Introduction to Digital Humanities

RELI/ENGL 39, Fall 2015, University of the Pacific

Is Remixing an Art Form in Itself? (September 28th, 2015)

This blog post is brought to you by PacificNet; PacificNet: Where you’re never sure if the internet is working when you open your laptop.

Focusing mainly on the musings of Melissa Terras’ blog post about re-using digitized content due to my phone not being able to access the pdf of Robert Leopold’s article, I will be looking at the remix and where it stands in the context of art. She talks a lot about the how archival material and how it is presented online for others to use.She also makes many of what seem to be contradictory statements during her post, wanting this and criticizing that. Really I feel like she wants the world and she wants it now.

The first point she addresses is how poor the user interfaces of the platforms they upload their media to are. Flickr is brought up as an example, and I do remember a time when Flickr had a much more user friendly interface, but that was many years ago, and I believe the changes were brought to the website to better monetize the advertisements on the website. This brings up the question, at least to me, where if you are externally hosting your content on another companies domain, then what control do they have over you in how your information is presented when they change their layout to be more or less user friendly? Would you move your entire database somewhere else? Would you make your own? Would you partner up with similar institutions to make a universally searchable database?

In her second point she talks about how the aesthetic of what is available isn’t pleasing to her. So what? I ask. If absolutely nothing except for what was still under copyright was desirable to me, then do I have a right to ask the curators to go out of their way to make it more accessible to me? I think it should be clearer on how to get licensing rights, but so they cherry picked 10 (which is a very buzzfeedy attention grabbing number, along with her titles “10 fabulous 1950s illustrations which we have arranged for you to use under a creative commons license” but I digress) just for you but you didn’t want those ones you wanted the specific ones that you wanted to use. It would all be much simpler if they offered a better way to tackle this problem.

Her third point is on how monetizing product works. She says anything you’re not monetizing, let other people use it. For free or for pay, yet there are plenty of examples of artistic works that don’t do this. This is why out of print books and movies demand such high prices. Scarcity through denial of product. Sure, we have some companies like The Warner Archive Collection which prints VOD disks for anyone who wishes to order them, but companies practicing this are few and far between. And I don’t think that the vast majority of people are losing sleep over not being able to make a proper coffee mug. And to answer this question: “What “access” do you think you are actually providing, if its only of the “look but don’t touch” variety?” A museum. Museum access. Museums are look don’t touch. Its a digital museum collection.

Regarding image quality in her fourth point, maybe the same people who don’t know how to get images online in the first place don’t know how to properly put them online either. Go figure. I don’t think that there are that many super computer savvy museum custodians whose main priority is to make sure that they don’t get paid for their work making it available for free then letting others profit over the remixing of it.

Her last point is on maker privilege, and how much time it takes to remix something into something else that they want. To that I say, why don’t they put that time and long arduous effort into creating their own work or better learning how to cut down production time?

A lot of what she said I found very interesting and intriguing, but I feel as though she presented it in a “me me me” sort of way. A sort of “why aren’t they doing this for me” sort of deal. Many museums have their own staffed talent making remixes of work found in museums that can be purchased online or in their gift shops. A lot of what I observed on etsy were very similar to what I’d see in a gift shop, such as prints:

Fuji Etsy

This is from Etsy

Fuji Museum

This is from the British Museum online gift shop.












This demand for ease of access to remixers as opposed to a demand of quality for all researchers is an interesting one. It seems to be very focused on personal needs like I want that one, as opposed to a open collective sharing. Plus, if all they do is sell the rights to ten different items, then all we’re gonna end up with are remixes over and over of the same ten things, right?

-Luke Bolle


  1. While I agree that her tone in the article was very self centered, I thought the article by Melissa Terras was interesting as well, mainly because I did not really know of the limitations these digital image hosting sites appear to have, as it is not really an area that I have experience working with. I am a bit more familiar with content sharing sources that share and highlight open-source software, or user-created software and code that you can purchase a license for, such as github, but the world of image hosting sites is not something I have used enough to see the faults. However, what she described in her blog, and your description of the issues she cited, seem to show that there are many problems with sharing this type of digital content this way.

    One of her main points I agree with was what she said regarding monetizing the content. I think that one of the worst things that all too frequently happens, on the internet especially, is posting some form of content, again I will use source code as an example because that I am more familiar with that, and not letting anybody use it. I like your analogy of comparing it to a museum, its there to see, but you cannot use it, or touch it, and in some cases the owner does not use it either. This type of behavior is something that I will never understand, as in many cases people will pay to use the content if the content is worth the money and it is something that they want or need. In addition, I always feel that getting the content out there and allowing people to use it can lead to nothing but a positive outcome, as people will always find new uses for something that would never be found if the owner locked it down and did not let anybody touch it.

    Kyle C.

    • Luke

      September 29, 2015 at 7:27 am

      Thank you for your response! I wholeheartedly agree on your point of the positive outcome that stems from the sharing of content, something that I think can be related to the patent industry and everything happening with that mess, because so many positive things could be done, but the patent holders flat out refuse to share access, or set the monetary return so high that it slows down progress for all of humanity. The new uses could literally change the world.

  2. I really loved your post! I felt like the perspective of Terras’ blog post was a bit strange, and you clarified it and put it into words. She definitely seems to want things to cater to her own needs more, and it was a bit draining to read from her not-too-mature perspective. However, she did bring up a some valid and interesting points and introduced me to the idea of maker culture. Your post touched on something that other people didn’t really do. Well done!

  3. I would first like to thank you for mentioning that you could not open that pdf on your phone either. I jailbroke my iPhone just to have a pdf reader on it and the only way I could get it to work was texting the pdf to my computer and then opening it through the downloaded file on the iPhone text app. I’m just happy I wasn’t the only one.
    I really enjoyed reading this post mainly because you made it much more forward and less repetitive making the the information a little more exciting. More importantly, you brought up similar points that I caught like Flickr having a much more user friendly interface although a much better example would have been YouTube. YouTube is far from having a user friendly main page like it used to be. The beginning of this video explains how:
    Surprisingly, YouTube is horribly formatted for the commercial user. The video goes much more into detail. All in all your interpretation of the reading was the most similar to mine.

    P.S. Your summary of her fourth point made me LOL… Haha I said lol

    • Luke

      September 29, 2015 at 8:49 am

      I love jelloapocalypse! I completely agree that YouTube’s interface has gotten a lot less user friendly on the main page, I tend to only engage with content that I find through already established subscriptions I follow already now. I think this is in part due to YouTube’s push toward their new monetization approach where videos earn money off of minutes watched and content watched because of your specific video versus how many views you have, which pushes each channel to link to more content on their end instead of YouTube doing the work to put content on the front page.

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