“Heteroglossia and Language Ideologies in Children’s Peer Play Interactions” – Amy Kyratzis, Jennifer F. Reynolds and Ann-Carita Evaldsson
Heteroglossic (verbal) practices = “(…) drawing upon a diverse repertoire of linguistic and discursive forms in their everyday cultural practices.” (AKJRAE, p.457) or else: “(…) use and differentiation of multiple codes and registers in the creation and negotiation of social distinctions.” (Ibid.)
Central issue: “(…) how children render commentary on language practices and social categories, and through their heteroglossic practices including code-switching and other voicing contracts, draw associations among codes and registers on the one hand, and, places, roles, and social content on the other, in their peer play interactions.” (AKJRAE, p.462) > “The perspective of heteroglossia allows the analystto focus on alternations of officially authorized codes and languages, without neglecting ‘the diversity of socially indexical linguistic features within codes’ (Bailey: 268).” (AKJRAE, p.457)
SERIOUS PLAY “(…) children reproduce and transform ideologies about the relationship and meaning of codes and registers, and ‘problematize the boundaries through straddling linguistic and social worlds in their language and identity practices’ (Bailey: 259).” (Ibid.) > (Schieffelin) “(…) through [their] fantasy play, children draw on and reproduce more broadly held ideologies about the relationship and meanings of the two languages, including ideas about the people who use them and the appropriate social places for their use.” (AKJRAE, p.459) » “According to theories of language socialization ‘children and other novices in society acquire tacit knowledge of principles of social order and systems of belief (…) through exposure to and participation in language-mediated interactions’ (Ochs: 2).” (AKJRAE, p.458) > Social construction/negotiation of meaning: “It is the members of a community who form the associations between social categories, language codes, and social value.” (Ibid.) <> “In contrast to adult-based models of socialization, these articles see children as engaging in processes of ‘interpretive reproduction’ (…), whereby they appropriate resources from the adult culture and ‘take a variety of stances toward cultural resources – acceding to, eagerly reaching out for, playfully transforming, actively resisting’ (…) them.” (Ibid.) » “In negotiating inclusion and hierarchy within the peer group, children draw and comment on social relations in the adult world (…) and articulate moralities and identities of their own (…). As they act to ‘construct and reconstruct their social organization on an ongoing basis’ (…), they appropriate adult registers, performance genres, and language varieties, and re-organize them in ways that render their own commentary on social relationships in the adult world (…).” (Ibid.)
Remix. To combine or edit existing materials to produce something new.
The term remix originally applied to music. It rose to prominence late last century during the heyday of hip-hop, the first musical form to incorporate sampling from existing recordings.
Early example: the Sugarhill Gang samples the bass riff from Chic’s “Good Times” in the 1979 hit “Rapper’s Delight”.
Rapper’s Delight, The Sugarhill Gang
Good Times, Chic
Since then that same bassline has been sampled dozens of times.
The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash Grandmaster Flash
Everything’s Gonna be Alright Father MC
It’s All Good Will Smith
2345Meia78 Gabriel O Pensador
Around the World Daft Punk
Skip ahead to the present and anybody can remix anything — music, video, photos, whatever — and distribute it globally pretty much instantly.
You don’t need expensive tools, you don’t need a distributor, you don’t even need skills. Remixing is a folk art — anybody can do it. Yet these techniques — collecting material, combining it, transforming it — are the same ones used at any level of creation. You could even say that everything is a remix.
To explain, let’s start in England in 1968.
Part One: The Song Remains the Same
Jimmy Page recruits John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, and John Bonham to form Zed Zeppelin. They play extremely loud blues music that soon will be known as—
Wait, let’s start in Paris in 1961.
William Burroughs coins the term “heavy metal” in the novel “The Soft Machine,” a book composed using the cut-up technique, taking existing writing and literally chopping it up and rearranging it. So in 1961 William Burroughs not only invents the term “heavy metal,” the brand of music Zeppelin and a few other groups would pioneer, he also produces an early remix.
Back to Zeppelin.
By the mid-1970s Led Zeppelin are the biggest touring rock band in America, yet many critics and peers label them as… rip-offs. The case goes like this.
The opening and closing sections of “Bring it on Home” are lifted from a tune by Willie Dixon entitled — not coincidentally — “Bring it on Home.”
Bring it on Home (Page, Plant)
Bring it on Home (Dixon) Performed by Sonny Boy Williamson
“The Lemon Song” lifts numerous lyrics from Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor.”
The Lemon Song (Page, Plant)
Killing Floor (Burnett)
“Black Mountain Side” lifts its melody from “Blackwaterside,” a traditional arranged by Bert Jansch.
Black Mountain Side (Page)
Blackwaterside (Traditional, Arranged Jansch)
“Dazed and Confused” features different lyrics but is clearly an uncredited cover of the same-titled song by Jake Holmes. Oddly enough, Holmes files suit over forty years later in 2010.
