Building Archives Of Our Own: Community Repositories for Digital Remix Video

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Fraimow




Building Archives Of Our Own:
Community Repositories for Digital Remix Video

Rebecca Fraimow


Master's Thesis
8/2013

Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program

at New York University

Table of Contents


  1. Introduction ----------------------------------------------------------------------3

  2. Audiovisual Remix ------------------------------------------------------------- 8

  3. Grassroots Digital Repositories ---------------------------------------------24

  4. Transformative Video Repositories

4a. Ourmedia.org --------------------------------------------------------------40

4b. YouTube and YouTube-Sourced Repositories -----------------------48

4c. AnimeMusicVideos.org ---------------------------------------------------67

4d. The Organization for Transformative Works and The Archive Of Our Own -----------------------------------------------------------------75

  1. Conclusions ---------------------------------------------------------------------87

  2. Works Cited --------------------------------------------------------------------98
  3. Appendix A: How to Save Your Remix Video---------------------------108



1. Introduction
“The remix is the very nature of the digital.”1 So wrote science fiction author William Gibson in his defense of the practice of creating new material out of pre-existing works, in a Wired article published July 2005 – four months after the launch of YouTube made remixed audiovisual content more widely accessible than it had ever been before.

Only a few years earlier, the idea that someone could possess hours of high-quality audiovisual content stored on a physical medium smaller than their hand, edit that content using only programs available for their home laptop, and share the resulting with with a global audience within minutes might indeed have seemed like science fiction. However, in the era has become known as the digital age, the combination of digital technology and widespread high-speed internet access has fundamentally changed the way that art and society interact. As Lawrence Lessig, another prominent defender of the practice of remix, explains, “digital technologies have democratized the ability to create and re-create the culture around us.”2 This shift is especially impactful in the area of audiovisual art, which has historically required significant resources in terms of money, time, equipment and/or skill level to create, manipulate and distribute. In the past, these resources have often only been available to commercial enterprises, resulting in a one-way cultural conversation without the possibility of audience interaction or response.


Audiovisual material stored as a pattern of ones and zeros, on the other hand, is infinitely replicable – and, therefore, infinitely able to be excerpted, edited and reused without harming the original. This allows almost anyone to do what journalist Julian Sanchez describes as “using our shared culture as a kind of language to communicate something to an audience,”3 whether that something is a response to the original work, or a new creation that builds upon its back. And amateur creators are taking advantage of these new possibilities in droves, in the process presenting new questions and ideas about copyright, culture, and collective creativity.

However, for audiovisual archivists, dedicated to preserving cultural history, the rise of remix culture brings up a different question: how on earth is it going to be preserved? Left to its own devices, digital content sourced on the Internet is unlikely to remain usable and discoverable into what digital archivists call “the long term,” due to challenges such as file corruption, format obsolescence, unreliable hosting sites, and insufficient metadata. Transformative works that have been uploaded to third-party sites on the Internet are extremely vulnerable thanks to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which requires internet service providers to take down content when formally notified of a claim of copyright infringement.4 If that internet service provider is the only place the content is hosted, then a notice-and-takedown can effectually serve as the death warrant for a transformative work. Some digital remix content does survive simply on the basis of its popularity, uploaded and re-uploaded to a variety of sites whenever it gets taken down – as the maxim goes, “lots of copies keeps stuff safe.”5 However, while these videos themselves may remain available, there's no guarantee that the metadata surrounding them will be accurate, or that they will be presented in an appropriate context. And while some remixes have managed to stick around the internet in some form or another for a decade or more, many, many more have been lost – sometimes not only to viewers, but to their creators as well.



The party line among archivists, as stated in the OCLC's Blue Ribbon Tasks Force report, is that “public institutions are best positioned to ensure the long-term preservation of high-value digital materials.”6 This may well be true when it comes to materials that are universally agreed to be of “high value.” However, despite the efforts of remix advocates such as Gibson and Lessig, no such agreement yet exists when it comes to remix video; there is no “canon” of contemporary digital remix, nor any existing institution with a mandate to create one. Moreover, because of the complex rights issues involved, institutions are often reluctant to commit to the preservation of transformative works, especially when their right to provide access to the material may end up in question. Remix video creators, meanwhile, are cagey about the idea of entrusting their work to an institution which may attempt to assert control over a medium that is by nature uncontrolled and operates outside the bounds of conventional legality. While it's theoretically possible for institutions to surmount these challenges, the digital preservation community has as of yet made no attempts to come to grips with the problem of preserving remix video. Meanwhile, an entire generation of artistic content is in the process of burning through its natural digital lifespan.

