Stedman, Remix Literacy and Fan Composition

Stedman, Kyle D. “Remix Literacy and Fan Composition” Computers and Composition. 29.2 (2012): 107-123.

Stedman’s study focuses on the knowledges and skills that is involved in self-sponsored remix composing, particularly how such remixing/composing works within fan communities. Stedman interest is in the “self-sponsored remixing efforts of individuals in existing communities who compose, peer review, distribute, and discuss work online” (107). In particular, he’s interested in how remixers “explain their composing processes and how their communities function” (107). “What do their activities tell us about the shifting grounds of digital literacy that composers and students learn outside of the classroom as they play with ever-changing digital tools” (107-8).

His research “surveyed and interviewed remixers who participated in three areas of fandom:

  1. Those who remix video footage from the TV series Lost to tell stories, create themed music videos, and comment on issues and questions not always brought up by the show;
  2. Those who rearrange the music from videogames into new styles of music
  3. Those who write fan fiction” (108).

Fan communities, as Stedman writes, “offers a fascinating lens when studying remix from a rhetorical angle: the audience these works are intedned for—primarily other members of the same community—have already formed opinions about the ideas, themes, characters, sounds, and other various pieces of the original texts, which shapes reaction to new, remixed texts…The communication situation becomes inherently more dialogic, responsive, and messy. And as with any discourse community, frequent participants began to learn the subgroups of opinions among those who frequent a particular site or forum” (108). His methods were designed with the intent to “gather stories of composition practices, rather than to statistically prove any hypothesis” (111). Stedman asked three questions of the fan communities he studied: “one about their reliance on earlier sources, one about remixes of remixes in their community, and one about their opinions on originality and ownership).

His findings:

  1. An attention to creativity: a hardwired understanding of creativity is that if a piece of work is derived from earlier work, it is “often derided as less meaningful than work as ‘wholly original’” (112). However, one participant understood creativity on a specrum: “Littleton_pace doesn’t reject the idea that remix works can be more or less creative; she describes a spectrum of originality, where some simply splice together content and others infuse new narratives into their video texts. But she also describes the intelligence, creativity, and meticulous work that goes into telling AU stories” (112). “But Littleton_pace’s community has also developed an ethic of content use that stops short of some remix aesthetics, which might praise the sharing and resharing of content without restraints. She writes, ‘[M]ost of the vids that I’ve seen are “original” concepts, in fact the “art” of clip theft is something that is heavily frowned upon in the viding community. Someone would have to have the permission of another vidder to remix their work’” (113). However, Stedman found that tone shifts when discussing clips from the show, as opposed to other fans.
  2. While much of the work in the fan communities is described as self-sponored by Stedman, he also writes that such work “is highly localized to the wishes of those who she knows will watch it” (113).
  3. Inspiration was a key concept frequently brought up: “even scholars who are averse to defning creativity romantically, is if inspired individuals create form blank slates, should consider how to understand the experiences of those who feel like they are regularly inspired, like the survey respondent who describes her muse: ‘if it’s something that has been overdone, more than likely I won’t do it, unless my viding muse demands it be made.’ But there is also the inspiration that comes from reading sources, from purposefully seeking inspiration in earlier works” (114).
  4. Stedman calls this inventional research: not simply of the kind of research of a FYC class. Rather, vidders research in a kind immersive way into the community. They consume various related media and ask, “what could I do with this?” Along these lines, previous work is seen as templates form which to create new work. Remixers in these fan communities “read the world with lenses in our glasses that help us see all other compositions, created for an aim, as potential starting points for infusing our own creativity. And this voracious inclusive everyday searching does not need to diminish he originals…but offer a new take, new emotional angle to explore in preexisting work” (115).

Stedman offers a set of principles about the “Remix Literate Composer”

    1. Insists (defiantly, at times) on the creativity and inherent worth of her work, sometimes using conservative reactions to remixed work as an impetus to push boundaries.
    2. Attends meticulously to the details needed to achieve compositional goals, refusing to be satisfied with anything but the most effective delivery possible for a given audience.
    3. Is community- and collaboration-minded, following an ethic of content reuse developed along with others and attending to the demands of genre, audience, and purpose that make the most sense in a given discourse community.
    4. Searches widely for inspiration, integrating remixing into his everyday life to such an extent that it seems natural to find new artistic and rhetorical possibilities in any area of life.
    5. Considers how medium affects content, using the most effective tools available to create the message that will speak the ways the composer wants it to.
    6. Uses both discursive and nondiscursive communication to affect audiences’ minds and emotions in ways that are both clear and suggestive.
    7. Accommodates various purposes/exigencies in her remixed composition, often using multiple layers of meaning that exist simultaneously.

 

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