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William Gibson on The Age of The Remix 300

wordisms writes "William Gibson of Neuromancer fame gives his thoughts on remix and innovation in the digital age, in a short essay at Wired Magazine entitled God's Little Toys. From the article: 'Our culture no longer bothers to use words like appropriation or borrowing to describe those very activities. Today's audience isn't listening at all - it's participating. Indeed, audience is as antique a term as record, the one archaically passive, the other archaically physical. The record, not the remix, is the anomaly today. The remix is the very nature of the digital.'"
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William Gibson on The Age of The Remix

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  • Its interesting that he calls them "God's little toys," perhaps telling us somewhat of their potential power(no not literally). I must agree with that assessment. I've always loved the idea of really being able to make whatever I can imagine, especially when it comes to computers.
    • Re:God's Little Toys (Score:5, Informative)

      by glen604 ( 750214 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @02:31PM (#13006063)
      God's little toy was a floating camera in one of his books, that a character used to take footage of her life, and the life of people around her..
      kind of fitting reference- remixing the video of your life, i guess.
  • Buzzword alert (Score:2, Insightful)

    by stupidfoo ( 836212 )
    The remix is the very nature of the digital.

    Excuse me while I gag...
    • Re:Buzzword alert (Score:2, Interesting)

      by laudunum ( 585188 )
      Yeah, grand pronouncements like this just make me throw up in my mouth. Then I swallow it, and the grand pronouncement has come and gone and not too too much has changed. Which is another way of saying that we have a lot of very cool technology, which has opened up all sorts of access to means of producing, we still aren't very clear on what creativity is -- and it ain't (can't be) entirely something new and it's not entirely something old but always in between.

      Gibson's last few novels have not done very w
      • Re:Buzzword alert (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ramblin billy ( 856838 ) <> on Thursday July 07, 2005 @01:57PM (#13005648)

        "Who owns the words?" asked a disembodied but very persistent voice throughout much of Burroughs' work. Who does own them now? Who owns the music and the rest of our culture? We do. All of us."

        Yes, and the links on his site are to places you can BUY his books, not download them for free.

        billy - do as I say...not as I do
        • Re:Buzzword alert (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Deliveranc3 ( 629997 ) <`deliverance' `at' `'> on Thursday July 07, 2005 @05:34PM (#13008113) Journal
          If you downloaded Gibson E=Books from Nullus you'd know he premises them with a personal note to downloaders.

          He does support illegal download to a pretty large extent.


          So many people making terrible generalizations, yea all artists are hypocrites.

          Also as far as Gibson is concerned it doesn't matter whether he types on a computer or a typewriter, Slashdot's perverse love of technology is an aberration not the norm, and not adhering to such a silly ideal probably offers him more perspective not less.
    • Re:Buzzword alert (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Scoria ( 264473 ) <slashmail@ini t i a> on Thursday July 07, 2005 @01:30PM (#13005335) Homepage
      Excuse me while I gag...

      Having invented several of them, Gibson is arguably a master of buzzwords. His literary work is known for stylish writing, and his adoration for the inclusion of buzzwords is especially prevalent in Pattern Recognition.
      • i got five in a row, I win!
      • Re:Buzzword alert (Score:3, Interesting)

        by theborg1of4 ( 863815 )
        Agreed. Go all the way back to Neuromancer, and you can find a veritable host of buzzwords and the seeds of remixed sci-fi used today. Heck, Gibson is credited with coining the term "cyberspace", as well as fleshing out the concept of a "matrix" of computers creating a world of virtual reality.

        P.S. The overuse of the cliche "throw up in my mouth" is getting ridiculously irritating - why people think this is catchy bewilders me to no end.
      • Re:Buzzword alert (Score:4, Interesting)

        by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @01:46PM (#13005542)
        I've noticed that in science, ideas with catchy or impressive sounding names tend to catch on better than those without- classic examples include Stephen Jay Gould's "punctuated equilibrium" or Kuhn's "paradigm shift". In fact, if you want to get credit for a big idea, it is vitally important that you come up with a catchy name for it. It should flow off the tongue and pen while managing to convey a sense of sophistication.

