It All Comes From Somewhere

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.

It’s a parody, yet tumblr user “cinderullah” says that it is “the best line every said in cinematographic history.”
Source: https://i.pinimg.com/736x/f4/d5/dc/f4d5dc599f7045019a2a14234a4682bf.jpg

Ferguson’s video: Ferguson, Kirby. “Everything is a Remix.” https://vimeo.com/139094998

4 thoughts on “It All Comes From Somewhere

  1. Ariel says:

    I love your point about being intentional with what we chose to remix. Maybe lack of originality just comes from carelessness? In contrast, we control the remix when we think it through carefully.

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  2. Rebecca Youngs says:

    When I first started watching the video “Everything is a Remix,” I was getting a little upset because I kept thinking where does originality come from? How can anyone create anything meaningful if it’s all the same? But I agree with you, I think that through the copying, transforming, and combining method, along with our life experiences, we are creating something original. Everyone’s life is different, so through these differences we are truly able to create something different.

    And you should definitely keep writing your story about the midwestern family living through World War III because that sounds really cool.

    Reply
  3. Brian Croxall says:

    I think there’s an interesting line between originality and remixes. We can remix things in original ways. But it’s really, really rare that ideas are created ex nihilo. The tension that Ferguson is wanting to explore is how some people tend to play down the remixing they do and how our legal system doesn’t allow for remixing to be considered in the arguments about intellectual property.

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  4. Lauralee Yount says:

    I like this take on the difference between inspiration and “remixing.” Perhaps in one sense, our idea IS original as long as it doesn’t really fit into categories of parody or remix. Yet at the same time, I think the general point is that – call it what you want – every new idea “borrows” for other related ideas. And that’s not bad. It is just the nature of the way our society continues to progress and evolve.

    Reply

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