19 Dec 2011 mako   » (Master)

The Influence of the Ecstasy of Influence


Back in 2007, Harpers Magazine published The Ecstasy of Influence: a beautiful article by Jonathan Lethem on reuse in art and literature. Like Lewis Hyde in The Gift (quite like Hyde, as readers discover) Lethem blurs the line between plagiarism, remix, and influence and points to his subject at the center of artistic production. Lethem's gimmick, which most readers only discover at the end, is that the article is constructed entirely out of "reused" (i.e., plagiarized) quotations and paraphrases.

A couple months ago, I suggested to my friend Andrés Monroy-Hernández a very similar project: a literature review on academic work on remixing and remixing communities constructed entirely of text lifted from existing research.

After some searching around, Andrés pointed out that Lethem had essentially beaten us to the punch and linked me to his article. Only after I visited the link did I remember that I had read Lethem's article when it was published and loved the idea then. Over time, I'd forgotten I read ever it.

Without knowing it, I had read, loved, forgotten, and then -- influenced, if unconsciously -- copied and reproduced the idea myself in slightly modified form.

And I suppose that was the point.

Syndicated 2011-12-19 02:30:59 from Benjamin Mako Hill

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