE, MLB... They're all there and then some. Although the ways in which we as an audience view sports video games is vastly different than if we were to watch an actual game, the reading of these games encompasses both gaming and sporting culture studies. As a huge NBA fan, I'll be looking at the different ways audiences read messages and construct meaning in the NBA 2K series in relation to Stuart Hall's theory of encoding and decoding.

First and foremost, video games are interactive. Lebron James isn't just Lebron James... we can be too! The participatory nature of video games (Rassens, 2005) enables audiences to de-/construct meanings of gender, age, class and race in interesting and meaningful ways. According to Hall, though, "the event must become a 'story' before it can become a communicative event" (Hall, 1980: 52). Our understanding of competitive basketball games is structured through the context of an unfolding season. The NBA league is subsequently the context through which we generally understand NBA 2K. However, although NBA 2K reflects the NBA league, it is still somewhat fictionalised and meanings can be constructed, read and in turn understood through the additional signs within the game. Signified messages may be encoded in one way, but can be decoded by audiences in another. 

Hall identifies three ways in which media messages may be read (1980: 59-61):

1. The preferred/dominant-hegemonic message which has been encoded to reflect social and political ideologies. In the NBA 2K series, this could be that the stats for the best players confirms the stereotype of "Black athleticism".

2. Negotiated messages in which the audience adapts the hegemonic reading on a situational level. That is, even if the great NBA players are archetypically African American, we can't deny the ability of someone like Blake Griffin or Brook Lopez.

3. Finally, oppositional readings which are defined by the audience greatly, if not entirely, rejecting the encoded meanings. In NBA 2K this is exemplified when the gamer creates his own players and teams to fit his own desired tropes, such as through the 'My Player' option in My Career mode:

Creating a 'My Player'
The encoding and decoding of media messages are the "determinate moments" of an audience's understanding (Hall, 1980: 52). The way in which audiences read NBA 2K will vary depending on the reasons they play - whether gamers are playing as an extension of their experience as a fan of the NBA, or whether they don't follow the league at all but just like to play computer-mediated basketball, for example. I'll do my best to look at it through both perspectives but, as stated throughout this post, I'm a little biased. 

First, for a little theory: The multimediality of video games - i.e. that they "share one common digital code for sound elements (including spoken word, music, and noises) and written text" (Rassens, 2005: 374) - enables the participation of gamers in the construction and reconfiguration of meaning. By modification "users can extend or change the text by adding their own writing or programming" (Aarseth in Rassens, 2005: 381). That is, the culture of modification means that gamers can construct meaning in a way unlike with other media forms. Game-mods and game patches literally reconfigure the meaning of the game. 
"Despite the fact that some of these practices of game modification has been accepted, encouraged and commercially exploited by developers and publishers... The gamer can still be considered as a point of resistance against the gaming industry" (Rassens, 2005: 381).
In other words, although mods and patches can reconstruct meaning in the game, they are first oppositional responses and readings of the original text. Although only a minority of gamers contribute to these forms of participation (Rassens, 2005), many use and consume them as the results can be both entertaining and serviceable.

The fact that most, if not all, sporting video games are yet to feature women's leagues is an issue of gender inequality in itself and reflects a social condition that places men's sports over women's. However, in NBA 2K, mod-culture has already contributed to altering the messages pertaining to the construction and decoding of gender and its position in basketball. Female patches have been created which stand in contrast to the dominant reading of the game: 

But I will return to this later.

The commentary in the NBA 2K series also illustrates the predominance of male figures in sport and any representations thereof. Since its initiation in 1999, NBA 2K has had the likes of Bob Fitzgerald, Bill Walton, Tom Tolbert, Kevin Frazier and Michele Tafoya commentating the simulated games. Of all the commentators throughout the game's duration only one is female! NBA 2K9 (excluding the PS2 version) features Cheryl Miller and NBA 2K11 includes Doris Burke, but both as sideline reporters. Personally, it isn't an issue that I consciously think about when playing or watching the game. As these are all presenters that have commentated the televised NBA games, it's just considered normal. The authenticity of this representation heightens the value of the video game in one way as a genuine NBA product, but that just means the dominant-hegemonic reading of the text validates the broader occurrence and confirms the stereotype that basketball, and sports in general, is a profession exclusively for men. The validation thus occurs through the choice of inclusion and exclusion of certain groups and how they are included.

