The Routledge Handbook of Remix Studies and Digital Humanities
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The Routledge Handbook of Remix Studies and Digital Humanities

Eduardo Navas, Owen Gallagher, xtine burrough, Eduardo Navas, Owen Gallagher, xtine burrough

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eBook - ePub

The Routledge Handbook of Remix Studies and Digital Humanities

Eduardo Navas, Owen Gallagher, xtine burrough, Eduardo Navas, Owen Gallagher, xtine burrough

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In this comprehensive and highly interdisciplinary companion, contributors reflect on remix across the broad spectrum of media and culture, with each chapter offering in-depth reflections on the relationship between remix studies and the digital humanities.

The anthology is organized into sections that explore remix studies and digital humanities in relation to topics such as archives, artificial intelligence, cinema, epistemology, gaming, generative art, hacking, pedagogy, sound, and VR, among other subjects of study. Selected chapters focus on practice-based projects produced by artists, designers, remix studies scholars, and digital humanists. With this mix of practical and theoretical chapters, editors Navas, Gallagher, and burrough offer a tapestry of critical reflection on the contemporary cultural and political implications of remix studies and the digital humanities, functioning as an ideal reference manual to these evolving areas of study across the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

This book will be of particular interest to students and scholars of digital humanities, remix studies, media arts, information studies, interactive arts and technology, and digital media studies.

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Part I




From Caves to Networks
Giancarlo Frosio1
For most of human history, remix practices dominated the creative process.2 Premodern creativity sprang from an unbroken tradition of reuse and juxtaposition of pre-existing expressive content. As literary pillars of Western culture, the Iliad and the Odyssey were forged in the cumulative and collaborative furnace of the oral tradition. Out of that tradition grew medieval epics, which appeared under the aegis of Macrobius's art of rewriting and the Latin principles of interpretatio, imitatio, and aemulatio. Continuations, free reuse of stories and plots, and the remodeling of iconic figures and characters, such as Alexander the Great, King Arthur, and Roland, made chansons de geste and romance literature a powerful vehicle for propelling cross-country cultural dissemination. This is, however, by no means only a Western experience. For millennia, until the Enlightenment and Romantic Individualism, Western and Eastern culture shared a common creative paradigm. From Confucian China, across the Hindu Kush with the Indian Mahābhārata, the Bible, the Koran, and Homeric epics to African xhosa imbongi and European troubadours, the most valuable components of our immortal culture were created under a fully open regime of access to pre-existing expressions and reuse.3
The following review sheds light on the evolution of premodern, modern, and postmodern notions of appropriation, reuse, creative collaboration, and plagiarism. This might be of use to contextualize how the humanities function today. In particular, this brief history of “remix” helps explain conceptual positions extrapolating how digital humanities has changed the way creative acts are understood since the early days to emerging forms of today. In addition, the application of digital resources and computational tools and methods to the study of the evolution of these notions, which is well ongoing, will hopefully bring about further understanding of the mechanics of creativity throughout history. In turn, this understanding can help clearly in highlighting the role of reuse, appropriation, and collaboration—all acts that are part of remix practice today—in the history of creativity. This insight should then lead to changes to the regulatory framework, so that remix, rather than being a practice just tolerated or outright prohibited by the law, will regain a central role in the creative process.4

Cave Art, Cumulative Creativity, and Remix

In Lascaux, the relics of prehistoric art are on display across the vaults and halls of a French cave complex.5 Lascaux's cave paintings were made thirty-five thousand years ago in the Chauvet Cave, close to the French village of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc.6 Even older cave paintings were discovered in Indonesia in 2019.7
Cave art is arguably the first form of mass collaboration. The entire cave structure could have served as a repository of past stories and information, remixing the old with the new for several millennia. Henri Breuil discerned the collaborative character of cave art with striking acumen by noting “[t]his is no longer the work of an individual, but a collective, social affair, showing a true spiritual unity.”8 Projects like the Xiangtangshan Caves Project, which digitally reconstructs a group of damaged Buddhist cave temples in China's Hebei province with image modeling,9 will definitely provide more insights regarding the nature and scope of the creative practices of cave art.

