November 11, 2009

Recognising Recombinant

Digital ninja Faris Yakob (of immeasurable awesomenimity) has made an interesting distinction between the concepts of “remix culture” and recombinant compositions, arguing the latter need only splice together “fragments of culture” and not entirely be based on the remix, or indeed the remixable.

The above YouTube clip is an excellent example of this.

OK, the fragments are technically remixed with music/auto-tuned (memetastic) but I find Faris’ distinction worth building on. Buzzwords such as ‘remix culture’, ‘meta-semiotics’ and ‘recombinant compositions’ are necessary differentiations from the all-encompassing term “mash-up” as they point us towards the cultural and social motivations behind why people share stuff:

– They are doing so because the brand expresses something about themselves or their community.

– They are doing so because the brand message serves some valued social function.

– They are doing so because the entertainment content gives expressive form to some deeply held perception or feeling about the world.

– They are doing so because individual responses to such content helps them determine who does or does not belong in their community.

I also think Faris’ concepts provide ad folk with poignant thought fuel to collectively unpack such motivations far further than the mere ‘mash-up’. We in viral advertising (read: spreadable media) should concern ourselves with looking at the creation of original memes (a postulated unit of cultural ideas) and not the replication of what’s out there (as Henry Jenkins warns against) . That’s viral awesomeness, often achieved through a successful marriage with the reasons behind why people share stuff in online communities.

A glance at the Wiki definition of “mash-up” further highlights its over-generalised limitations:

“A (digital) mashup is defined as digital media content containing any or all of text, graphics, audio, video and animation drawn from pre-existing sources, to create a new derivative work.”

Debunking any ideas that it’s a digital specific phenomenon, it’s worth adding aliens have been delivering us recombinant compositions of fragmented human culture in movies for decades. [/tinfoilhat]

And so to one of my favourite recombinant clips of all time from the 80’s film “The Explorers”…..