Female patch for NBA 2K10
As a female, I represent many of these minorities: gamers, sports enthusiasts and sporting athletes. In a certain way, I'm also very hypocritical because I love, love, love the fast-paced action and almost inconceivable professionalism of the NBA, while to this date I haven't been able to sit through an entire WNBA game. I'll be the first to admit that while they may comprise the same sporting concept (basketball), they are very different in playing styles and have different audiences. This is not to say they are not equal; just different. And while patches for female characters is one way to attempt to level the playing field, so to speak, I don't think the issue of gender equality in sports has ever been about women intruding on men's leagues but having one of their own. It's not about women playing like men, as they do in the above video, but showing off their own styles. For this reason, I'm not a total fan of the female-mods above. I recognise that they're a step in the right direction, no doubt about it, but having a female face does not a woman make. They still play like NBA players and have the muscles and heights of most NBA players. As many crudely stated in online discussions: "She needs boobs".  And while that particular aspect is of little consequence to me, I do believe that women have their own sports league, they should have their own representation in the gaming media that accentuates their own unique abilities. To amend the crudity, she needs to be a she.

Getting back to what is included in the game, rather than what is not... In NBA 2K, gamers can create their own players and teams. Physical appearance, tattoos, gears, ability, play style and signature moves of avatar players can be established according to the gamer's will. Want an all Japanese team? You got it. Prefer tattoos and brown hair? Sure, why not. This ability to create and change the subject's through which the gamer plays encourages a negotiated reading of the gender, race and age of professional basketball players. The interactivity of video games, that is, the ability for players to "intervene in a meaningful way" (Cameron in Rassens, 2005: 374) and control the game's proceedings and conclusion enable the unique participatory reading of video games.

Though, undoubtedly, most who actually follow the NBA might tweak their players to reflect those in real life, or indeed just choose them in their starting lineup - like the legendary Michael Jordan in 2K11. This is the game's preferred reading: to choose real-life popular and archetypal NBA stars. As one user commented in an NBA discussion board: 
This comment articulates the stereotype within the game and wider (American) society of who plays basketball and, specifically, who plays it best. 22 out of 25 of the best NBA 2K players, according to Complex Games, are African American. Two are Caucasian and one is Asian. Unless the gamer creates their own racial tropes, the use of known NBA players means that the depiction of race isn't as much an issue in the game unless you consider it one in the actual league, except that it reinforces hegemonic stereotypes in sport. 

In NBA 2K13, representations of class are established through the soundtrack. Made in collaboration with executive producer Jay-Z, the soundtrack reflects the hip-hop culture that surrounds the NBA and basketball in general. It's somewhat ironic that the preferred reading of the game - when read in relation to the soundtrack - is of a subculture that stands in opposition to the traditional dominant ideological order. That said, this function is the purpose of the soundtrack. It places basketball in society, among a certain group of people. 

NBA 2K is interesting to examine in regards to Hall's theory of encoding and decoding meaning in media forms. This is not only because of the participatory and interactive medium of video games, but also because it is not purely fiction, and based on real events. That said, there are still a number of ways in which readings may be accepted, negotiated or opposed by gamers, particularly concerning tropes of gender, race, age and class. As Rassens states, "computer games are not just a game" (Rassens, 2005: 383) but can have broader implications in determining cultural meaning. The participatory nature of video games as inherently interactive means that we get a greater say over what that meaning is. 