        So, I've got this idea that a catchy name is important in the success or failure of concepts and hypotheses. Now, if only I could think of a catchy name for this idea, I could get credit for it!

    • Excuse me while I gag...

      That's not nausea you're feeling -

      That's your mouth filling with the aching taste of blue.

    • Feh. Give me originality.
    • Re:Buzzword alert (Score:5, Interesting)

      by blincoln ( 592401 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @03:39PM (#13006837) Homepage Journal
      How is any component of that sentence a buzzword?

      He uses "remix" literally, so that's out.

      "The digital" is the domain that encompasses digitally-stored data.

      Art and sociology theorists consider true "digital" storage to be random-access, which is a caveat that purely technical people disagree with, but it's as pointless now as the hacker/"cracker" debate, because it's been entrenched for many years.

      What he's saying is that as soon as you have random-access, perfectly-reproducible, easily-accessible storage, people are going to use it to make collages (of which "remixes" are the most popular subset today).

      Furthermore, those collages represent a kind of "collective consciousness" because all of us in Western society grew up exposed to some or all of the components of that collage, and since our memories are based on associations, collage is a powerful tool for an artist to use.

      This is basic modern art theory that was covered in a first-year course required for all students at the university I went to. Of course, >= 95% of the class ignored it or didn't care to remember, but whatever.

      Gibson is a really, really smart guy. He's seen a lot of large-scale things in his life, and he has a good grasp on human nature and culture. It's easy to dismiss him as flakey because he writes and talks like an artist instead of a scientist, but that would be a mistake.
  • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @01:22PM (#13005232)
    I'm pretty sure his enthusiasm for the mix culture will wane the first time his new novel gets remixed and redistributed.

    • Re:Great, until... (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I'm not so sure of that. He wrote an electronic poem that was setup to only be read once. It was sorta an experiment. Of course, it was cracked and the text was distributed. He didn't complain.
    • Re:Great, until... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by killtherat ( 177924 )
      Well considering most cyberpunk/cyberscifi is based on stories he wrote back in the 80s, I'd say he already knows alot about the subject. Watch the matrix, and you'll see some heavy shades of 'Neuromancer' in there. In fact, one of the reasons I heard for people not making a Neuromancer film is because they are afraid people would think it's coping the Matrix, and not the other way around.
    • Re:Great, until... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by doombob ( 717921 )
      That's a great idea! Instead of creating "mix tapes" we can literally cut and paste novels to make them flow with the smooth beat of the techno drum! Imaging the beginning of Snow Crash [] with the middle of Altered Carbon [] then ending of Neuromancer [] sprinkled with bits of The Golden Age []

      Now that would rock.
  • by yagu ( 721525 ) <yayagu AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday July 07, 2005 @01:23PM (#13005241) Journal

    First, reading the article, paragraph, how many people know what the heck coruscating means? (definition here [])

    Anyway I don't know where the line is, but somewhere it is there albeit not a bright line. I loved the re-mix (don't remember who, don't remember the name of the song) where Steppenwolf's Magic Carpet Ride was the core of the piece but I would be disappointed if credit isn't extended and a cut of the profit isn't provided to Steppenwolf for providing the original inspiration and music. Certainly if someone were to digitally re-master any song in its purest and most original form and release that as their own work they would be guilty of out and out ripoff. But, a song with hints of the motif or melody of some other work is more subtle and probably more difficult to clearly state theft of said original work.

    In classical music it was quite common for composers to "rip off" a theme or motif of another composer and incorporate it into another original work. In many cases it was considered the ultimate homage to the original creator.

    I guess for me it boils down to how much is added by the "new" artist's work. Some of the re-mixes I've heard come pretty darned close to ripoffs.

    • ... how many people know what the heck coruscating means? (definition here)...

      Which of course leads us to look up the definition of Coruscant [], for anyone who cares. Pronounced differentaly than the Star Wars location, though...

      Not really important, but interesting.

    • you don't rip off if you attribute (ut all of your work no longer can be produced as spontaneously as a /. post. :-)

      If I can find out (because you put down how in the margins or in an appendix somewhere) where you got something, then it can be assumed that you haven't just pulled the idea either from somebody else (plagiarism) or our of your ass (inane, though original in the strictest sense of the word.)