However, in some cases, the communities that make up the creators and consumers of remix material have started to take their own steps towards curating and archiving the materials that they create. Admittedly, sometimes these are baby steps at best. In many cases, these archiving efforts have begun simply as attempts to collate similar kinds of remix video content in one place for easy access, creating what could be termed basic web libraries. Other groups have made more concerted efforts to ensure the long-term survival of the content created by their community – most notably, the Organization for Transformative Works, which has founded a repository called the Archive of Our Own as an effort to preserve fan content and preserve at-risk remix material, otherwise known as transformative works.

Professional digital archivists often look somewhat askance at these grassroots archiving efforts. They are not official, have no archival certifications, and in most cases do not have the knowledge or ability to fully follow the rules laid out for proper functioning of an Open Archival Information System, or OAIS.7 On the other hand, many amateur digital repositories have proven their ability to withstand at least the initial test of time. Project Gutenberg, for example, a community-driven digital repository that digitizes public domain works and hosts e-book copies of them for download, has been in existence longer than the World Wide Web. And given the challenges that surround efforts to preserve remix video given current copyright restrictions, attempts at preservation by the people who value this content the most may be the best chance that it has for survival. Moreover, while the community of creators and consumers for any genre of digital media may not be archivally trained for digital preservation, their contextual knowledge and sensitivity to community issues gives them certain advantages over archivists who are technically trained, but unaware of the specifics of the subculture out of which a specific piece of remix content was born.

In short, whether we like it or not, the survival of digital remix video currently rests in the hands of community repositories – a term which, for the purposes of this paper, I am defining as any site or organization that makes an effort to locate material that fits a certain profile and provide access to it for others interested in that kind of material. If the digital preservation community wants this content to survive, it is therefore our responsibility to figure out whether the community repository method of preservation is a viable one for remix video, and, if not, what can be done about it. This study is an attempt to do exactly that.

Over the course of this paper, I will provide a brief history of transformative video, describe the various different subcultures working within this space to create and consume remix content, and demonstrate the ways in which that content is placed at risk within the digital universe. I will discuss the standards by which the digital archiving community weighs institutional repositories, and the ways in which it is and is not productive to consider community digital archives by the same standards, based off amateur digital archives that have proven themselves successful in the past. I will then proceed into an in-depth examination of the way digital remix work is currently cataloged and made discoverable by different kinds of community repositorie – including YouTube – by looking closely at their community, history, technology, submission criteria, and cataloging and metadata practices, and evaluating them in terms of their level of digital preservation and their likelihood of sustainability in the long term. Through this examination of how community archives develop and operate, I hope to provide the digital preservation community with some concrete goals for supporting community archives in the task of preserving content that would otherwise be lost.
2. Audiovisual Remix
There is currently no official or universally accepted definition for the kind of work I have been referring to as audiovisual remix. “Transformative work,” “culture jamming, “mash-up,” “political remix video” – all of these terms come out of different communities, but they have all have been used at one time or another as umbrellas to describe all the different variations on the practice of taking existing content and creating something new out of it. The Organization for Transformative Works, perhaps the most organized body attempting to legitimize remix content, defines a transformative work as something that “takes something extant and turns it into something with a new purpose, sensibility, or mode of expression;”8 for the purposes of this discussion, this definition will do as well as any. Audiovisual remix can serve a number of purposes: celebration, subversion, promotion, critique, commentary, protest or parody, just to name a few. Contemporary audiovisual remix comes out of a number of different traditions, such as political remix, trailer remix, fanvids and anime music videos, all of which will be discussed at greater length over the course of this paper.

