Friday, February 24, 2006

Copyright Criminals remix contest

Kembrew McLeod asked me to post this announcement to D&R. He and the copyright activism organization, Creative Commons, are holding a contest in conjunction with a documentary Kembrew's co-directing and producing. Here's the information.
New Samples from Chuck D and George Clinton Available for Use

Creative Commons, along with filmmakers Kembrew McLeod and Ben Franzen, today announced that due to overwhelmingly positive response, the Copyright Criminals Remix Contest has been extended by two weeks, ending on March 14. Additionally, new vocal samples from influential rapper Chuck D (of Public Enemy) and pioneering funk musician George Clinton (of Parliament-Funkadelic) have been made available for use in the competition.

Winners will be chosen according to the same criteria as originally announced; no other contest details are changed.

The Copyright Criminals Remix Contest encourages producers, DJs, and remixers from around the world to use audio snippets from the upcoming documentary film Copyright Criminals in new, original songs. One winner will have his/her music featured prominently in the final edit of Copyright Criminals. The winning track, along with 11 runners-up, will be included on the film's companion CD. The contest is going on now at

Drawing from more than fifty interviews with prominent musicians, artists, scholars, lawyers, and music industry representatives, Copyright Criminals looks at the development of sound collage (also known as sampling). The film explores the complicated impact that copyright law has had on the creative practice of sampling and studies the conflicting opinions artists and others have about appropriation.

Samples of dialogue by artists like De La Soul, DJ Qbert, Matmos, Coldcut, and members of Negativland – all taken from interviews conducted for Copyright Criminals – are available online at the popular remix community for use as source material to be included in entrants' songs. Entries will be judged by McLeod, Franzen, and author/producer Jeff Chang. Contest rules and details are available at

About the judges

Kembrew McLeod is a professor at the University of Iowa and an award-winning independent documentary filmmaker. McLeod has written music criticism for Rolling Stone, the Village Voice, and MOJO; and has authored two books, most recently Freedom of Expression®: Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity (Doubleday).

Ben Franzen is an Atlanta-based artist who owns an independent production company called Changing Images LLC, which specializes in video, photography, and multimedia. Franzen edits the animated TV program Squidbillies, which appears as part of the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim line-up.

Jeff Chang is the author of the American Book Award-winning Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. In 1993, he co-founded and ran the influential indie hip-hop label, SoleSides (now called Quannum Projects), helping launch the careers of DJ Shadow, Blackalicious, Lyrics Born, and Lateef the Truth Speaker. He has helped produce over a dozen records.

About Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that promotes the creative re-use of intellectual and artistic works by empowering authors and audiences. It is sustained by the generous support of the Center for the Public Domain, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Omidyar Network, and the Hewlett Foundation. For more information, visit CC's Web site.


Eric Steuer
Creative Director, Creative Commons

Kembrew McLeod
Co-director, Copyright Criminals

Monday, February 20, 2006

Deleuze: The new Lacan?

Last week, the review section of The Chronicle of Higher Education contained an intriguing piece by Krin Gabbard entitled, "Cinema and Media Studies: Snapshot of an 'Emerging' Discipline." He just came off a stint as program chair of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS), which is the major professional organization representing scholars in those fields. The piece makes a pitch for the Council of Learned Societies' formally recognizing media studies as a discipline. Even more intriguing to me, however, was his discussion of trends he saw in programming for the upcoming SCMS convention. He had this to say:
The work of [Laura] Mulvey and those who extended her theories on the gender politics of representation is hardly forgotten, but it is no longer front and center. Indeed, Mulvey's name is nowhere to be seen in the stack of proposals for the 2006 conference. And I found only one mention of Jacques Lacan, the French psychoanalyst who was a major influence on Mulvey. . . . Lacan is no longer a central figure. Even Slavoj Zizek, the flamboyant theorist who revived Lacan in the 1990s, is absent from the proposals. The one theorist who pops up repeatedly in the proposals is Gilles Deleuze, another Frenchman, but one with little patience for the old therapeutically based models of psychoanalysis and cultural politics.

I was at once thrilled and saddened to read these words. When I taught my graduate seminar, "The Problem of the Media in Deleuze and Guattari," last term, I felt like my class and I really were on the cutting-edge of work in media studies. I still think we were. On the other hand, I'm somewhat bothered by the prospect of such cutting-edge work going mainstream. What put me off more than anything in Gabbard's Chronicle piece was his subsequent explanation of Deleuze's work, which (a) reduced it merely to the concept of the rhizome, and (b) forgot that Guattari was an integral party involved in advancing that concept.
I worry that, like Lacan before him, Deleuze might be spawning something of an industry. And here I'm reminded of Ken Wark's prophetic words in his Hacker Manifesto:
D+G [Deleuze and Guattari] describe in somewhat formal, general terms the space of possibility of hacker thought. But their version of escape from history can easily take on an aristocratic form, a celebration of singular works of high modernist art and artifice. These in turn are all too easily captured by the academic and cultural marketplace, as the designer goods of the over-educated. D+G all too easily become the intellectual's Dolce and Gabbana. (n. 91)

Is a Deleuze industry something to be welcomed or something from which to recoil in horror?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

MJ on IP

The centerfold of Mother Jones magazine always is worth checking out, the one included in the March/April 2006 issue especially. It's devoted entirely to the politics of intellectual properties and contains some intriguing bits of information. A few highlights:

  • Someone evidently owns the rights to "The Internationale," the anthem of global communism.