2K, 2013, ‘NBA 2K14 Official Trailer’, Youtube, 28 August, accessed 06 October, 2013 >

Baniceto8 2010, ‘NBA 2K10 My Player Mode - Creating a Player’, Youtube, 20 February, accessed 10 October, 2013 ><

Hall, S 1973, ‘Encoding and Decoding in the Television Discourse’, Centre for Cultural Studies, University of Birmingham, England, pp. 507-17, accessed 2 Sept 2013, >

JaoSming 2013, ‘Girls in the Open Court - Mod for NBA 2K13’, Youtube, 28 May, accessed 08 October, 2013 >

Ken-fly 2009, ‘WNBA? Female Athlete Patches for NBA 2K10’,, 02 December, accessed 09 October, 2013, ><

Lee, N 2012, ‘Game Review: NBA 2K Series’, Blogspot, 26 September, accessed 3 Sept 2013, >

Mazique, B 2012, 'NBA 2K13: Tips for Building a Beastly 'My Player' in My Career Mode', Bleacher Report, 02 October, accessed 10 October, 2013 ><

McPherson, S 2013, ‘Greatest Players in “NBA 2K” History’, Complex Gaming, June 23, ><

MkEliteWorksX 2013, ‘NBA 2K13 Avengers Vs. Justice League!’ Youtube, 13 January, accessed 09 October, 2013 >

Rassens, J 2005, ‘Computer Games as Participatory Media Culture’, Handbook of Computer Studies, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., pp. 373-388 

Robinson, J, 2012, ‘Jay-Z named ‘NBA 2K’ Executive Producer’, ESPN Playbook, 31 July, accessed 3 Sept 2013, >

Whitaker, L 2013, ‘LeBron James Covers NBA 2K14’, AllBall Blog, June 7, accessed 2 Sept 2013, ><

White Bball Pains 2013, ‘Making yourself black and athletic in NBA 2K14 just because you can’, Inagist, 06 October, accessed 09 October, 2013 ><

Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Hollywoodisation of 'The Debt'

The Hollywood remake of ‘The Debt’ (2011) is based on an Israeli film of the same name: in Hebrew, ‘Ha Hov’ (2007). From all the reviews I have read, the critical reception is greatly split down the middle - half prefer the remake, half the original. The ‘Hollywoodisation’ (Klein, 2004) - the globalising process by which foreign films are becoming more typical of American archetypal blockbusters - of ‘The Debt’ is evident in two main elements: love and action. 


The synopsis of the story for those who don’t know it is succinctly expressed in the trailer. 

Character bios and changes in names are important to this discussion. 

The differences are small but stereotypically reminiscent of Hollywood films. The love triangle is given much greater attention and continuous personal relationships between the three Mossad agents are added in the remake where they are absent in the original. There are more action sequences (as a result of the higher budget) in the remake. Finally, and perhaps most pertinently, ‘Ha Hov’ focuses on national identity while ‘The Debt’ is more interested in the individual and the personal consequences of keeping a secret. 

Another interesting change is in the Israeli version the character of both Rachel and Ehud (David) travel to Ukraine but Rachel must complete the mission alone after Ehud suffers from cowardice. In the remake, Rachel goes by herself because David (Ehud) has killed himself. Could this be perceived as a scapegoat for allowing a female lead in a Hollywood film? 

True to Hollywood form, everything is accentuated in the American remake, including the scar on the character of Rachel. Some argue that this results in a film that is “altogether darker, more densely textured, more satisfyingly structured, more morally complex” (Robinson, “Refinancing Bernstein’s ‘The Debt’”, 2011). While others argue that the manipulations and changes alter the meaning of the film: “perhaps most importantly, the ending of the Israeli film is much stronger, really driving home the meaning behind the film’s title and the costs that making good on that debt incurs on the protagonists” (Ignizio, “The Debt”, 2011).