However, it's important to note that form and message do not have a one-to-one correlation. Any single work of remix coming out of any of these traditions and genres may be functioning on several levels. For example, in remix creator and historian Jonathan McIntosh's description of his video “Buffy vs. Edward,” which pits the teen action heroine of Buffy the Vampire Slayer against the vampire hero of the Twilight saga, he explains that “seen through Buffy’s eyes, some of the more sexist gender roles and patriarchal Hollywood themes embedded in the Twilight saga are exposed in hilarious ways.”9 The remix functions as a parody, a celebration of Buffy, a critique of Twilight, and a commentary on gender roles in both. Another example is the anime music video “Hold Me Now,” which sets the obscure ballet-focused anime Princess Tutu against dramatic music to create a visually epic, action-heavy piece. The creator described the video as “Princess Tutu explained in 3 minutes;”10 the video acts as promotion and celebration of the original work, as well as an argument about the action and drama inherent in the way dance is used in the show.



The officially terminology used by the U.S. Copyright Office for any of these types of projects is “derivative work,” which comprises:

a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a “derivative work”.11

In order for a “derivative work” to be considered as a unique work in its own right, rather than a violation of someone else's copyright, it must fall under the 'fair use' defense – a major factor of which is the 'transformativeness' of the work, as established in the 1994 Supreme Court decision Campbell vs. Acuff-Rose.12 Here, 'transformativeness' refers to whether the re-use of the work “adds value to the original.” “Value” may be defined as “the creation of new information, new aesthetics, new insights and understandings,” or, alternately, may include acts of “criticizing the quoted work, exposing the character of the original author, proving a fact, or summarizing an idea argued in the original in order to defend or rebut it.”13

This argument is an important one in the history of copyright case law, but it does not cover many of the potential uses of previously created works in the service of “remix culture.” Perhaps most notably, it emphasizes the idea that the new work created from the the original, specifically must add value to the original work, rather than serving as commentary on something else. So, for example, the use of a Nine Inch Nails song to provide a backdrop to CNN video footage of bombings in Iraq would not fall under this defense, because the work created is a commentary on the bombings and not a commentary on the copyrighted song. Moreover, this definition leaves out works that act as pure promotion or celebration of the original work or concept, such as “Hold Me Now.” Do these works, too, count as “transformative?” For the purposes of this discussion, at least, I would argue that yes, they do; they represent a valid response and aesthetically creative use of material.



Of course, transformative works have been around since long before the term “transformative work” was coined – or, for that matter, the term “remix.” Jonathan McIntosh traces the history of reappropriated audiovisual material back to Soviet filmmakers in the 1920s, who would recut Hollywood films and American newsreels in order to provide their own political commentary. The American avant-garde film movement also has a long history of create new “found footage” films out of the cheap prints of “B-films, film waste and ephemeral materials” they were able to easily acquire and appropriate.14 With the advent of video and the rise of pop art, new generations of “found footage” artists shifted their focus towards a critical examination of popular culture; Dana Birnbaum's 1978 piece “Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman” still stands as one of the most well-known examples of this body of work.15 However, whether the medium was film or video tape, the amount of technical knowledge and technical equipment required to create a transformative work kept the pool of transformative moving image works fairly small.

The widespread adoption of cassette video and the VCR lowered the skill threshold for working with video, and it also made it much easier for amateurs to acquire content to remix. Instead of acquiring a pirated film print or a bootleg broadcast master, the aspiring remix artist only had to use videocassettes to tape the desired material off of their own television sets. This enabled the rise of an art form called “video scratching” in the 1980s, which took hip-hop DJs as their inspiration to “sample and scratch” commercial media as an act of cultural and artistic protest.16 Shortly thereafter, the culture-jamming movement came into being as a push back against the overwhelming cultural saturation of branded images and icons of consumer culture.17 Although culture jammers originally worked primarily in two-dimensional visual mediums, they eventually began to incorporate counter-cultural video remix into their work as well, resulting in projects such as Emergency Broadcasting Network's musical remix of the Gulf War.18 Mark Dery's 1999 manifesto on the practice of culture jamming would eventually expand the definition of “culture jamming” to encompass all subversive remix practices, from “artistic terrorism” to computer hacking to the “textual poaching” practiced by fan communities.19 These fan communities had by that point already developed their own forms of remix video. Science fiction media fans, who had first begun to experiment with moving image manipulation in the 1970s by creating slideshows out of images from shows and videotaping them, used VHS television and film footage set to music to create pop culture tributes and counter-narratives which they called fanvids, or vids. Fans of Japanese anime separately developed a similar practice, and coined the term anime music video, or AMV, to describe their work.

