Everything is a Remix

Reporting as curating and collaboration, creativity, and remix.



“The act of creation is surrounded by a fog of myths; myths that creativity comes via inspiration, that original creations break the mold, that they’re the products of geniuses, and appear as quickly as electricity can heat a filament.

But creativity isn’t magic.

It happens by applying ordinary tools of thought to existing materials. And the soil from which we grow our creations is something we scorn and misunderstand, even though it gives us so much- and that’s copying.”

-Kirby Ferguson, Everything is a Remix

It’s a little bit strange as a writer to embrace the reality that nothing we do is really our own. In high school NO PLAGIARISM ALLOWED might as well have been tattooed across our foreheads. Stealing other people’s work is illegal and we’re well-aware of that fact. However, taking someone else’s work, rewording it, and putting your name on it is sort of what we’re all doing to some extent.

Our knowledge comes from various different sources- news outlets, literature, textbooks… As a journalist, our entire job is to steal other people’s stories and put them into a lovely, readable format with lots of attribution. The film uses the following to define the word “remix:”

“To combine or edit existing materials to create something new.”

In reality, that’s what everyone’s been doing all along. But in this new wave of journalism- a time when connection to what’s going on is so constant it’s 24 hours– embracing collaboration seems to be growing more and more popular. We use Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, WordPress, and every other social networking site you all might access, to share things. We’re posting, updating, and editing at all hours of the day. You can get breaking news literally as it happens and now more than ever, citizen journalism is playing a major role in our field.

Ferguson calls remixing a folk art and says that anybody can do it. The same goes for writing. Anyone can do it. It might not necessarily be good or pretty or well thought out, but anyone can certainly share news and tell stories. That doesn’t mean we’re out of a job as a journalists though. People look to sources with credible reputations. We are not so simple to place our trust in just anyone’s hands. I read blogs for ideas, but the newspapers (yes, online) are who I look to for facts.

“We can’t introduce anything new until we’re fluent in the language of our domain and we do that through emulation.”

It’s true. It takes time, and a lot of that time is spent reading other people’s work, for a writer to find their own voice. “Creation requires influence,” Ferguson says. Maybe we’re growing less greedy by becoming more open to accepting less credit for the work that’s being produced today. That doesn’t make it less awesome or epic or deeply moving at all though. I think it’s simply more realistic. Like maybe the whole “there’s no ‘i’ in team” bullshit has been right all along. If nothing else, maybe we can learn to be a bit less selfish and desperate to appear “original” to our audiences and peers.

After all, “nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.” –Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters


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