Rhea Myers

Remix Affordances

A question someone recently asked about Where Are The Joneses (WRTJ) could be rephrased as “where were the remix affordances?”

WRTJ was structured as a TV-style situation comedy, albeit one running in three minute segments. The affordances for altering it were external to the episodes and came before the fact. You could create the plot, or write yourself or your radio station or your home into the episodes when they were on the wiki before they were filmed. As a participatory production project this was unprecedented. But after the episodes were filmed their forms were fixed and closed off. They weren’t particularly structured to provide affordances for remixing or mashing-up or extending.

Conversation Agent talks about traditional media starting to optimize their stories for search engines. Video search isn’t practical at the moment, so WRTJ couldn’t be structured optimally for search. But it could have been structured more optimally for remixing. Remixing produces searchable or discoverable material that leads back to the original project and hence to the project sponsor. Remix optimizing is therefore a form of search optimization. It is also of value culturally in itself as it provides more creative affordances to society.

Affordances must be perceptible. You must be able to see that you could use them, and be able to have some kind of idea what you can do with them. And they must allow or enable some action that would not be possible without them. For an episodic comedy project this would be adding to or altering each episode.

So here are some initial suggestions for how future Joneses-style projects could optimize for remix, some drawn from WRTJ and some from considering viral and franchise media:

  • Provide source. Give people more material to remix and to produce alternative versions. Give people the information they need to know about locations and props. Share as much of the planning and design process as possible.

  • Provide hooks. Every episode should provide plot or setting hooks, characters, and visual material for extension, recontextualization and response.

  • Provide gaps. Fades, pauses, quiet moments. Anything other content could be inserted into.

  • Provide elements. Catch-phrases, askew looks, funny moments. Anything that can be decontextualized and spliced into a flow of other moments.

  • Provide extensible arcs. Running jokes or plotlines that can run on elsewhere.

  • Provide calls. Anything people can respond to and be seen to be responding to.

Hooks, gaps and arcs would work in franchise media (like Star Trek). Source, gaps, elements and calls work for mash-ups and responses.

These are designed to enable and encourage everything from blipvert-style remixes of different media to inclusion in other series and fan responses. And to be seen to enable and encourage them.This isn’t a complete list of strategies, it’s just an initial consideration of what I think is an important idea.