However, although it was now possible for non-experts to experiment with remixing moving image material, the actual process of creating a transformative video work remained extremely complex and time-consuming. The process of creation described by early fanvidders, for example, required the use of two VCRs, a stopwatch, extremely meticulous timing, and only one chance to make sure the clips matched the beat of the audio.20 And after all that effort, there was no way to show the resulting work except at an exhibition or convention, or by dubbing bootleg copies and mailing them out to a small interested community.21 Some local cable channels, such as Deep Dish Television and Paper Tiger, were able to broadcast their own remixed work of cultural critique, but their reach, too, was limited. In short, although more people were creating transformative video works than ever before, the floodgates for remix video did not truly open until the advent of digital video technology.

Digital video – and the Internet – provided three major shifts that caused the explosion of transformative culture as it exists today. The first is ease of access to the necessary materials. Digital video is infinitely replicable, and takes up no physical space. As Eli Horwatt argues in his “Taxonomy of Digital Video Remixing,” digital video allows for an “economy of moving image storage technology” that allows anyone to acquire the footage they need to create a transformative work with minimal effort.22 A work created out of multiple sources such as Lim's fanvid “Us” would have required a vast library of VHS tapes to complete in the 1980s, but can today be constructed out of the contents of a single hard drive. The second is ease of technology. Digital video can be edited entirely on a computer, with software that many can afford and anybody can learn to use. Most importantly, digital video can be edited in a non-linear fashion, which means that adjustments are not final, and can be made at any point in the process without requiring the creator to start their project from the beginning.

However, while both of these are significant changes for the process of creating transformative work, perhaps the most important shift doesn't have to do with the work of creation at all. The advent of the Internet essentially revolutionized the process of distribution for transformative work. As more and more individuals found themselves globally connected, creators of transformative works could share their projects with a much larger audience and expect immediate feedback. Works that were particularly clever, or that hit the public at just the right moment, now had the potential to “go viral” and hit literally millions of viewers, as people emailed videos to their friends or shared links on their blogs. As the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement points out, the “core unit” for culture jammers is now “the meme” – a concept that spreads quickly from person to person via the internet.23

Some transformative works have become so popular that they rival the original commercial media on which they're based, such as the stop-motion creation “Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation,” which was praised by some viewers as potentially better than the original.24 It's important to note that this adaptation was originally screened at a film festival in 1989 – pre-Internet – and, while it received some short-lived acclaim at the time, did not become widely known until it was rediscovered in 2003 and promoted by the owner of the popular website Ain't It Cool News.25



Once a viral video becomes a meme, it often inspires a host of responses, sometimes spurring the invention of an entirely new genre of transformative work. The parody trailer “Brokeback to the Future,” created by the Charlotte Cake Comedy Troupe, combined audio from the Brokeback Mountain trailer with images from Back to the Future; it promptly launched a host of imitators casting characters from a number of different media works as the lead players in a Brokeback Mountain-style gay romance. Several of these copycat trailers were created by video artists coming out of the vidding tradition of fandom; the practice of using remix to re-envision the relationship between two same-sex characters as a queer romance has been a major aspect of fan culture since the first vidded slideshows of the 1970s.26 However, according to Fanlore.org's history of the copycat trailer phenomenon, many more were created by “ video editors from outside media fandom,”27 often as viral advertising for a comedy troupe or web design shop. Remix artists working out of very different paradigms were suddenly using the same language, in what the New York Times defined as “a joke that keeps on giving.” It's more than just a joke, though. As the same article points out, academics have based their entire careers on their theses about gay subtext in classic works of popular culture, and the same kind of “thorough close-readings that have refined and broadened Fiedler's argument this time have been provided not by graduate students, but by online pranksters using little more than laptops, a broadband connection and Final Cut Pro.”28 (Though it's worth noting that the categories of 'graduate student' and 'online prankster' are far from mutually exclusive.)


