David J. Gunkel
Being a professional philosopher (which like being a “professional” anything just means that I get paid for doing something—in this case, philosophizing), the expectation (an expectation that I have for myself but also an expectation that would have been shared by others) was that I would produce “theory” in the process of composing my own remix of Mark Amerika’s remixthebook. Writing “theory,” however, also has its own set of expectations—presumptions regarding both form and substance. Even when theory (in its most self-reflective and critical moments) deliberately questions its own historically determined structure and approach, its writing, more often than not, takes the form of legible marks inscribed on the pulped flesh of dead trees. And this is the case, even if the results never makes it into hardcopy but remain in virtual form on the simulated page of the screen.
In the spring of 2011, however, I had reached a certain limit with these things—one that was as much practical as it was conceptual. I had just finished writing 350 pages of theory for my own book and the prospect of “writing,” in that particular form, at least, a remix was not something I could stomach. Conceptually Amerika’s invitation to think about remixing by way of remixing offered a unique opportunity to turn word into deed (something Socrates had, from the very beginning, always emphasized and supported) and to experiment with alternative methods of composing theory. The task was this: Can one write remix theory by using the tools, techniques, and media of remix? Could I “write” theory following the example of what I was attempting to theorize? Would it be possible to use and deploy the very concepts that were to be the target of the investigation? Could the object of the remix also become its subject? “New Media: A Remix of Mark Amerika’s remixthebook” is not so much an answer to these questions as it is their articulation, elaboration, and examination. It is, in other words, an investigation of remix theory in other words and by other means.
The sound track for “New Media” was composed by (mis)interpreting Amerika’s source material as audio data. In some cases, specifically the rather “noisy” background textures, Amerika’s text information, in the form of an MS-Word document, was “wrongly” imported as raw audio data and then processed using some basic editing tools in the open source sound editor Audacity. The melody line, which has an uncanny vibraphone sound that recalls, among other things, the Resident’s Mark of the Mole period, was created by interpreting the book’s 10.86 KB GIF image as text data by “mistakenly” opening the file in Notepad++, an ASCII text editor, and then running the resulting text strings into the P22 Music Text Composition Generator, which is available on the web at http://www.p22.com/musicfont.
The recorded voices come from television interviews with Marshall McLuhan and Marcel Duchamp. The computer generated voices were created by running segments of Amerika’s text, either in its original form or translated via Google’s machine translation application, through Oddcast’s Text-to-Speech application, which is available in demo form at the following: http://www.oddcast.com/home/demos/tts/tts_example.php
The screen text is material taken from Amerika’s book punctuated by four quotations from Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (1953), Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Gay Science (1887), Trinh T. Minh-ha Woman, Native, Other (1989), and Clement Greenberg’s essay “Avant-Garde and Kitch” (1939). The text was laid out and formatted in GIMP. The entire program was authored on PowerPoint (mainly because I wanted to see whether such a thing could be done, that is, whether PowerPoint could be used as a medium for this kind of endeavor) and recorded as an MP4 video.
David J. Gunkel is Presidential Teaching Professor in the Department of Communication at Northern Illinois University, where he teaches courses in and researches information technology, digital media, and web design and programming. He is the author of three books: Hacking Cyberspace (Westview, 2001), Thinking Otherwise: Philosophy, Communication, Technology (Purdue University Press, 2007), and The Machine Question: Critical Perspectives on AI, Robots, and Ethics (MIT Press, 2011). He has also published over thirty articles on information and communication technology, is the managing editor of the International Journal of Žižek Studies, and is an award winning researcher, teacher, and digital media designer. More information is available at http://gunkelweb.com