Ignizio, B 2011, “The Debt”, The Cleveland Movie Blog, 2 November, accessed 20 September 2013, ><
Klein, C 2004, ‘Martial Arts and the Globalisation of the Asian Film Industries’, Comparative American Studies: An International Journal, Sage Publications, Vol. 2, No. 3, pp. 360-384
Robinson, G 2011, “Refinancing Bernstein’s ‘The Debt’”, The Jewish Week, 31 August, accessed 20 September 2013, ><
TrailersAnyClip 2012, 'The Debt (2010) Trailer', YouTube, 30 April, accessed 20 September ><


Friday, 13 September 2013

Wk 8 - The Changes of the Specular: Celebrities and Social Media

Celebrity culture has changed in a lot of ways thanks to social and digital media. The most obvious being that social media is another means by which they create and manage their personas. As David Marshall puts it, it is a different structure through which the famed construct their social image” (2010: 498). We, as new and social media users, are becoming more and more conscious of how we present ourselves as well as how others might perceive us. It has “produced a new regime of personal presentation (Marshall, 2010, 502) and in this surplus economy of celebrity and persona constructs, personalities are abundant and extreme.
Social media has permeated previously private moments and demands composure of the self all of the time. Take unflattering photos of celebrities post-workout, for example. How dare they look as sweaty and gross as the other 99% of the population after a workout! 

What I find interesting is Marshall’s second element of the changing celebrity economy, that of technology which “now affords and privileges the interaction and exchange between and among users” (Marshall, 2010: 498). In other words, the instantaneous and interactive aspects of social media that some celebrities choose to embrace. Lady Gaga, for example, is known for personally replying to messages on Facebook, as is Ricky Gervais on Twitter. On Facebook, I am “friends” with self-published authors I’ve ground through Amazon who regularly interact with their fans and other authors primarily by commenting, sharing and linking. 

My favourite example though is John Green’s persona on Tumblr. The young adult author has inspired a game on the blogging site - #Is That John Green? - where he is notorious for popping up and commenting on text posts which are often quite amusing. He also shares a YouTube channel with his brother, Hank Green, where John Green teaches you humanities and Hank Green teaches you science. 

There are many negative consequences of social media on celebrity culture which are not mentioned or debated here. Instead, I’ve chosen to focus on the ways new media does what it does best: closes the time and space gaps, bringing people closer together - even celebrities.


Barbour, K & Marshall D 2011, 'Persona and the Academy: Making Decisions, Distinctions and Profiles in the Era of Presentational Media', World Congress on Communication and Arts, April 17-20, Sao Paulo, Brazil, pp. 14-18

Marshall, D 2010, ‘The Specular Economy’, Symposium: Celebrity Around the World, published on Springer, Vol. 47: pp 498-502

Marshall, D 2013, 'Persona Studies: Mapping the Proliferation of the Public Self', Sage, Vol. 0, No. 0, pp. 1-18

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Wk 7: Preferred, Negotiated and Oppositional Readings of NBA 2K

The range of sporting games for a range of gaming consoles is immense. Cricket, the NBA, FIFA, NFL, NHL, UFC, WWE, MLB - among many others - are all represented in games. It is a subject that encompasses not only gaming culture but sports culture as well. 

According to Stuart Hall, “the event must become a ‘story’ before it can become a communicative event” (Hall, 1980: 52). The unfolding of basketball through seasons and playoffs, and as such, the gaming medium of sports creates a context through which it can be ‘read’ or interpreted by its audience. Although signified messages may be encoded in one way they may be decoded by audiences in another. The reading of messages can be preferred/dominant-hegemonic (the way a message has been encoded to reflect social/political ideologues), negotiated (that which adapts the hegemonic reading on a situational level), and oppositional (Hall, 1980: 59-61). The encoding and decoding of media messages are the “determinate moments” of an audience’s understanding (Hall, 1980: 52). Being a huge NBA fan, I’ll specifically be looking at the different readings of the NBA 2K series. 