Perhaps most importantly, the internet has made it much easier for the creators of transformative works to build global communities. In many cases, the unprecedented access and connectivity made possible by the Internet has spurred passionate creators of remix video to reach out to other people working within similar paradigms and create Internet community centers that allow them to share tips, techniques, and video recommendations. This has been especially true for communities built around a shared specific passion – and, additionally, communities that have traditionally kept something of a low profile in the non-virtual world. The growth of the fanvidding community provides a textbook example of this kind of community development. Fannish creativity has generally carried no political, artistic, or counter-cultural cachet – although in the past few years vidders and academics both have begun to make the case that it should. Still, it's hard to shake the “image of the fan as an inadequate, highly neurotic personality,”29 an image that causes many members of fandom, vidders included, to be cautious about revealing their interests and activities to the wider world. Horror stories about fans who have lost friends, jobs, spouses, or child custody by having their interests “outed” are common in fandom, and it would take an extreme level of trust for many fans to admit to an acquaintance or friend that they spend their free time re-editing footage on the Internet that they don't own out of a sheer love of the material.30 With the accessibility and anonymity available on the internet, though, fans are able to “speak from a position of collective identity, to forge an alliance with a community of others in defense of tastes which, as a result, cannot be read as totally aberrant or idiosyncratic.”31

Obviously, the Internet did not create this sense of collective identity – fanzines and conventions were going on for decades before the Web became generally accessible – but it has made it significantly easier for fanvidders to find and support each other. As Rebecca Tushnet points out, “vidders create and within and for a community of viewers and other vidders.”32 “Vidding” is now considered a fandom in and of itself, with its own particular customs and boundaries, both for good and ill. One essay by a vidder from 2009 complains about the exclusivity of the “vidding” community as it is often conceived of by self-defined vidders, pointing out that

AMVs seem to get a nod occasionally because people crossover from them to live action. A nod, but there is no real integration of the two--they seem to exist in separate bubbles. And what about all the swathes of Asian vidding communities? What about vidders in other languages? What about all the people on YouTube we'd like to ignore? They are vidders too! There are communities of vidders springing up constantly.33

But what, then, makes a “community of vidders?” Is it the simple bond of working within a common genre? A centralized location on the Internet where transformative artists working within the same paradigm can communicate with each other? The existence of a collection of works that fall into that paradigm – a digital library or an archive?

It seems clear that a shared genre, at least, is not enough to define a community. Political remix video, for example, tends to be created almost entirely outside of a community context; there is no centralized location for political remixers to congregate, and almost no communication between artists as they work. As Jonathan McIntosh explains, many creators of political remix video decide to create a transformative work because they are interested in conveying a specific message; “people are making it because they're passionate about something, and then they'll put it up on their own channels or blogs and that'll be it, they're not connected.”34 If these artists are rooted in communities, they are political communities that have no specific focus on the medium of remix. This makes it extremely challenging for people like McIntosh, who are specifically interested in political remix as a medium, to seek out other work that speaks to their interests. Other artists, meanwhile – often those working within the paradigm of trailer remix – are often using the form of remix as a tool to show off their technical skill in video manipulation. They have no specific interest in joining a remix community; their aim is to get noticed by professionals, and, eventually, to parlay their skills into a job. Although there are sites and blogs dedicated to these genres of remix, in most cases these sites are run by one particular individual who is interested in collecting and curating the material, rather than demonstrating a collective investment in a genre of work.

Rotman and Preece's work on YouTube communities defines an Internet community as “a group (or various subgroups) of people, brought together by a shared interest, using a virtual platform, to interact and create user-generated content that is accessible to all community members, while cultivating communal culture and adhering to specific norms.”35 I would argue that in order to fulfill this definition, an Internet community must not only create user-generated content, but take on a shared responsibility to make it accessible. Moreover, for a community to survive, that work must be accessible over time so that future artists can retain a sense of their artistic heritage and build on what has come before. As Tushnet writes of, “[vidder] Luminosity is one of thousands of artists. She learned from others, and is teaching others with her work. Documenting this artistic heritage, one might hope, will help explain to those unfamiliar with it that remix in general, and vidding in particular, is a legitimate practice, as artistic practices with generally recognized histories are already considered.”36 A sense of community goes hand-in-hand with a sense of history. This is why preservation must be concerned with the “long term.” While this may not have a specific definition in terms of years, what it means for a community is a timespan long enough that even when the original members of a community are no longer available to explain their motivations to a new generation, their work survives to speak for them.

