Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘remix’

05 JUNE, 2009

RiP: A Remix Manifesto

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Why you’re an outlaw just by reading this, or how the era we live in will change creative culture forever.

It’s no secret we’re big proponents of remix culture around here — and strongly believe that the cross-pollination of ideas, the fundamental backbone of creativity, should be celebrated rather than hindered by copyright law. Which is why we love RiP: A Remix Manifesto, a documentary about copyright and remix culture.

Filmmaker Brett Gaylor, of Opensource Cinema fame, digs deep into the flaws of copyright in the information age, exploring the ever-murkier line between content consumers and producers.

The film echoes the excellent REMIX panel from a couple of months ago, featuring CreativeCommons founder Lawrence Lessig and the now-iconic Shepard Fairey. Not coincidentally, Lessig is a key player here as well, along with Brazil’s Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil and BoingBoing’s own pop culture critic, Cory Doctorow.

RiP deals with the absurdities of copyright law — did you know, for example, that you have to pay royalties every time you sing Happy Birthday in a theater, restaurant or any other public space? Worst part: You wouldn’t even be paying to the two sisters who wrote the song — they’re long dead — but to Warner/Chappell, the world’s largest corporate music publisher.

RiP isn’t merely a documentation of the changes taking place, it’s a proposition — a manifesto, actually — for a new view of intellectual property that inspires, not obstructs, creativity.

In true walk-the-walk manner, the filmmaker has made all the footage available on Opensource Cinema, free for anyone to remix, while the film’s soundtrack is an open call for fan submissions. And for the ultimate new media cherry-on-top, if you live in the U.S., you can download the film under a pay-what-you-want model. (Remember how much we love those?)

Ironically, the very act of putting this documentary together is illegal by current copyright legislature — Gaylor’s use of samples by remix artists, whose work is in and of itself illegal, also violates the law. Doing it the legal way — getting clearance by paying royalties to the hundreds of copyright owners, most of whom aren’t even the original creators but mere media holding companies who bought the rights over the content — would’ve cost well over $4 million, making RiP the most expensive documentary ever produced.

And if that’s not a brilliant allegory for the fundamental brokenness of copyright law, we don’t know what is.

You can follow Brett on Twitter and support the project on Facebook.

Meanwhile, there’s nothing better to do than just watching the film (or grabbing it on a perfectly legal DVD) and really relishing this incredible new era of media that is unfolding around us.

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26 MARCH, 2009

The Library Rethought

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How to one-up the Greeks and what Shepard Fairey has to do with Copenhagen circa 1891.

Libraries have a special place in history as a hearth of culture that kindled the greatest feats of science and the grandest works of art. Yet today, they’re in danger of being left precisely there — in history. As our collective use of libraries dwindles in the digital age, five brave efforts are innovating the concept of “the library” in ways that make it as culturally relevant today as it ever was.

PENTAGRAM FOR L!BRARY

Almost nine years ago, NYC design studio Pentagram got involved with the Robin Hood Foundation in an inspired effort to build new elementary school libraries throughout NYC’s five boroughs — the best architects were to build them, private companies were to fill them with books, Pentagram were to design the inspirational atmosphere and craft the entire identity for what became The Library Initiative.

But they found something interesting — even though the libraries were mostly located in high-ceiling old buildings, shelves could only be as high as the kids could reach, leaving a lot of space between the top of the shelves and the ceiling. Pentagram saw this space as a canvas to fill with something wonderful, so they partnered with a handful of top-notch designers to create murals that are just that — absolutely wonderful.

Today, these inspired murals can be found in more than 60 libraries across the five boroughs, featuring the work of designers and illustrators cherry-picked by the Pentagram team — from a series of photographic portraits by Dorothy Kresz, to a visual interpretation of words through silhouettes by Rafael Esquer, to books hidden in images in the iconic illustration style of Christoph Niemann.

Needless to say, we love the idea. Design is only as valuable as the change it ignites — in our understanding of beauty and truth, our conceptual and aesthetic literacy, yes, but also in our greater social sensibility. And harnessing the power of design to enhance “literal literacy” by turning libraries into cooler, more inviting hangouts for kids, well, that’s just pure beauty and truth.

