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Remix Culture

I might Go Quiet for a week or two following this post. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by blog reading and writing and maintenance. Time to set my focus back on family, work, contemplative writing (read: not seat-of-the-pants writing as blogging can get for me when Info Overload hits). Besides, I need to get stuck into my potential Digital Web article this coming week.

This is a late-Saturday night post and I’m feeling tired and run-down as I write this. So forgive me if it sounds jumbled. But actually it’d be in keeping with the theme of this post: Remixing. I’ve been following with interest the controversy about The Grey Album, which is a mix of ‘The Black Album’ by rapper Jay-Z and the classic ‘The White Album’ by The Beatles. The mix was done by DJ Danger Mouse and the controversy is that he did it without the permission of the copyright holders of the White Album, EMI.

The Grey Album is doing the rounds of the Web as a free download. I gave it a listen and thought it was a pretty good album in parts, but really it’s much more interesting as a concept. It was a brilliant idea to mix two such diverse albums, one made by a black rapper in the 21st century (I presume) and the other made 30-odd years ago by a bunch of english pasties. And it’s a marketing coup to call it The Grey Album, as a pun on the Black/White mix. Pop music has an interesting history of remixes. One of the best examples is the Run-DMC/Aerosmith song ‘Walk this Way’, which blended rap and rock and resurrected two careers at the same time.

I wonder if we could apply Remixing more to the weblog world. For example, I’d subscribe to a remixed WinerPilgrim weblog (RSS-Atom), perhaps DJ’ed by someone who crosses both worlds – e.g. Joi Ito. Or maybe a ScobleScrivens remix (developer world vs designer world), with Anil Dash pushing the buttons.

But seriously, what I’m leading up to is a plug for Greg Gershman’s new Blogdigger Groups. It’s a service that lets you create a new group RSS feed out of a selection of individual feeds. For example take a look at this feed – it combines a bunch of weblogs about comics into one single RSS feed to subscribe to. I haven’t yet worked out the best way to use Blogdigger Groups, but there are a couple of paths I see it taking.

One is to utilise Dave Winer’s idea about categorising. If you have an RSS feed for a certain category – say posts about John Kerry – and other people have RSS feeds about John Kerry, then a Blogdigger Group could be created which combines all those John Kerry feeds into a single RSS feed. You could also add search feeds – eg Bloglines has a feature that allows users to subscribe to search queries. So you could do a Bloglines search for “John Kerry” and add that to your Bloglines group.

Another idea is one that Lilia Efimova wrote about a few weeks ago – combining feeds of your collegues or a real-world group you belong to. Lilia’s examples:

“15 latest posts from KnowledgeBoard bloggers” or “10 latest posts by my colleagues”…

In summary, Blogdigger Groups enables a kind of Remix Culture in the blogging world. We can mix and match RSS feeds as we (the “consumers”) see fit. Perhaps future generations of tools like Blogdigger Groups will allow us to mix and match microcontent, much like a DJ scratching a rap song on top of a Beatles melody. So we not only mix feeds, we remix individual posts. My mythical Winer-Pilgrim remix may not be that silly an idea in a few years.

About a month ago Rogers Cadenhead called me an “information-remix junkie”, which I quite liked. We are a generation of Web and blog addicts and information is indeed our ‘fix’. As the great Velvet Underground song goes, I’m waiting for The Man!

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