Image source: psfk
Written by Yong Kim
While watching an episode of Sundance’s show Love Lust, “Love Lust & Street Eats,” it hit me that we truly are living in the era of remix. On the surface this episode was about the history of street food in America, from its humble beginning of simple foods like hot dogs and blue collar roots to the revolution into the current, nationwide food truck explosion and acceptance by gourmets and foodies. The theory informing this episode, however, is remix theory. The history of street food in America not only shows the level of remix that’s currently taking place (down to its marketing and the cuisine itself), but that the era of remix has been building up momentum for quite some time, beyond the arts and academia.
The current food truck phenomenon is only the beginning of a ubiquitous application of remix principles. During a lecture I attended in college, a guest speaker, a rabbi, broke down what defines a culture. With the quintessential lighthearted, humorous energy for which rabbis are famous and beloved, he stripped the essence of any given culture down to its religion and food. Looking past the religious context of his lecture, such an obvious saturation of remix theory in an everyday activity like food consumption means that remix has moved beyond subculture and academic theory. It’s no longer just for DJs and theorists of academia.
The term that was used frequently during this episode was “reinvention.” Every time there was a milestone of progression in street food presentation and delivery, the talking heads kept saying that such and such was a “reinvention” of the previous model, that the ice cream truck, for example, was a reinvention of urban food carts. They say reinvention; I say remix. Along the same progression, the food truck is a remix of the ice cream truck and the food cart.
Social media, Twitter in particular, is a marketing tool that’s largely utilized by food trucks, the first truck to do so (at least according to Love Lust) being Kogi Trucks, which mixes essences of Korean and Mexican cuisines.
Our world is constantly being remixed. Remixes can be seen in our history, literary narratives (the popularity of trans-media, for example), fashion, professions, martial arts (the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, aka MMA), languages (ever heard of Spanglish or Konglish? They’re remixes of Spanish and English and Korean and English, respectively), ad infinitum.
Now, what does any of this have to do with technology? Let’s take a look around. The auto mechanic today has become a remixed profession, being a combination of auto mechanic and computer technician, becoming more and more of a computer user on the job as automotive technology advances–progressing until the car eventually becomes a computer on wheels. The car, itself, is the the horse and carriage reinvented–or remixed–for the post-industrial revolution era.
I recently got a recall notice on my car. It informed me that I needed to bring my car to a dealership so they could update “the automatic transmission control module software.” Sounds like a job for a computer technician, doesn’t it? In fact, given the equipment, sounds like something I can do, as mechanically disinclined as I may be. With the car being a ubiquitous presence, the auto mechanic is another mass embodiment of remix.
Image source: VentureBeat
Look in our pockets. Our mobile phones, even ones that aren’t of the smart variety, can connect to the Internet and often have QWERTY keyboards. The smartphone remixes the mobile phone with the computer. Nextel remixes the phone with the walkie-talkie. Try to find a mobile phone today that doesn’t have a camera integrated into it. And the latest remix of technologies, smartphone with ultrasound (as shown above).
Hyundai’s Blue Link system allows the driver to text message by talking, which is a remix of voicemail and texting; it’s called voice text messaging, which is not to be confused with voice messaging, another remix of voicemail and email; and email is a remix of what is now called snail-mail, letters, and the Internet. Craigslist is a remix of newspaper classifieds and website. The remix quality of the Internet television is self-explanatory.
Twitter is a remix of texting and Facebook wall’s status updates. At its roots, Facebook is a remix of the bulletin board, chat rooms, and Friendster (the original social network). And Facebook’s “Timeline is not an original invention by Facebook. Although Timeline wasn’t directly stolen from anyone, it was clearly influenced by FriendFeed and Memolane.” (quote source: ReadWriteWeb) Once again, they say influenced; I say remixed.
This is not to say that all the examples I note above are simply different media slapped together or recontextualized in some haphazard fashion. Their success and popularity can be attributed to the creative and original ways they are combined, or remixed (much like Monty Python and The Holy Grail may be a retelling of the story of King Arthur, but no one would question its originality and the creativity it took to create such a film). Remixed doesn’t equal unoriginal or unimaginative (though it certainly can). Remixing is not exclusive to the era of remix. However, in the remix era, the remixing is overt. In the era of remix, originality is not in the invention, but in the remix.