  • The recording industry has sued about 16,000 people thus far in its campaign to stop file sharing.

  • The latest-greatest in IP are "sensory trademarks"--you know, like the Pillsbury Doughboy's creepy giggle.

  • Companies like now go prospecting for common words and phrases to copyright and trademark. Once they claim the rights, others will have to pay them for royalties.

  • maybe those aren't highlights; they're lowlights. You get the picture. Now go buy the magazine.

    Thursday, February 16, 2006

    Give that man an Emmy

    Last night, intellectual property scholar and darn good guy Siva Vaidhyanathan appeared on Comedy Central's The Daily Show With John Stewart. Correspondent Demetri Martin interviewed him, for a "Trendspotting" segment on social networking technologies like Facebook. The segment has been posted on TDS's website.

    I have to say, Siva impressed. He held his own very well, despite being called "an old guy" (I can't imagine) and getting teased for using the word "paradox." Critics everywhere are describing his performance as "a triumph," "a must see," and "one of the year's 10 best." I hear he might even be nominated for an Emmy.

    Monday, February 13, 2006

    Dangerous minds

    Last December I posted some information about an undergraduate student who was harassed by the FBI, ironically for having researched totalitarianism at his college library. Well, today I learned about conservative "activist" David Horowitz's new book, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. In the spirit of continuing a public dialogue about academic freedoms, I feel compelled to talk about the book--much as I'm loath to publicize Horowitz or his cause.

    First things first: usually I include pictures of the books I discuss and links to places to buy them. Not this time. In fact, I haven't read the book. I find the concept so objectionable, and its premise so inclined to fear-mongering, that I cannot stomach even cracking it. I do know a few of the figures he talks about, though, and I suspect his characterizations of them--who they are, what they do, and the content of what they teach--are nothing short of unfair.

    Rather than singling out "dangerous" people working in traditional and so-called "pseudo-disciplines" like queer studies, whiteness studies, race studies, and so forth, wouldn't it be more compelling to identify academics who are in fact dangerous: people who, for example, accept millions of dollars in grant money from chemical companies to justify toxic pollution? or those who work closely with the U.S. War Department on weaponry? I could go on. The point is, the professors whom Horowitz seems to be singling out in most cases probably aren't all that dangerous. Or, more to the point, he's offering up a very skewed perception of what constitutes a "danger" in academe.

    The final thing I'll say is that, last week, North Dakota's House of Representatives passed an "intellectual diversity" bill, which is an offshoot of Horowitz's higher education "reform" campaign. I'm terrified about it, on the one hand, since it would demand that state University employees teach a "balanced" curriculum--something like one page of Adam Smith for every page of Karl Marx. On the other hand, I have this vision of, say, physics departments having to implement curriculum reform in which the cosmology of Indigenous peoples would need to be taught alongside the big bang theory. Of course, that's never going to happen, since "balance" only applies to those crazy humanities professors.

    Enough. I've ranted for too long. These are trying--and depressing--times. These are precisely the times that call for better, more effective cultural studies. Does that make me a danger?

    P.S. I'm surprised that Lawrence Grossberg didn't make the list. After all, he's a Marxist cultural studies professor who likes kids....

    Sunday, February 05, 2006

    Deleuze and high culture

    As D&R readers might know, last term I taught a graduate seminar called, "The Problem of the Media in Deleuze and Guattari." Their philosophy was, needless to say, very much on my mind at the time, and my seminar provoked a lot of issues that I tried to work through here.

    I'm on a teaching leave this term to write my book, and although it engages tangentially with Deleuze and Guattari's individual and collaborative writings, it's hardly a Deleuzo-guattarian project in any obvious sense. Perhaps that, in conjunction with my not teaching this term, explains why D&R has taken a turn away of late from D+G. All that's just a longwinded way of saying that it's time again for me to revisit their work.

    I've been re-reading Deleuze's Logic of Sense for fun (sick, I know), and in the course of reading something occurred to me. Deleuze's engagement with the writings of Lewis Carroll is one of the few examples I can think of in which he engages with might be called "popular" artifacts. (I also vaguely recall D+G making a passing reference to actor Robert De Niro's "becoming crab" somewhere in A Thousand Plateaus.) Now, I realize that in many places Deleuze discusses fiction--the writings of Proust, Melville, Kafka, Woolf, and others. Those, however, arguably are canonized works of Literature--not "popular culture" in any obvious sense. What's also striking to me is the utter contempt Deleuze seemed to hold for television, as evidenced most of all in Cinema 2.

    Now, I'm pretty sure someone else writing about D+G already has addressed the issue of Deleuze's tendency to extrude his philosophy from "high" cultural artifacts. If D&R readers could remind me of who that is, I'd be appreciative. Even so, I want to raise the matter again, for two reasons. First, I want to affirm how radical Deleuze's philosophical method is, despite his propensity to turn to "high" culture. His project of seeking the philosophical in the "non-philosophical" is quite compelling, and indeed it adds a nice dose of humility to a discipline that once put forth the idea of the philosopher-king. Second, I want to pose a question: what might a Deleuzian-inspired philosophy look like, were it more oriented to popular artifacts? I see the work of people like Charlie Stivale and Brian Massumi responding to this question, at least in part, though I do think it could be explored further. Are there philosophical concepts waiting to be extruded from, say, a mainstream TV program like Cold Case? Or a popular artifact like the TV itself?