      Of course the problem is how to do this without sounding like a phenomologist or other BS artist.
    • by The-Bus ( 138060 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @01:34PM (#13005403)
      A couple of points.
      • The remix is by Fatboy Slim (that hack) and was on the Go OST (by Doug Liman, he of Mr. and Mrs. Smith).
      • The song is still credited to Steppenwolf, and I'm sure John Kay & Co. got their fair share.
      • William Gibson's comment of the record being archaic is wrong, because the whole idea of remixing and DJ sets has to do with vinyl records. Sure, some people do "DJ sets" with CDs, but the vast majority of professionals still do it with records, or at least know how to.

      I'm still trying to think of what Weezer's "Beverly Hills" song reminds me of. I've heard that riff in a Metallica song, and it also sounds a LOT like "I Love Rock and Roll" by Joan Jett.

      What's funny is that now, even remixes require too much work. Mash-ups are becoming increasingly popular, and all you do is just literally play two records at once, at the very easy end.
      • William Gibson's comment of the record being archaic is wrong, because the whole idea of remixing and DJ sets has to do with vinyl records. Sure, some people do "DJ sets" with CDs, but the vast majority of professionals still do it with records, or at least know how to.

        I think by record, he means a collection of songs by a single artist grouped together and put out on a medium, whether it be a vinyl record, cassette tape, or CD.

        I disagree with him as well on that point.

    • "don't remember who, don't remember the name of the song"

      The Crystal Method - Magic Carpet Ride (Remix)

      Don't know what album it's off of, though.
    • and probably more difficult to clearly state theft of said original work.

      Theft is the act of depriving someone else of their property. Copyright infringement is speech that intrudes on the monopoly granted by the federal government on certain expressions.

      No matter how many times this distinction is made, the *AA crowd seems to be able to sucker people into believing they're the same thing. Amazing.

      If you're intent on analogizing copyright infringement to a property crime (although copyright is only a

    • by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @03:03PM (#13006455)
      Last night, I put Johnny Cash's _American IV_ on my stereo for the first time. I'm not really sure how it fits into Gibson's ideas. It supports some of his thesis and disagrees with it in other ways. The first song- "The Man Comes Around"- uses samples and "remixes" of the Book of Revelations. So it supports Gibson's idea of remixing. But then, isn't the Book of Revelations sort of a "remix" itself, in that the King James Version (or whichever version Cash is sampling and alluding to) is a modification of the original text? And for that matter, I'm perfectly happy with the Cash version- I simply want to appreciate it, not alter it- which doesn't seem to fit with Gibson's idea that we're all going to be remixing what everyone else has done. The other truly kick-ass song on the CD is Cash's version of NIN's "Hurt". I suppose you could call it a "remix" to have the Man in Black sing Trent Reznor's lyrics and play NIN on acoustic guitar, but artists have been performing songs or reciting poems written by other artists since recorded history began.

      And sure, artists today build upon, are inspired by, steal from, improve upon, and desecrate previous works- how in the hell is this new? The Book of Genesis borrows the flood myth from _Gilgamesh_; William Shakespeare borrowed the story for _Hamlet_, the tune of the "Star Spangled Banner" is an old drinking song, and the English language is a "mash" of a Germanic tongue (Old English), French(the language of the Norman conquerors), Latin(the language of the scholars and scientists), and other tongues. Sure, we have new toys that make this easier than ever, but this is just the nature of art and culture.

  • by islandrain ( 888578 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @01:27PM (#13005306) Homepage
    Today's audience (uh huh) isn't listening at all - it's participating (uh huh, yeah). Indeed, audience is as antique a term as record (biggups to B.I.G.), the one archaically passive, the other archaically physical (what's up, foo'?). The record, not the remix (rica rica reeeemix), is the anomaly today. The remix is the very nature of the digital (Inch'allah).
    • Not only that, it's a steaming load of bull. For one thing, this "phenomenon" hardly new, writers and musicians have been borrowing from one another since writing and music started.

