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Cultural Cannibalism

Concerns about remix culture’s critical mass.

Ours is an age of cultural cannibalism. We have rather suddenly gained very convenient access to nearly the whole of human history’s significant creative output, and we are remixing it with careless abandon. We have introduced The Beatles to Jay-Z, Jane Austen to George Romero, and Abraham Lincoln to Bram Stoker. If something gets a modicum of attention online, it can count on being Photoshopped, captioned, auto-tuned, GIF’ed, pickled, bronzed, or arranged for ukulele and woodwinds a thousand times over before its originator has even had breakfast.

I don’t mean to dismiss this phenomenon out of hand. Every creative genius who ever lived was part of a continuum, standing on the shoulders of those who came before. And for every ten thousand tired Tumblogs devoted to recontextualizing Nicolas Cage film stills, there is one transcendent, visionary work like Paul’s Boutique. But regardless of remix culture’s inventive potential, I worry a little about the day the remixers noticeably outnumber the mixers. And it’s hard not to wonder if that day is coming.