Art Is Mimēsis of Reality

Reuse and appropriation—foundational elements that inform what we call remix today—found fertile ground in Ancient Greece due to a peculiar approach to art and creativity. Plato said “Art is mimēsis of reality.” Plato—and later Aristotle—considered imitation the general principle of art.10 In his Poetics, Aristotle added that imitation is the distinctive character of humanity: “indeed we differ from other animals in being most given to mimēsis and in making our first steps in learning through it—and pleasure in instances of mimēsis is equally general.”11 The practice of reusing, remixing, or even bodily appropriating other works had deep roots in ancient Greek philosophy.12 Plato's doctrine of artistic imitation powerfully justified the imitative nature of ancient Greek creativity.

The Oral-Formulaic Tradition

The creative process of the Iliad and the Odyssey demonstrates a tradition of open literary reuse. This process was dissected by Milman Parry. For Parry, a formula is a “group of words regularly employed under the same metrical conditions to express a given essential idea.”13 Using formulas, oral poets could improvise on a subject, develop it, memorize thousands of verses, and recite them. Identifying the reuse of formulas, common stock, and patterns become easier today through the deployment of digital tools, such as in the case of the Chicago Homer, a multilingual database that uses the search and display capabilities of electronic texts to make the distinctive features of Early Greek epics accessible to readers with and without Greek.14
The poetic diction permeating Homeric works was, therefore, the cumulative creation of many generations of oral poets over centuries. They had created a “grammar of poetry” to be superimposed on the grammar of language.15 Aoidoi and rhapsodes could draw from this grammar to perform their poetic speech. In drawing from this literary commons and reusing it, poets would add their own contributions. In the case of a particularly brilliant aoidous, such as Homer, the original contribution may have been more substantial than in other instances. A single poet could have changed an old formula, created something new from an old pattern, or put formulas together in different ways. As Parry noted, under this model, the capacity of taking that quality improvement process to the extreme was recognized as creative genius. Homer was perhaps that creative genius.16 He was not the original genius dear to the Romantics. He was the aoidos who gave Unity to a tradition.
In oral poetry, any individual work is ceaselessly reworked and modified. Creativity is the act of blending together individual contributions. Arnold Hauser noted the distance and the irreconcilable tension of the Homeric idea of creativity with the romantic ideal of artistry and authorship:
It upsets all romantic conceptions of the nature of art and the artist […] to have to think of the Homeric epics, in all their perfections, as being the product neither of individual nor of folk poetry, but on the contrary, as an anonymous artistic product of many elegant courtiers and learned literary gentlemen, in which the boundaries between the work of different personalities, schools and generations have become obliterated.17
If all his work was formulaic, then Homer is no more than a “spokesman for a tradition.”18 Oral-formulaic theories were treated with great suspicion for threatening the perceived originality of Homer. As described by Theodore Wade-Gery:
[t]he most important assault made on Homer's creativeness in recent years is the work of Milman Parry, who may be called the Darwin of Homeric studies. As Darwin seemed to many to have removed the finger of God from the creation of the world and of man, so Milman Parry has seemed to some to remove the creative poet from the Iliad and Odyssey.19
According to oral-formulaic theories, the cultural artifact does not come to life as a perfect final product. Instead, it undergoes a prolonged process of evolution.20 The Bible also has oral roots that makes it the final textualization of a collaborative and evolutionary creative model,21 as well as the Gilgamesh,22 the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyana,23 the Koran,24 and plenty of other ancient and medieval literature.

Interpretatio, Imitatio, and Aemulatio in Ancient Rome

According to modern studies, there were three forms of imitation in ancient Roman literature: interpretatio, imitatio, and aemulatio.25 Interpretatio was unoriginal adaptation involving the direct translation of one source. Imitatio was adaptation that involved borrowing the form, content, or both from one or more renowned Greek sources. Aemulatio, finally, was a form of creative rivalry. Powerful examples are Virgil's emulation of Homer's epics and Horace's emulation of Alcaeus’ lyrics. Imitation also dominated Roman sculpture.26
The Roman perception of creativity is far removed from the “modernist value system, which from the Romantic era onwards has valorized originality and artistic genius and, in consequence, denigrated copying.”27 Seneca the Elder explained the rationale for generalized borrowing and reuse in the Latin creative tradition: “not for the ...