Pondering Remix: A #CLMOOC Reflection
This is Make Cycle #2 in the summer 2016 CLMOOC experience. The theme is connecting through reciprocation and appreciation of one another’s work, artistry, humanity, trials & errors, etc.
“Everyone wants an encouraging audience for their work! How do we actively “listen” to others in digital spaces? How can we invite more connections? How can you honor the work of another? How can you show that you closely read and absorbed what someone else wrote?”
The task is to connect through and with making. The intention is to attend to another’s thoughts
“…by explicitly remixing, re-mashing, reflecting, or reciprocating your work that is validating. The same can be said of the other end — of “closely reading” what someone else has shared, and validating it with a response that honors the voice and words and intentions of the writer.”
“There’s a feeling you get” when your work is valued in that way, says the description of the Make Cycle.
I love this. The notion of peer editing that is so prevalent in schools makes me crazy. That focus is on correction; it assumes writing emerges not only fully formed, but also full of errors and that the writer must be enough of a dolt not to see them. Au contraire, Pierre. The first job of a reader is to pay attention, to the work and to one’s personal response to that work. The second is to respond in a way the writer requests. Peer response is about co-working a piece of writing until the writer says, “Thanks, I think we’re done here for now,” and heads off to do what’s next.
As I tell my students, “You don’t have to like the writer, but you have to love the work.” That is, to love it enough to want it to become its fullest.
All that being said, you’d think I’d approach this Make Cycle with gusto. Instead, I’m stuck on the remix.
I enjoy seeing how people remix stuff to make new new stuff. I understand theories about remix and digital composition, and I’ve encouraged my pre- and in-service teachers to experiment. But recently, when someone honored my Tweets in a randomly-generated remix of a poem, I was surprised at my response. First I was tickled pink that someone picked me. Was it me or my words they thought worthy of attention? Then I got a kick out of the poem that emerged from the Tweet poem-generator. Then I was taken aback. I’ve been thinking about that response ever since. Some of my thoughts, in no particular order:
- English teachers worry about plagiarism, a lot. Think of all the mechanisms that exist to catch people who steal other people’s work. Think of all the lessons and units that try to teach kids to cite, not cheat, not use other people’s work. Where does remix fit? (How does a teacher explain why it’s OK to use another person’s Twitter feed to compose a poem when he or she has just required students to submit all their papers through TurnItIn? Why isn’t Melania Trump’s speech just called a “remix”?)
- Is it the words, the way the words are put together, or the meaning ascribed to the words that matters? In terms of the poem-generator, if what we are remixing is just words, then why start with someone else’s composition? Why not random words from the dictionary?
- Is it the poem generator that is the “writer”? Is it me, as the composer of the tweets? What makes someone a writer? (Great way to kick off a workshop with reluctant writers….)
- In kid-talk, who says you can take someone’s words and mess with them?
- What does it mean to “own” something composed we’ve composed? If we are remixing someone’s composition, then where does that ownership begin and end? Does it matter? (If not, why is intellectual property law such a booming field?) Is ownership in the intention or act of communicating? In the product?
- Is remixing with video, images, or sound less or more objectionable than with language-based compositions? Does it matter?
- In a venue where people sort of “know” each other, remix seems like a deeply personal way of interacting. What happens to individuals’ relationships, to each other, to the shared activity (eg., CLMOOC) as remix occurs? What happens to individuals’ perceptions of their works as they are remixed? What happens to participants’ feelings of connection? What effects might remix activities have on individual composing processes?
- Somehow I think we can’t engage in remix without thinking about its impact on ourselves as creators, as individuals who make meaning of others’ compositions, as people who become visible to one another in unexpected ways.
What does it mean to be visible?
Palette: Pixabay, “free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0. You may download, modify, distribute, and use them royalty free for anything you like, even in commercial applications. Attribution is not required.”
Just a few comments – re peer editing – I think of it more as clarifying. The reader checks for their understanding and asks questions to make sure they understood it the way the writer wants it understood. The writer then may make changes to bring more clarity. Editing shouldn’t only be about correction – but about it would be even better if…
As to plagiarism vs honouring – I think it’s about giving credit and acknowledging. Malania claimed the words were all her own. Even if I remix your words and paraphrase, if the gist is there I would want you to know I valued what you wrote (which I do!).
As to owning words – we are all the sum of what we have read and heard. If I write about a dog – I may unconsciously use some images I have read before, but the spin I put on it makes it mine. If I use the same cadence, the same order, then I am plagiarizing.
You have raised so many interesting points. As to randomly generated – I guess I need to feel in control of how I use the words – after all writing should be about making meaning. Thanks for making me think about all this.
Interesting that we have slightly different views of response to writing. I see the reader as being part of the writer’s process in determining if the piece if what they intended, if the intention needs to shift a bit, how that might affect the final product.
You have thought much more on plagiarism than I. You are giving me lots of food for thought. Thanks for being part of my own exploration on this.
I think we are really on the same track re response. A reader can help echo back to the writer what s/he understood from the writing as well as ask for clarification. The writer can do likewise – ask the peer editor questions to be sure s/he understands the feedback. Both may affect the final product.
These are all great points, worth considering on many levels (and as teachers, on the learning level). My own personal perspective is that Remix honors the origins writer by taking the composition in new directions. Plagiarism lifts someone else’s work, and calls it one’s own. I realize there can be a fine line there. I know people will disagree, and they do, but if you post work to the world in a digital format, you should assume the possibility that someone will remix your work. They might even credit you. They may not. If the work is important and you worry about ownership, you may not want to post it in a way, form or place that makes it easy for remix. I always lean towards more open because it offers the possibilitry of art becoming even better (perhaps that is the optimist in me).
Thanks for helping me think this through again by raising important points.
There’s lots of food for thought me me in your response, particularly your overarching perspectives on openness and the connection of remix to that ideal. Thanks so much for sharing this process.
Thanks for writing this out, Karen; so much resonated with me and made me think about all the things you unearthed around editing and remix. I love this:
“The first job of a reader is to pay attention, to the work and to one’s personal response to that work. The second is to respond in a way the writer requests. Peer response is about co-working a piece of writing until the writer says, “Thanks, I think we’re done here for now,” and heads off to do what’s next.”
I’m wondering how I can take this into someone’s classroom (not having one of my own – teacher librarian.)
I think of a library as one of the most important classrooms around. I said to a librarian friend the other day that the library is the heart of a school– or should be, anyway.
As to how to bring this into your own library, I Immediately thought of a large screen posted in a central place in the library, where there might be kids sharing and responding to a GDoc of someone’s work– maybe even something you’ve written, so as to model the process and share some work. It might evolve into a sort of living literary magazine? Dunno, just off the top of my head. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.
Still thinking, a day later … http://dogtrax.edublogs.org/2016/07/21/reciprocation-the-fine-line-between-remixing-and-plagiarism/
I appreciate your thoughtfulness….
[…] Karen LaBonte’s post about remixing others’ work, she prompted us to think about the “impact [of remixing] on ourselves as creators, as […]
[…] “What does it mean to “own” something composed we’ve composed? If we are remixing someone’s composition, then where does that ownership begin and end? Does it matter? (If not, why is intellectual property law such a booming field?) Is ownership in the intention or act of communicating? In the product?” (Karen LaBonte) […]