      Secondly, the passive audience is much more prevalent now than a few hundred years ago. Before iPods and TVs and hand-crank Victrolas, people actually learned to play instruments themselves and read aloud to one another.
    • Today's audience ain't listnin at all
      they participatin' an havin a ball (uh huh yeah)
      da audience be as old as yo momma's record playa
      an as passive as a chronic smokin' Sith Darth Vader (yeah, yeah)

      So don't be lookin' at me all clueless and quizzical (what?!?!)
      like I am wit yo momma, remixing is all too physical. (yeah!!!)
      A record's an anomaly like Neo in the rain.
      This post is a hit with props to islandrain! (a wikiwiki wild wild rain)
    • Watch for Slashdot's remix of this current Slashdot article in the near future.

      Courtesy of DJ Slashdot Editor
  • Historical Record (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @01:28PM (#13005308) Homepage Journal
    I call every physical representation of an event a "record". I think people who visualize black plastic disks when I say "record" are old fashioned. Because I mean the arrangement of physical signs, like grooves, optical pits, magnetic intensities, electrons, collected for reproduction of the event. Whether it's vinyl, CD, tape, Flash, fossils, tapestries, or even human memories. The Internet has made the physical instance of the media a detail only important to geeks. The record transcends all of those.

    I'm not surprised Gibson thinks of vinyl when he thinks of "record". He's a geezer like me. And he even claimed, through the early 1990s, that he didn't write with a computer, but rather a typewriter. Not only is the already-arrived future not evenly distributed, but the departed past is still sticking around in some places.
    • I hate to nit pick (not really...) but Burroughs was the one not using a computer. Gibson EMBRACED the Mac. He saw it as the perfect place for blending everything together. It was the ultimate tool for cutting and pasting according to him. Gibson is well known for writing "future" novels. He embraces the current age and looks to see where it is headed. Quite an interesting fellow.
      • When I talked with Gibson, at a Berkeley bookstore in 1990 (during a promo tour), he claimed he used a typewriter, not a computer. In response to a question about political hackers compromising infosystems. I didn't ask him again when I talked with him earlier this year, after a similar appearance in a bookstore in NYC. He's fairly interesting, though his work (especially his 1980s books) are much more interesting, as he will quickly, though shyly, insist (though perhaps not that bit about his "quality decl
    • I live in Vancouver, where Gibson lives, and I lived in his neighbourhood for a long time. Gibson frequented the same scifi/fantasy bookstore as I and many others did. The kids in the store use to laugh at how little Gibson knew about computers, (In the early 90's he didn't know what a "drive" was). If you read the anniversary edition of Neuromancer you'll find an intro by Gibson where he states the make and model of the typewritter he used to write his first cyberspace novels.
  • The cor problem with remixing is that it takes something already created to make something new and different. Once everyone is doing it, then the core pieces used to create the remix will gradually dissappear. Someone, somewhere has to be making original content- otherwise there is nothing with which to cut and paste. As more and more of the arts become cut and paste, the more degenerative they will become. I think remixing is indicative of less creativety, not more.
    • Gibson talks about Buffy/Star Trek crossover fanfic as if it's something useful or important (has he gone off the deep end?) But discounting remixing isn't the answer. ALL great works of art have their roots in other great works of art. While mashups and fanfic are perhaps the most blatant and crass examples, encouraging more people to get involved with such things will, I think, eventually give us more truly creative artists, and truly new works of art. Remixing isn't the pinacle of art, it's how new a
    • Once everyone is doing it, then the core pieces used to create the remix will gradually dissappear.

      But then someone will take a bit from here, a bit from there, and inspire himself to write something completely new.

      If you think human creativity will disappear with remixes, you're quite mistaken. Take for example 'Into the Corridor of Shadows' by Nigel Simmons ( [] ). And you'll see how much creativity can be put in a "remix".
    • It never seems to work that way though. Ever notice how easy it is to group things into Genres? How easy it is to group music in to periods and influences and styles?

      This remixing has been going on for a long time; something new appears, everyone jumps on the wagon, they ride the wagon for all its worth until it gets stale, then some person or group who is bored with the status quo does something original, and the whole thing starts over, but pointing in a different direction.

      If you step back, you can see
    • Dear grumpy old fart,

      Please tell us about when you programmed with punch cards! Or about telnetting to the SMTP port! Or how much happier you were using only a command line!

