We’re talking more than six degrees of separation

I had a writing teacher once tell me that the point of therapy was not only to gain understanding but to purposefully gain separation from a particular event. By talking about something, a person changes their relationship to it. If I talk about my dog’s death then when I remember it, I remember not only the death but also how I later talked about it. We remediate an incident so that we can move forward.

Online we are constantly remediating. We’re encouraged to repurpose content by the tools put in front of us on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Digg and others. And for good reason. If we see something funny, why shouldn’t we share it? If we want to comment on something, why shouldn’t we be allowed to post it to our blogs?

I worry that in our online world, we remediate too casually and mindlessly. Although I’m all for constant sharing of ideas, I do worry that we are cheapening the original works, which does not encourage producers of content to continue creating.

Consider at a retweet. Who hasn’t had that moral dilemma of whether or not to shorten something someone else wrote in order to retweet it? We all do it. Though it’s relatively acceptable to change someone else’s tweet (granted it’s relatively the same) there’s a problem when we’re changing someone’s perfectly written sentence. Yes, they get more exposure from a RT and their message reaches more people, but they have no say in how you change it. Your altered tweet could have an unwanted implication for its writer.

Consider Youtube. The internet has drastically altered the reception and circulation of film and other media. Sites like YouTube have taken control away from the producers of the original media and have enabled virtually anyone the possibility of redistributing creative work.

I recently watched Sylvia, a movie chronicling the life of Sylvia Plaith on YouTube. It was remediation several times over. Not only was the movie remediating the written work of her poetry, but the person who uploaded the movie onto YouTube was further altering both her poetry and the film. The film’s posting on YouTube did allow more people free exposure to both the movie and her poetry, but at a significant price. Both the poems featured in the film and the film itself were paler versions of their originals.

The YouTube version of the film changed my reception of the film and the poetry. Because of YouTube’s time limits, the movie was broken into 11 different segments, each 10 minutes long, causing the film to feel fragmented. Transitions between scenes no longer felt seamless, but rather felt like jarring shifts in time and setting. After each clip ended, YouTube suggestions for similar videos would pop up onto the screen, which was also distracting. I found myself wanting to watch those clips instead of continuing with the film.

I couldn’t ignore the Google toolbar at the top of the screen. I had questions during the movie and so I kept pausing the film to google. Yes, it made the film experience more interactive. But sadly, this diminished the overall creative coherency of the film because it encouraged me to actively question the authenticity or validity of the story.

My point is this. We need to be mindful of remediation. We’re doing these things without thinking of what we’re doing to the original versions. Just like the children’s game of telephone, each time we restate a message there is the potential for mistakes. Not to mention each retelling (or reinterpretation) further separates the person who created it with the people consuming it.


2 Comments on “We’re talking more than six degrees of separation”

  1. kory kowalis says:

    Kelly, this is kory kowalis. I was told by chris you had a website.
    Very impressive. Sounds like you are doing great. Don’t miss good old peoria much huh? Anyway, wanted to say hey, and good to see you. This is my dad’s e-mail address, but you can e-mail me back if you wish. Take care

  2. kellystonebock says:

    Hi Kory! Thanks so much for finding me. I hope you’re doing well. I’d love to hear what you’re up to! My email is kstoneb2@gmail.com if you’d like to email me. I’ll send you an email soon.

    & you’re wrong. I do miss Peoria 🙂 And all of my friends there.

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