Oftentimes, courses overlap, and well, when you are taking both Visual Rhetoric and New Media during the same semester, this is bound to happen—perhaps not in the most direct ways at times, but certainly in some tangential way. I think it goes without saying at this point, but yes, this happened to me this week. As I was thinking back to the Ehses & Lupton’s design handbook, I was caught up with the idea of a “new” techno-rhetorical trope—something that came about with that phenomenon we call the Internets. Forget metaphor, antithesis, metonymy—I wanted something exciting, futuristic, “never before seen” because of our obsession with the digital, the technical, the multimodal. But all I kept seeing were these tropes Ehses & Lupton illustrate, or some version of them. I mean, I guess that’s why they are tropes, right?
So I put these thoughts aside for a bit as I picked up the reading for New Media: Adam Banks Digital Griots: African American Rhetoric in a Multimedia Age. Let me just say that if you haven’t read this yet, you should. It’s great (and you’ll probably recognize most of the names mentioned as it is, after all, a Rhet/Comp text, and if not, there’s some good peoples in there). And as if I magically stumbled into center a Venn Diagram of New Media/VizRhet it was there: The Remix.
Of course this is the trope I was looking for! It makes sense—we’ve been dancing around and with the remix the whole time in VizRhet—our memes, our maps, our typography—even our design tropes. Banks gives a rhetorical/theoretical history of the remix as a part of African American rhetorical practice of the “back in the day” ethos—a remix that bridges the past to the present in order to preserve a community-based culture. He explains specifically that the DJ’s remix—old school vs new school—“offers a conceptual metaphor for the kinds of textual and technological syntheses that can bridge old school and new school and print, oral, and digital literacies in an Afrofuturistic approach to activism and rhetorical performance” (87). We are familiar with the remix in so many ways, and only begin to focus on the rhetorical properties of it. The remix, like the metaphor, relies on a trace, or the aura if you will, of the original properties of what it refers to, or put in other words, what it is tethered to. It does this to create something new with a new representation and a new meaning. It celebrates our signifiers on signifiers but lopping them together—both dependent yet independent at the same time. The remix, as Banks explains, “allows the explicit linking of “old school” and “new school,” a synchronizing of generational commonalities and tensions that allows, even demands, innovation while remaining linked with histories and traditions” (90-91). I didn’t need to find anything “new” for a techno-rhetoric trope. I just needed to bridge the old with the new. The metaphor, the allegory, the trope, become Remix.
Now, finding examples of the Remix is not hard—our multimedia present is abounding in it—from the visual, the oral, the aural, the print, a combination of all, etc. But how to abstractly show that? I could spiral circles together and sync up this image. I could create video remixes of other video remixes. I could keep making memes! But instead, I decided to remix Ehses & Lupton and use type and text—but in a multimodal “old school/new school way.” So there it is: a .gif of different types spelling out the word “remix” so that it is properly self-reflexive. My goal is that in this remix, the word itself becomes something it isn’t but with the aura of the original idea. Stare at it long enough, and it’s both familiar and uncanny—it’s that trick that happens when you say or read a word long enough that it just loses it’s actual referent and just sounds or looks, well, weird.
The best part about the Remix, though? Is that it challenges our notions of intellectual properties—the copy right becomes the copy left as we see more and more mention of Fair Use and Creative Commons. And as Banks calls us to do: “[W]e need to adopt—or at least make theoretical and pedagogical space for –a copy left stance toward practices like textual borrowing, photocopying, copying/pasting, patchwriting, collage, pastiche, mixing, remixing, and mixtaping” (138). Both Visual Rhetoric and New Media share spaces, and it’s time we start thinking about remixing the two.
And with that, I’m just going to leave this here: A remix of my remix. Just, don’t blink. And ask, that in the spirit of collaboration, we can share our ideas of remixes here to create our old school/new school remix handbook.