LIBRARY OF HUMAN IMAGINATION

We’ve featured philanthropic geek Jay Walker‘s Library of Human Imagination extensively before.

So for today’s refresher purposes, his fantastic TED talk should get the job done.

We’d love to see Jay open up his library to those with the greatest urgency of fostering the spirit of human imagination — children. Because whatever is behind the doors of our cultural library, a school bus should be in front of them.

THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS ON FLICKR

It’s always a delight to see the stiffest and most traditional of institutions embrace fundamental elements of today’s social spirit.

Which is why we love seeing The Library of Congress on Flickr. Their collection features nearly 6,000 images of historic hallmarks — from the evolution of the women’s rights movement to incredible World War I panoramas to a breathtaking century-old grand tour of Europe and the Middle East.

Go ahead, get nostalgic over ages you didn’t really live in to remember. It’s okay, we did too.

LIVE FROM THE NYPL

Turns out, you can actually talk in libraries. Some even hand you a mic — at least if you’re on one of the NYPL Live panels, a fantastic talk series by and at The New York Public Library. The events are available as free audio podcasts on iTunes, with short video highlights viewable online.

We were recently taken with NYPL’s REMIX event, an excellent discussion titled Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. Moderated by cultural historian Steven Johnson and sponsored by Wired, the conversation between Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig and now-legendary street artist Shepard Fairey, whose Obama “HOPE” poster became the most iconic political design of all time, offered a fantastic discourse on the intersection of creativity and “fair use” — a particuarly timely discourse amidst the AP’s preposterous lawsuit against Fairey.

Watch the full program online for brilliant insight into the absurdities of today’s copyright legislature and the unnecessary ways in which it hinders the inevitable mergence of  today’s mashup culture.

INTERNET ARCHIVE

Web entrepreneur, activist and digital librarian Brewster Kahle, possibly the most influential figure in today’s digitization movement, is out to gift the world with universal access to knowledge.

Since 1996, his Internet Archive has amassed an enormous collection of cultural artifacts — text, audio, moving images, software, even archived web pages — offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars and anyone else interested in the cultural anthropology of our civilization.

We really need to put the best we have to offer within reach of our children. If we don’t do that, we’re going to get the generation we deserve — they’re going to learn from whatever it is they have around them.

Inspired by an inscription above the door of the Boston Public Library — Free To All — Kahle set out to, essentially, “one-up the Greeks” by building a hub of culture that puts Egypt’s Library of Alexandria to shame, using technology to bring all of the world’s knowledge to as many people as want to make use of it — everything that was ever published and meant for distribution available to anyone who ever wanted access to it.

Kahle’s TED talk is an excellent introduction to the many facets of this monumental movement, which will no doubt reshape today’s relationship with history and tomorrow’s conversation with today.

Explore the Internet Archive and, while you’re at it, consider that the very act and opportunity of doing so makes you the envy of the Platos and the Gutenbergs of history. And, really, how incredible is that?

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25 FEBRUARY, 2009

Similarities: Because It’s All Been Done

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What Einstein has to do with copyright, where indie bands get their concert posters, and why there’s no such thing as creativity.

“Everything’s been done.”

Or so goes the adage drilled into every budding art director from the start. Now, we have proof, thanks to Similarities — a Flickr set that pits pairs of similar images against each other, exposing their striking aesthetic and conceptual similarity.

Substantiating Einstein’s bold contention that “the secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources,” Similarities takes pairs of cultural artifacts, often separated by decades, and exposes anything from well-meaning homages to blatant rip-offs to the unfortunate overlaps of equally twisted minds.

The thing to keep in mind, though, is that Similarities isn’t out to point the finger at the potential (and often clear) theft of ideas — rather, it’s there to shed light on the creative process, to illustrate something we very much believe here at Brain Pickings: That creativity is simply the sum total of your mental resources, the catalog of ideas you’ve accumulated over the years by being alive and alert and attentive to the outside world.

So when you explore Similarities, challenge yourself to question the subconscious influences and stealthy inspiration that creep into your own creative output. What you find may surprise you.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.