 The fact that most, if not all, of these sporting games are made to only feature male leagues is an issue of gender inequality in itself and reflects a social condition that places men’s sport over women’s. The commentary, that is not necessarily predisposed to any gender specification, in the NBA 2K series also illustrates this predominance of male figures in sport and any representations thereof. Of all the commentators since its initiation in 1999, NBA 2K has only seen one female commentator: Michele Tafoya. NBA 2K (excluding the PS2 version) features Cheryle Miller and NBA 2K11 includes Doris Burke, both as sideline reporters. It could be said that it’s an authentic representation of reality but that just means the dominant-hegemonic reading of this text validates the broader occurrence of male-dominated sport. 

In NBA 2K9 gamers can create their own players and teams. For players, physical appearance, tattoos, gears, but also ability, play style and signature moves can be established according to the gamer’s will. This ability to create and change the subjects through which the gamer plays, allows a negotiated reading of the gender, race and age of professional basketball players. Choosing the ‘pre-made’ but real players, however - Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, etc. - reinforces dominant ideologues about professional athletes. 

In 2K13, representations of class are established through the soundtrack. Made in collaboration with exec. producer Jay-Z, the soundtrack reflects the hip-hop culture that surrounds the NBA and basketball in general. It’s ironic then that the preferred reading of the game - if read in relation to the soundtrack - is of a subculture and therefore promotes opposition to the traditional dominant-hegemonic order. 

For player LeBron James, “...NBA 2K is among the coolest and purest ways for fans to connect to the NBA” (Whitaker, AllBall Blog, 2013). This interactivity (Rassens, 2005) of NBA 2K series gamers enables a negotiated or even opposing reading of representations of gender, age, class and race but does not guarantee it.

Hall, S 1973, ‘Encoding and Decoding in the Television Discourse’, Centre for Cultural Studies, University of Birmingham, England, pp. 507-17, accessed 2 Sept 2013, ><

Lee, N 2012, ‘Game Review: NBA 2K Series’, Blogspot, 26 September, accessed 3 Sept 2013, ><

Rassens, J 2005, ‘Computer Games as Participatory Media Culture’, Handbook of Computer Studies, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., pp. 373-388

Robinson, J, 2012, ‘Jay-Z named ‘NBA 2K’ Executive Producer’, ESPN Playbook, 31 July, accessed 3 Sept 2013, ><

Whitaker, L 2013, ‘LeBron James Covers NBA 2K14’, AllBall Blog, June 7, accessed 2 Sept 2013, ><

Sunday, 1 September 2013

WK 6: Community and Culture in Fandom Blogs

One promise of the internet is that it forms a “global village” (McLuhan, 1964 in Nash, 2008). Images of sitting around a campfire with 6 million of our ‘neighbours’ is far from the reality that the internet provides. Nevermind the digital divide just in accessing the internet, the blogosphere epitomises the distinctiveness of the internet: instead of being one all-inclusive and comprehensive sphere, the blogosphere is comprised instead of macro-spheres or communities of like-minded content. The internet, with all its possibilities and limitations, has “become a means through which conventional boundaries and barriers can be transcended” (Bunt, 2003: 19 in Lim, 2012), thus creating new virtual communities with their own culture. 

Benedict Anderson (1991: 6 in Lim, 2012) proposes that “all communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face contact (and perhaps even these) are imagined”. That is, the connection we feel to those who share similar interests and closeness (including the closeness that the internet provides through the compression of time and space) is constructed by individuals. Nevertheless, and as in real life, there is a tendency for people blogging to “interact more and more closely with people who share similar characteristics than with those who are dissimilar” (Lim, 2012:129). This homophily is expressed in the blogosphere as ‘a community’ and examples are not limited to networks of race, ethnicity, and religion, but includes fandom groups and general like-minded interests such as fashion, food, politics, fitness etc. 

Like in society and physical communities, blog communities foster distinctive social and behavioural norms that reflect shared values (Wei, 2004). Fandoms exemplify this in a way like none other. The passion of fandoms are not limited to being expressed online but generally infiltrate many aspects of an individuals lives - whether reading fanfiction or dressing up for Comic-Con. No matter what the pursuit, it ends in sense of community. 

