Remixing and Repurposing Art and Lessons

The past two weeks the themes of remixing and repurposing have been coming up frequently. A remix is taking a pre-existing piece of work, and creating something new that sounds like or resembles the original. Music remixes can be heard in concerts or on the radio, and remixes of artwork can be seen in museums or in books. The idea of repurposing also connects to another hot topic of discussion lately- the Maker Movement. Where again, an idea is generated from an original tool or plan, and a new object is created and repurposed entirely. 

Today, two teachers, team taught readings by Eric Fischel and Fred Tomasseli. They shared their research in a very compelling way that really got the entire class thinking about how or if the internet is changing the way we think. In particular, the discussion was lead around the advantages and disadvantages of the internet’s capability of sharing works of art- be it visual or auditory, digitally, and the experience you attain from witnessing art forms live.

Fischel states that the internet really has changed the way that people experience art. According to Fischel, experiencing art first hand is essential. To fully appreciate and connect with what you are witnessing, you need to see the depth of it, the size, and the texture. Images of art produced by photographs or film, all provide the same dimensions and information. However, Fischel also recognizes the capabilities of the internet to allow people to become aware of pieces of art. So, in other words- thanks to the internet for exposure to the work people have created, but there is still nothing that can beat witnessing it in person.

On the other hand Tomasseli takes a different perspective. He takes images he comes across, be it through physical presence or via the internet, and from these pieces of work- remixes them to create something new. Having the exposure to mass amounts of art work, Tomaseli is provided with more muses and opportunities to spark new creations. While he does enjoy the benefits of the internet, Tomaseli also attributes his appreciation of experiencing tactile artwork.

What made the conversation interesting today, was having the opportunity to witness two teachers perform a song live for us during class. Once the song was complete, we then listened to an audio recording of the same tune and discussed which format the audience preferred. Initially the class overwhelmingly responded with their favor for the live performance, providing reasons similar to Fischel’s claims. We could hear the imperfections, we were part of something that couldn’t be created in that same exact format, you could hear the depth and tonality of the voices carry through the room. Everyone was moved by the performance, as smiles could be seen all around. However, after some more thought and discussion, people were brought around to see the benefits of the audio recording as well. If someone could not attend the class- the audio recording would be of great use. After listening to the live version, the performance stopped. Where as the digital version can go with you anywhere. Then came the idea of remixing and repurposing.

With the recorded version, individuals have the opportunity to take away parts of the song, mix them with others, add new pieces in, layer new voices or instruments in, or include video or imagery. The creative opportunities that arose from the digital version suddenly were comparable with the live performance. Tomaselli would have loved the thought of taking an idea and creating something new. The new idea may closely resemble the original or be nearly untraceable, as long as it was done creatively. This thought of remixing the song resonated with me so well in comparison to the maker movement’s ideology of repurposing. The remixed tune may end up sounding not only completely different than the original work- but the purpose for the creation has more than likely changed completely as well, for the artist at work had different intentions for the song’s creation.

I couldn’t help but connect the remixing and repurposing thought to TPCK and Wicked Problems (on a smaller scale) as well. Think of a teacher who creates a dynamite lesson for his/her students and is extremely successful with the results. All goes well- the technology matches the pedagogy and content, it enhances student learning and streamlines the teacher’s responsibilities. Success. But what happens a year later with a new group of students, who learn in new ways. Or a few years down the road with new developments in pedagogy or changes in content. What if new tools are developed that may serve the teacher’s purpose even stronger? Does the teacher hang onto that original lesson, fearing to derail from what worked and proved successful? Does the teacher remain frozen in thought, afraid or unwilling to change? What happens when the teacher who solved this wicked problem of hitting the TPCK sweet spot, is at the point of needing to remix or repurpose the lesson. Similar to discussing the best format of singing- live or digital, there may not be a clear cut answer. Some years, with some students- that original lesson design will hit home, prove successful and be the best option. Other years, to meet the needs of some students, the lesson may need to be adapted- or remixed and repurposed.

To try and come full circle here, it seems there is no right answer to which is better. There are times when each style holds significance, similarly to there not being a “one size fits all” method when it comes to teaching. Therefore, educators should to be reflective, use affective pedagogy, and see the value in remixing and repurposing their own lessons.

Reference:

Fischel, E. (2011). Replacing experience with facsimile. In J. Brockman (Ed.), Is the Internet changing the way you think?  Retrieved from http://edge.org/response-detail/10436

Tomaselli, F. (2011). Cut and paste. In J. Brockman (Ed.), Is the Internet changing the way you think?  Retrieved from http://edge.org/response-detail/11803

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