In the 2015 video “Everything is a Remix,” Ferguson says: “Everything we make is a remix of existing creations, our lives, and the lives of others.” (~11:58). I mean, yes. This is true. It all has to come from somewhere. If I write a Short Story about a midwestern family surviving World War III (it’s in the works; although, since I just voiced the idea, it may be stolen), it’s because I was watching World War II propaganda and reading International newspapers. Suzanne Collins wrote The Hunger Games after flipping between a reality show and Vietnam War footage on her TV (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MiVBAPg6TU).
But I think there’s a larger gap between being inspired by our own lives and experiences and being influenced by the work of others. Isn’t that where the entire concept of “originality” comes from? In Ferguson’s video he points out that two people can have almost the same exact idea; for example, Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell filed patents for the telephone on the same day. There’s a big controversy over this (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisha_Gray_and_Alexander_Bell_telephone_controversy) because people thought that if they had the same idea, then one of them must have stolen it from the other.
I was the one researching World War II and reading about the Kashmir/Jammu debacle. Collins was the one simultaneously watching, say, Man v. Wild (full disclosure: I don’t know what specific show it was) and Vietnam. A line is drawn between those two events and, say, Mel Brooks watching Star Wars and then creating Space Balls; and I would say that line separates originality and parody. Nobody says that The Hunger Games is a parody of the Vietnam War, and Ferguson definitely isn’t. I agree with him: everything we create is a remix, of some sort. We just have to determine whether we are remixing something that has already been remixed. It’s not inherently wrong if we are, we just need to be aware of it. Star Wars, according to Ferguson, is a remix; I don’t think anyone would say Vietnam is. You can be inspired by something and still be original.
Ferguson’s video: Ferguson, Kirby. “Everything is a Remix.” https://vimeo.com/139094998