Communities of transformative video artists, therefore, have the strongest motivation to preserve their own work – but are they qualified to be responsible for its preservation? Of course, the answer to this question is far more complicated than a simple yes or no. Certainly, there are some ways in which the communities that create these works have an advantage over any institution, simply due to their awareness of the culture and context out of which they were created. The exhibition history of the fanvid “Us” provides a good example of the ways in which meaning can be lost when transformative work is taken out of its original cultural context and embraced by the ivory tower.


Created by fanvidder lim, “Us” is a work that was essentially designed to be a love letter to the culture of fandom. Rather than using images from one particular source to provide commentary on the text itself, as the majority of fanvids do, it manipulated clips from a multitude of shows popular among fandom for an effect that scholar Kristina Busse has said “thematizes and illustrates how media fans engage with texts – not only the intense love fans feel for the shows and characters, but also how fans appropriate images, characters, narratives, and make them their own.”37 Busse goes on to draw out the images within the work of “tourists” coming to goggle at fandom, a set of images that “explicitly include[s] academics,”38 thus directly challenging any attempt to use the work in a scholarly context or, indeed, any context not related to fandom. Nonetheless, when Dr. Michael Wesch, a cultural anthropologist studying new media, used the vid in his presentation to the Library of Congress titled “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube,” he defined the “us” of the vid to include not just vidders or members of fandom, but everyone who's ever made a remix, or even burned a DVD.39 While this kind of identification is a valid personal reaction to the piece, it becomes deeply problematic as an official curatorial interpretation, given how significantly it contradicts the vid's initial intent.

More egregiously, when the vid was featured in a museum exhibit titled MEDIATIONS at the California Museum of Photography, the curatorial notes about the exhibit demonstrate a crucial ignorance of fandom culture. The summary introduction to the exhibit archived online proudly announced that MEDIATIONS marked lim's first “real life exhibition,” ignoring the fact that vids are generally not intended for museum exhibition and lim's was probably the first to be curated in such a way.40 In an especially ironic touch, given the way “Us” critiques academic interest in fandom, the description of the video itself focused on the fact that it “was recently included in a Library of Congress address given by cultural anthropologist, Michael Wesch, as well as the subject of recent publications by film theorist Francesca Coppa and professor of law at Stanford, Lawrence Lessig.”41 In short, the curators of the museum seemed unprepared to discuss lim and lim's work outside of the paradigm of fine art video exhibitions, therefore ignoring important aspects of the work and its original context and intent.

There is a pervasive feeling in fandom that viewers outside of the context of the community simply do not properly understand their work – and, as these examples demonstrate, that's probably not an inaccurate summation. Francesca Coppa and Rebecca Tushnet's article “How to Suppress Women's Remix” details the case of vidders Killa and T. Jonesy, whose vids “went viral” in 2006 and spread across the internet via YouTube, BoingBoing, and Metafilter. The vidders were made uncomfortable by this for a variety of reasons: first, the potential legal ramifications if the owners of the original content remixed in the fanvids were to sue; second, the fact that the vids, which were intended for an audience well-versed in the idioms and tropes of fan culture, were now being shared with a mainstream audience that read them as entirely parodic; and, third, the fact that due to their popularity, the vids ended up posted in a wide variety of places and often did not give credit to the initial creators. Killa and T. Jonesy eventually removed all the videos over which they retained control, leaving behind only the copies posted by those who were unaware of or did not care about their decision to remove them.42 This demonstrates the importance for fanvidders of entrusting their work to a sympathetic archive that understands and respects the concerns of fan culture. It's the creator's right to determine how and when an audience sees their work, but from a preservation standpoint, it's deeply unfortunate that the only remaining copies of Killa and T. Jonesy's vids are contextually removed and lacking in appropriate metadata. This leads to serious problems down the line; Jonathan McIntosh has discussed his difficulties with attempting to contextualize the history of political remix video when so much of his source material “wouldn't have the creator's name, it wouldn't have the year that it was created, it wouldn't have the original place that it was posted … things you would need to curate this sort of work were clearly missing.”43