Danisnotonfire 2012, 'Fandom', Youtube, 12 October, Accessed 1 Sept 2013

We create our identities through belonging to a group and with the proliferation of the internet and subsequent blogosphere, more and more of the groups we have access to and choose to belong to occur online. In my experience, tumblr is the main rendezvous point for these groups. The fandoms on this blogging site have gained great notoriety. 

There are the devoted. And there are the downright crazy

Whatever you think of fandoms, as representative of communities in the blogosphere, their connection as a group is impressive if not sometimes disconcerting.

Further reading: 
Vaughn, H 2012, ‘Hunger is Not a Game’, The Harry Potter Alliance, March 1, Accessed 1 Sept 2013, >

Images courtesy of Buzzfeed.
Alwaysadrienne 2013, ‘The 20 Craziest Fandoms on Tumblr’, Buzzfeed, June 14, Accessed 1 Sept 2013, >

Adalin, J, Bernardin, M, Buchanan, K, Chianca, P, Dobbins, A, Fox, J D, Lyons, M, Martin, D, Ruediger, R & Vineyard, J 2012, ‘The 25 Most Devoted Fan Bases’, Vulture, 15 October, Accessed 1 Sept 2013, > <

Alwaysadrienne 2013, ‘The 20 Craziest Fandoms on Tumblr’, Buzzfeed, June 14, Accessed 1 Sept 2013, ><

Etling, B, Kelly, J, Faris, R and Palfrey, J 2009, ‘Mapping the Arabic Blogosphere: Politics, Culture and Dissent’, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University, accessed 1 September 2013, [available: ]

Lim, M 2012 ‘Life is Local in the Imagined Global Community: Islam and Politics in the Indonesian Blogosphere’, Journal of Media and Religion, Vol. 11, pp 127-140

Nash, N 2008, ‘International Facebook “Friends”: Toward McLuhan’s Global Village,’ The McMaster Journal of Communication: Vol. 5, No. 7 ><

Wei, C 2004, "Formation of norms in a blog community" Into the blogosphere, University of Minnesota, accessed 1 Sept 2013 ><

Woolly Mammoth 1012, ‘Fandemonium: Super Fans and Building Communities’, Woolly Mammoth Blog, May 18, Accessed 1 Sept 2013, ><

Monday, 26 August 2013

Wk 5: Prosume-ing Identity... As a Fan

When I discover a new band, song or album, I tend to consume it more times than really necessary. After discovering something new - either on the radio, through friends, YouTube, Spotify, iTunes or random web searches - I generally download it on (the free version of) Spotify. If I end up listening to it to death and want access to it beyond my laptop, then comes the proper download. For many poor uni students, peer-to-peer (p2p) file sharing and free downloading comes in handy when in need of cheap and fast entertainment. 
Prosumers, first proposed by Alvin Toffler (1980), is described by Ritzter & Jurgenson (2010) as the merging of producers and consumers into one more inclusive category, specifically the exploitation of free workers/creators, and is incredibly relevant to the use of the Web 2.0. Sites that exemplify the Web 2.0 paradigm (e.g. Wikipedia, Flickr and social networking sites like Facebook) “together...are taken to represent how a new class of cultural producers (or “prosumers”) relates to cultural production” (Jakobsson & Stiernstedt, 2010:1).