      Human beings innovate. Full stop. End of story. Thanks to constant innovation, we have Linux, new viruses, GUIs, and a myriad other things good and bad. Including cyberpunk. I'll let you decide where it falls in {good,bad}.

      There will always be people wanting to say it in their voice. Some will make their voice using the voices of othe

    • You can make the argument that traditional music is just a remix of notes on a piano on guitar, etc. If this is true, then all music is a remix.

      Have you listen to many remixes? Many so called 'remixes' are very different than the original -- often times dance club remixes have a totally different rhythm and melody track, while using only a small vocal or instrumental track in key places. I think this is at least as create as making music by remixing the 88 paino keys.

  • Legality of remixes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by digidave ( 259925 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @01:28PM (#13005323)
    Since we're on the subject of remixes, I think it's important to point out that many remixes are not legal. The folks at [] are working to let mixers into the ballgame, so to speak.

    Also from the folks at comes [] which distributes some music that has been banned for copyright reasons (mixes and sampling). Included are the Double Black Album (Metallica's black album mixed with Jay-Z's black album) and the Grey Album (Beatle's white album mixed with Jay-Z's black album). There is much more stuff there, too, so check it out if you're into music advocacy.
    • my favourite mashups are by The Kleptones...

      try getting hold of "A Night At The Hip Hopera"...
  • by mmkkbb ( 816035 )
    Unlike Gibson's good luck with "cyberspace", remix culture is already well-established, and has little room for authors to talk about it without knowing anything. In fact, it's already full of them.
  • by Daniel Baumgarten ( 645894 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @01:30PM (#13005342) Homepage

    Sounds a lot more like "open source" to me.

  • by MetaRiko ( 889023 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @01:32PM (#13005385)
    "I remixed a was back to normal!"
  • Fluffy Article (Score:5, Insightful)

    by copponex ( 13876 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @01:34PM (#13005399) Homepage
    Baseless and sweeping generalities (like the one I'm writing), even if dressed up by prepending "the" to common words, will always be popular since the vagueness can never be proven to be right or wrong.

    But let's prove his theory, and borrow all of his newly released novels instead of buying them. As he says in the article, it belongs to us anyway.
  • by NetDanzr ( 619387 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @01:35PM (#13005406)
    William Gibson knows exactly what he talks about. The other day, I was driving from Atlanta to New Jersey, listening to Neuromancer. I didn't realize I left my mp3 player on random selection, until the entire book finished.

    Already years ago, Gibson was writing books that could be read/listened to in a randomized chapter sequence. I guess he really knows the subject of mixing and remixing...

  • Only a portion of art created re-uses existing material. And probably a fraction of a percentage of consumers recreate it. This makes it sound like the act of passively consuming is dead. It's far from dead, and clear channel will make it stay that way.
  • Innovation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dudestir ( 851669 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @01:38PM (#13005454) Homepage
    From the article
    We seldom legislate new technologies into being. They emerge, and we plunge with them into whatever vortices of change they generate. We legislate after the fact, in a perpetual game of catch-up, as best we can, while our new technologies redefine us - as surely and perhaps as terribly as we've been redefined by broadcast television.
    This should be the role of governments. Rules after the fact allow inovation to advance at its own pace. This has lead to people who are alive today that predate automobiles.

    The upcoming problem for society as a whole appears to be governments passing laws to attempt to control inovation prior to its development.

    All the concerns over software patent law, genode patents, stem cell research limit the advance (whether good or bad) of inovation. More importantly they distort the natural cycle of inovation by artificually limiting some research and advancement based on todays societies values.

    There was the recent SlashDot on Newton being faced with these same issues in his life. Galileo and so may others faced the same issues.

    However in the end governments come and go, science, research and innovation is what endures.
  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @01:41PM (#13005486) Journal
    TFA quote:

    Our culture no longer bothers to use words like appropriation or borrowing to describe those very activities. Today's audience isn't listening at all - it's participating. Indeed, audience is as antique a term as record, the one archaically passive, the other archaically physical. The record, not the remix, is the anomaly today. The remix is the very nature of the digital.'"