Vidders are not the only remix artists to have concerns about the appropriation and decontextualization of their work. The “Adbusters” website, which bills itself as the bastion for all things culture jam-related, has come under fire from founding father of culture jam Mark Dery as a sell-out site that has managed to commodify the culture of anti-consumerism. Dery writes, “seventeen years after my manifesto hit indie bookstores, the look and feel of culture jamming, at least, have been appropriated by the mainstream, tirelessly promoted by Adbusters (oh, the irony!) and hijacked by guerrilla advertisers to ambush unsuspecting consumers.”44 For those unsuspecting consumers, it can be genuinely difficult to distinguish an activist work of culture jamming from a commercial remix intended to sell them on a product. This makes it all the more important that that distinction be maintained in preservation – but if the leading culture jam website can't be trusted to present the work accurately, who can be?


Meanwhile, much of the VHS work of culture jammers from twenty years ago has now been accepted into museum collections, which presents its own problems. Although this means that the fragile analog objects will be appropriately preserved, contemporary political remix artists have complained about museum policies of removing extent digital copies from the Internet in order to safeguard what they now consider their intellectual content. This has a double blow for the culture jamming movement. First, it makes the work largely inaccessible to the audience it was originally intended to reach; the goal of culture jam, after all, is to “effect a public discourse,” and culture jammers like Jasper Sanidad have expressed concern that the idea of a work of culture jam “qualifying” to be exhibited might “create a biased oligarchy in access and opinion aesthetic.”45 Secondly, it contributes to the decentralization and creative isolation felt by contemporary political remix artists. McIntosh relates, “it makes understanding the history of what you're doing harder if you don't have that stuff collected and curated in a way that it is in context, that gives it some metadata, right? It's one of the reasons that I didn't know that this stuff existed, and to what extent it existed, when I started making this work, just because there was no place for it.” In a rapidly mutating artistic culture largely centralized around the Internet, removing the possibility for a community history to be shared over the Web also seriously affects the future development of the community and the genre of work.46

In his study on copying and montage, Montage Boon wrote that “montage is obviously important for cultures that can't afford to buy new things – it is a poor people's art […] the touch of the monteur (DJ or quilter) sends a shiver through matter, marks it temporarily as the monteur's own, asserts a kind of freedom within it and a claim to the right to transform it.”47 The creation of transformative work is a means of asserting individual control over the bombardment of top-down media images; it should come as no surprise that artists can be reluctant to hand that control back to an institution. And after all, in his original culture jammer's manifesto, Mark Dery includes “academy hacking---cultural studies, conducted outside university walls, by insurgent intellectuals” as an important facet of the movement.48

However, while metadata and context can and should be supplied by the culture that generated the transformative works, the question remains: are amateurs capable of digitally preserving these works over the long term?

: tisch -> preservation -> program -> student work
student work -> Annotated Bibliography
student work -> November 20, 2008 Moving Image and Sound: Basic Issues and Training
student work -> Film piracy and National cinema: a tempestous relationship? Introduction: ipr law, Piracy and Creative Output
student work -> There’s no such thing as an old movie, there are only great films you haven’t seen yet
student work -> It Used to Be about the Music, Man: Rock ‘n’ Roll Fan Movies and the Post Facto Creation of the Nostalgia Market Abstract
student work -> The historical record generated by film, video, photographic, and sound documents over the last 150 years has become a valuable source of cultural memory in much of the world
student work -> Movietone/orphans project evan Friss Jeff Martin Jennifer Zwarich Intro to miap howard Besser/Mona Jimenez November 4, 2003
student work -> The Short Life, Slow Death, and Broad Impact of Betamax Jonah Volk
student work -> Digital Preservation-miap


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