This diagram shows the ecology of file sharing as an act of prosumerism:

Jenkins, H 2009, '"Geeking Out" For Democracy (Part 1)', Ecology of Education, May 11, ><
Whether through Spotify or bitTorrent, I would argue that file sharing can be seen as a form of prosumerism. While many using these methods don’t necessarily produce anything new, they do produce avenues - or seeds/peers - of access. Before the internet, the same concept applies, potentially even more so, to the making of mixtapes and the like. It is an epitome of the cyber-libertarianism of the open-source movement which is theoretically more concerned with individual freedom and freedom of information than capitalistic ends (Levy, 1984). In exchange for products free of charge at almost inconceivable levels of abundance, we, the poor uni students, are more willing to be more forgiving for poorer quality. 
Programs like Spotify, even more so, allows you to be prosumers in a way bitTorrent sites don’t. The social media aspect of it that allows users to create playlists and follow friends allows the creation of an online identity, specifically through music. It attempts to enter the capitalist area of the internet while also keeping one foot in the traditional user-first social media environment by having, as Ritzer and Jurgenson point out, a “‘freemium’ model (basic and free for most, premium and paid for some)” (ibid, 2010: 30). 
When it comes to creativity, I am significantly musically challenged. Fortunately for me, and sometimes unfortunately for the big music industry, I become a prosumer by contributing to the production of accessibility while also consuming what others provide access too. 

Levy, S 1984, ‘Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution’, Anchor Press/Doubleday, Garden City, NY
Jakobsson, P & Stiernstedt, F 2010, ‘Pirates of Silicon Valley: State of Exception and Dispossession in Web 2.0’, First Monday, Vol. 15, No. 7 ><

Jenkins, H 2009, '"Geeking Out" For Democracy (Part 1)', Ecology of Education, May 11, ><
Ritzer, G & Jurgenson, N 2010, ‘Production, Consumption, Prosumption: The Nature of Capitalism in the Age of the Digital “Prosumer”’, Journal of Consumer Culture, Vol. 10, No. 13, pp 13-36

Thursday, 8 August 2013

W4: Remix Culture

Depending on how you define innovation - as something original, or just something new - remixerrs can be considered both innovators and thieves. Fortunately for my consideration, those terms are not necessarily contradictory.

(A remix of Picasso's quote by Banksy
It's easy to argue that the re-presentation of a piece of work is piracy when you assume that the original is just that: original. But is anything really original. Pablo Picasso even once said that "good artists copy, great artists steal". Advances in almost any category are inspired by something else. Almost everything these days is a copy of a copy, a reinterpretation of an interpretation. For Lawrence Lessig, "creators here and everywhere are always and at all times building upon creativity that went before and that surrounds them now" (2004: 29). Younger generations especially have replaced the top down consumption model of culture, and instead "increasingly understand culture as something they make, or something they remake and remix...through the tools of technology" (Lessig in Work Foundation, 2007: 75). Art, and more broadly, culture, is often derivative in a way that enables its growth.
Theft is a tricky concept in this debate that, for me, requires specificity. If you consider it in legal terms then it is fairly black and white with only some shades of grey: does 'theft' mean not paying royalties, or just not attributing/acknowledging original ownership? I would argue now, however, that even if the content is stolen, derivative, or has been influenced, the product can still be innovative, new and different. Maybe they're innovators if they add something to or better the original and pirates if they don't: "In music, good remixes make the original tracks more popular" and therefore add value (Mason, The Guardian, 10 May 2008).
U.K street artist Banksy provides an interesting argument for ownership/piracy debates in terms of advertising - a medium which is often derivative and woven with intertextuality:

His quote was then remixed by artist Karina Nurdinova. Banksy himself often employs recognisable symbols in his work but the medium used and elements added alters or parodies the original meaning.
For example:


Remixers of any medium of art are not always innovator, but neither are they necessarily thieves. Artists can create something new, based on something old, without leading the way of innovation.

Binary Zero 2012, 'Banksy: Fuck That', Binary Zero, Friday March 16, >

Lessig, L 2004, 'Free Culture', The Penguin Press, New York

Mason, M 2008, 'Live and Let DIY', The Guardian, Saturday 10 May ><

Sanyal, D 2011, 'Spiel Province: One Nation Under Banksy', Blogger, Friday 8 July ><

Work Foundation 2007, 'Staying Ahead: The Economic Performance of the UK's Creative Industries', Department of Culture, Media and Sport, London