Ethics and Aesthetics after Remix
240 pp., 6 x 9 in, 10 b&w illus.
- Published: December 18, 2015
- Published: April 29, 2016
- Published: November 1, 2022
A new theory of moral and aesthetic value for the age of remix, going beyond the usual debates over originality and appropriation.
Remix—or the practice of recombining preexisting content—has proliferated across media both digital and analog. Fans celebrate it as a revolutionary new creative practice; critics characterize it as a lazy and cheap (and often illegal) recycling of other people's work. In Of Remixology, David Gunkel argues that to understand remix, we need to change the terms of the debate. The two sides of the remix controversy, Gunkel contends, share certain underlying values—originality, innovation, artistic integrity. And each side seeks to protect these values from the threat that is represented by the other. In reevaluating these shared philosophical assumptions, Gunkel not only provides a new way to understand remix, he also offers an innovative theory of moral and aesthetic value for the twenty-first century.
In a section called “Premix,” Gunkel examines the terminology of remix (including “collage,” “sample,” “bootleg,” and “mashup”) and its material preconditions, the technology of recording. In “Remix,” he takes on the distinction between original and copy; makes a case for repetition; and considers the question of authorship in a world of seemingly endless recompiled and repurposed content. Finally, in “Postmix,” Gunkel outlines a new theory of moral and aesthetic value that can accommodate remix and its cultural significance, remixing—or reconfiguring and recombining—traditional philosophical approaches in the process.
Impressively ranging from Plato's bootleg to contemporary music, Of Remixology reveals the value of the bastards and samples—of our age and of previous times—and provides an axiological map that engenders new cultural-philosophical territory for the twenty-first century. Compulsory reading for philosophers, students of media and communication, lawyers interested in intellectual property and copyright, lovers of music, and indeed, all users-producers of our time. Highly recommended.
Mark Coeckelbergh, Professor of Technology and Social Responsibility, De Montfort University, UK; author of Growing Moral Relations, Human Being @ Risk, and Money Machines
This is an engaging, provocative, and brave book. Revealing the metaphysical assumptions behind the current positions on borrowing and appropriation—both those in favor of, and against, traditional forms of copyright—David Gunkel skillfully demonstrates how our very notions of 'original' and 'copy' are already a by-product of the logic of reproduction. In a playfully blasphemous gesture that will resonate with many media users today, he proposes the figure of the 'remix DJ' as a follow-up to the modernist model of the author as a singular genius.
Joanna Zylinska, Professor of New Media and Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London; author of Bioethics in the Age of New Media and coauthor of Life after New Media
...a fascinating and essential addition to the growing body of scholarship on remix studies.
Popular Music and Society