    Baloney. There will ALWAYS be an audience, because not everyone is as adept at making things (even remixes require some talent - not much, but some) and not everyone WANTS to make things or finds making things interesting. There are a huge number of people, and I would submit that such a number constitutes a majority of people in general, who aren't really interested in being cultural producers of any variety. They LIKE to be entertained, they LIKE having people do that for them, and they LIKE having people do it for them in a COMPETENT manner.

    Remixing is a marginal case, and while it will grow in popularity, it is just the flavour of the month until people tire of hearing Led Zeppelin being mixed over a brain dead hip hop beat with some spacey and/or glitchy atmospherics tossed in for the sake of "creativity". People will want to hear Real Music Made By Skilled Professional Musicians and remixing will go the same route of professionalisation and renewal like the rest of it.

    Appealing to William Gibson as an authority is not a wise idea in this case. I have an idea - I'll OCR Mona Lisa Overdrive and remix it. Oooops! Can't really do that, can I? I have to KNOW HOW TO WRITE SCI-FI to do that. Same goes for music.


    • At least musical talent. Burrows is right about one thing... any moron can buy Logic or DP and load in a few files and become Mix Master Flash... and basically that is what has crippled the music industry today.

      The endless mind-numbing drum loops... the ripped off bass lines droning on and on... and of course the obligatory MS20 squeek.

      Christ... enough is enough!!

    • There are a huge number of people, and I would submit that such a number constitutes a majority of people in general, who aren't really interested in being cultural producers of any variety.

      One of the highlights of modern culture is that this number seems to be decreasing. People naturally want to create. If they "aren't interested" it's because they were never encouraged (and often actively discouraged) to be.

      Remixing is a marginal case... ...that you demonstrate your lack of awareness of. I'm sorry
  • OOD OOA (Score:2, Insightful)

    Oh, I get it, Music, Video, art and literature are all objects, I can take these objects and "remix" them into a new program.... Wonder if I can use Rational Rose and Visio for my next music "sample".

    It's all fun and games until the RIAA/MPAA crash your little party and remind you who owns what.
  • I had no idea what he ment and guessed that maybe these were toys from some of stanley kubricks movies?

    apprently they are a brand of doll []. oh well.

  • by orlinius ( 181137 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @01:47PM (#13005544) Homepage

    For those of you who don't know, Gibson is largely accepted as the creator of the term we are familiar with nowadays - Cyberspace and a completely new sub-genre in Science Fiction.
    It is funny how in his book Neuromancer (Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Philip K. Dick Award) he presented the idea of a global information network and called it "the Matrix" in 1984.

    I think we can trust his predictions. So far they have been quite accurate.

    Too bad for the record industry if what he says comes true in the near future: "Who owns the music and the rest of our culture? We do. All of us.
    Though not all of us know it - yet."

    For the curious - Gibson is regarded as one of the experts in the field of technology and its effects on human life. Most of his books are quite dark and I think he has quite a pessimistic opinion on the future of men and technology.

    In an interview, to the question of what is cyberspace, Gibson replied: "Cyberspace is a metaphor that allows us to grasp this place where since about the time of the Second World War we've increasingly done so many things that we think of as civilization. Cyberspace is where we do our banking, it's actually where the bank keeps your money these days because it's all direct electronic transfer. It's where the stock market actually takes place, it doesn't occur so much any more on the floor of the exchange but in the electronic communication between the worlds stock-exchanges.
    So I think that since so much of what we do is happening digitally and electrically, it's useful to have an expression that allows that all to be part of the territory. I think it makes it easier to visualize what we're doing with this stuff.

    Gibson was also asked the question:
    "Some Americans claim that the Europeans are more afraid of the kind of society that you describe in your books..."
    To which he answered:
    "I think that the sort of societies I am describing would be more disturbing to someone who lived in a cohesive, functioning social democracy than it would be to someone who lives in the United States"

    Interviewed for "Raport", Sweden's largest TV-news program. Interview done by Dan Josefsson, November 23, 1994.

    • Terminator made reference to a global computer network around the same time period. Anyway, I don't see how having one prediction realized means we should "trust" him. Making a sweeping prediction like "we will use computers more in the future" doesn't qualify one as a Nostradamus, IMO anyway. I'm still not sure whether your "we can trust him" comment was tongue-in-cheek or not.
    • Predicted the Matrix in 1984, we can trust him

      A broken clock is right twice a day.
      My trust in someone's opinions is inversely proportional to their opinion of themselves.
    • by GileadGreene ( 539584 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @02:31PM (#13006066) Homepage
      For the curious - Gibson is regarded as one of the experts in the field of technology and its effects on human life.

      By who? Gibson freely admits that he didn't really use computers until well after he write Neuromancer, and that the technical details of Neuromancer are dodgy at best. "Cyberspace" and "the Matrix", as presented in Gibson's novels, bear little or no resemblance to the internet and the web as they exist today. Nor was Gibson the first writer to envision global computer networks.

      I think we can trust his predictions. So far they have been quite accurate.

      Really? I don't think so. It's easy to cherrypick many SF authors' novels and find instances in which they were "accurate" - especially if your definition of "accurate" is as loose as the comparison you draw between "the Matrix" and the real internet.

      I like Gibson's novels. He's a great writer with some interesting ideas. But he is not some kind of prescient thinker when it comes to the future.

    • As he's pointed out himself: when he wrote Neuromancer, he was privately proud that you could not tell "from textual evidence" that the United States existed in the world of Neuromancer. It did not occur to him that the USSR might not exist.

      The dude is brilliant, but not for accurate predictions of the future. His books are brilliant assessments of the present day. The insight in Neuromancer is about 1984 as much as the insight in Pattern Recognition is about 2002. If you see what I mean.

  • for the last 20 years, we've mixed in exact samples or wrote new words for old songs with ph33r of copyright. (grey album, hammertime, rappers delight, numerous others this century)

    100 years ago, we would rarely play a song exactly the same twice.. there were standard tunes like 'oh susanna', but everybody put their own touch on it, and used their own instruments.

    1000 years ago, we were finally writing down some songs, where they became static standards for the first time.

    10000 years ago, songs and stori
    • Artificial constraints?

      The only constratints we have are in our habits and ways of thinking, and, ironically, in the egalitarian nature of the technology that makes remixes possible. For example, let's say someone has access to audio software and wants to remix his favorite song. The software makes it just as easy, from a technical perspective, for him to record a cover version with a new arrangement or some other unique and interesting twist. But he probably won't do that.

      Why not?

      1. It's not in tune wit

      • >Artificial constraints?

        yes, as in copyright law: an inverse-right, in that you temprarily deprive others of the right to express certain things, from song lyrics to dvdrips.

        >The only constratints we have are
        >in our habits and ways of thinking

        i wasn't really commenting on the frequency of originality. without data, i would unfoundedly suspect that originality is not the norm in just about any circumstance.

        >there are few barriers to
        >entry keeping the unskilled folks out.

        the same could be
  • The traditional distinction between audience and artist is very real. Technological change hasn't yet erased the gap between the individual with creativity and talent and the rest of the world.

    Even remixes are still done by individuals with talent, who create a record and are distinct from the audience.

    In fact, technology just leads to new kinds of instances of ``audience versus individual'' pattern and more of them.

  • "In mine learned opinion, as another whose name be William, methinks yon Master Gibson needeth to learn how to sling words into proper sentences in order that those who readeth his words may learn to understand what he intendeth to say, yea verily! Either that, or he needeth to change the brand of crack he smoketh."
    - Attributed to Shakespeare, so don't sue me.
    • I finished reading Neuromancer just a couple of weeks ago. I knew William Gibson was famous for coining the term "cyberspace" as well as a lot of the concepts behind The Matrix. So, when I saw the book in my local library, I decided to take it - it seemed like one of those books I should have read by now.

      Now, maybe it was because I was reading the book mostly when I was tired, but I had immense difficulty in following the story. It was often confusing about where the characters were, why they'd gone there
  • by Coppit ( 2441 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @01:57PM (#13005649) Homepage
    People used to make records
    As in a record of an event
    The event of people
    Playing music in a room

    Now everything is cross-marketing
    It's about sunglasses and shoes
    Or guns or drugs
    You choose

    Ani DiFranco -- Fuel

  • Intertextuality (Score:3, Informative)

    by double_h ( 21284 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @01:58PM (#13005661) Homepage
    Critical theory and semiotics (the study of signs and symbols) has described the idea of Intertextuality [], which is very much in the spirit of what Gibson is discussing here -- there are countless ways in which a text (or song, or other body of work) can connect with other texts. A jazz musician briefly "quotes" a couple of bars of a well-known melody in the midst of a solo as a sort of musical wink. A rapper throws in a line that (to the knowing ear) is an obvious Biggie or Nas reference. William Blake creates vast poetic landscapes with references to the Old Testament sprinkled in. Intertextuality.

    "This story is not a song, but a record." -- Lee "Scratch" Perry

  • by B5_geek ( 638928 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @01:59PM (#13005671)
    the article could be seen as a summary of the last 100 years of American culture. (or 1000 years of Western culture).

    Art is the only true form of originality that exists in the world. It takes a creative mind to 'create' something from nothing.

    - an image of beauty from a plain piece of canvass
    - a new tool that saves a person the work of 3
    - a way of thinking about ones place in the world that is of harmony with nature.

    Modern society is more about consuming then it is about co-existing. The 'American' trend of sit-back and be entertained has led us to this cut&paste culture where things are just re-hashed for later use.

    I believe that we are approaching the decedant state that Rome was in just before the fall.

    The new renaissance should be quite entertaining.
  • Can someone who has read more of his writings please advise?
  • Post-Nirvana, why don't we call all alternative songs a remix? Post-swing era, why don't we call all Ska a remix? Post-Dizzy Gillespe, why isn't all trumpety jazz a remix?

    Sampling used to be a gimmick but now it's the status quo. It is certainly not something to bemoan - it's simply the new norm. This is the digital age and there is a dichotomy between artists and audiences. Artists want to protect their creations, but the audience wants to share and participate.

    Anyone who is tired of all the "re
  • Skip quote to avoid eyes glazing over:

    'Our culture no longer bothers to use words like appropriation or borrowing to describe those very activities. Today's audience isn't listening at all - it's participating. Indeed, audience is as antique a term as record, the one archaically passive, the other archaically physical. The record, not the remix, is the anomaly today. The remix is the very nature of the digital.'

    Worst case of chronic verbal masturbation I've seen lately.
  • Most classical music? "Remixed" from folk tunes. Johnny Horton's The Battle of New Orleans? Remixed from a fiddle tune called 1814 with same subject. Elvis Presley's Love Me Tender? Remixed from a folk classic called Aura Lee. This list goes on and on. Basically, musicians, storytellers, and other artists have been ripping off other musicians, storytellers, and other artists for as long as there have been musicians, storytellers, and artists. What IS new is the concept of copyright; that has only been aroun
  • Barf me (Score:3, Insightful)

    "The remix" is not some new frontier of creativity, as Gibson seems to arguing, it's a symptom of how little true creativity we see these days. In an era where freaking *DJ'S* gain fame without a shred of musical talent, it's astounding that someone thinks remixes are a good thing.

    As I watching Pink Floyd on stage the other night at Live 8, I was struck by how much more musically and lyrically rich they were compared to the other acts that we had seen. That's what music is intended to be. Not a bunch of musical wannabes who have to leech the creativity of others.


  • If you think about it, we've been surreptitiously (I surreptitiously copied the word "surreptitiously" from Wired to impress you all) "remixing" technology thought recorded history. I'd hardly call it the nature of digital. Digital techniques have made it easier but the mother of invention still exists in digital media. We also shouldn't confuse inspiration with imitation; there is still a lot of innovation to enjoy. Actually, the only place lack of originality falls apart for me is in automotive distribut
  • Many comments here really show that people might have seen Johnny Mnemonic or New Rose Hotel on tv, but never read a book from Gibson.

    In my prev. post I mentioned Pattern Recognition and how that has the REMIX idea and puts a different light into his article, but haven't mentioned

    "No maps for these territories" - a really interesting interview with him ... (pricey on amazon ($25) , but you can get it used cheap)

    Just do not watch it on a projector, it is minidv recorded, and has really crappy quality on t

We can found no scientific discipline, nor a healthy profession on the technical mistakes of the Department of Defense and IBM. -- Edsger Dijkstra