Dazed and Confused (Page)
Dazed and Confused (Holmes)
And the big one, “Stairway to Heaven” pulls its opening from Spirit’s “Taurus.” Zeppelin toured with Spirit in 1968, three years before “Stairway” was released.
Stairway to Heaven (Page, Plant)
Zeppelin clearly copied a lot of amount of other people’s material, but that alone, isn’t unusual. Only two things distinguished Zeppelin from their peers.
Firstly, when Zeppelin used someone else’s material, they didn’t attribute songwriting to the original artist. Most British blues groups were recording lots of covers, but unlike Zeppelin, they didn’t claim to have written them.
Secondly, Led Zeppelin didn’t modify their versions enough to claim they were original. Many bands knock-off acts that came before them, but they tend to emulate the general sound rather than specific lyrics or melodies. Zeppelin copied without making fundamental changes.
So, these two things
Covers: performances of other people’s material
And knock-offs: copies that stay within legal boundaries
These are long-standing examples of legal remixing. This stuff accounts for almost everything the entertainment industry produces, and that’s where we’re headedin part two.
Wait, one last thing. In the wake of their enormous success, Led Zeppelin went from the copier to the copied. First in the 70s with groups like Aerosmith, Heart and Boston, then during the eighties heavy metal craze, and on into the era of sampling. Here’s the beats from “When the Levee Breaks” getting sampled and remixed.
Perhaps it’s because movies are so massively expensive to make. Perhaps it’s because graphic novels, TV shows, video games, books and the like are such rich sources of material. Or perhaps it’s because audiences prefer the familiar. Whatever the reason, most box office hits rely heavily on existing material.
Of the ten highest grossing films per year from the last ten years, 74 out of 100 are either sequels or remakes of earlier films or adaptations of comic books, video games, books, and so on. Transforming the old into the new… is Hollywood’s greatest talent.
Everything is a Remix Part 2 Remix Inc.
At this point we’ve got three sequels to a film adapted from a theme park attraction.
We’ve got a movie musical based on a musical which was based on a movie.
We’ve got two sequels to a film that was adapted from an animated TV show based on a line of toys.
We’ve got a movie based on two books, one of which was based on a blog which was inspired by the other book that was adapted into the film. Got it?
We’ve got 11 Star Trek films, 12 Friday the 13ths, and 23 James Bonds.
We’ve got stories that have been told, retold, transformed, referenced, and subverted since the dawn of cinema. We’ve seen vampires morph from hideous monsters to caped bedroom invaders to campy jokes to sexy hunks to sexier hunks.
Of the few box office hits that aren’t remakes, adaptations or sequels, the word “original” wouldn’t spring to mind to describe ‘em. These are genre movies, and they stick to pretty standard templates. Genres then break-up into sub-genres with their own even more specific conventions. So within the category of horror films we have sub-genres like slasher, zombie, creature feature, and of course, torture porn. All have standard elements that are appropriated, transformed and subverted.
Let’s use the biggest film of the decade as an example. Now it’s not a sequel, remix or adaptation, but it is a genre film — sci-fi — and most tellingly, it’s a member of a tiny sub-genre where sympathetic white people feel bad about all the murder, pillaging, and annihilation being done on their behalf.
I call this sub-genre “Sorry about Colonialism!” I’m talking about movies like Dances With Wolves, The Last Samurai, The Last of the Mohicans, Dune, Lawrence of Arabia, A Man Called Horse, and even Fern Gully and Pocahontas.
Films are built on other films, as well as on books, TV shows, actual events, plays, whatever. This applies to everything from the lowliest genre film, right on up to revered indie art fare.
And it even applies to massively influential blockbusters, the kinds of films that reshape pop culture.
Which brings us to…
Even now, Star Wars endures as a work of remarkable imagination, but many of its individual components are as recognizable as the samples in a remix.
The foundation for Stars Wars comes from Joseph Campbell. He popularized the structures of myth in his book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Star Wars follows the outline of the monomyth, which consists of stages like…
The Call to Adventure
The Belly of the Whale
The Road of Trials
The Meeting with the Goddess
and a bunch more.
Also huge influences were the Flash Gordon serials from the thirties and Japanese director Akira Kurasowa.
Star Wars plays much like an updated version of Flash Gordon, right down to the soft wipes and the opening titles design.
From Kurasowa we get masters of spiritual martial arts, a low-ranking bickering duo, a beneath-the-floorboards hideaway, more soft wipes, and a boastful baddy getting his arm chopped off.
War films and westerns are Star Wars other major influences. The climactic air missions of films like The Dambusters, 633 Squadron and The Bridges at Toko-Ri bore a huge influence on the run on the Death Star. And in many cases, existing shots were even used as templates for Star Wars’ special effects.
The scene where Luke discovers his slaughtered family resembles this scene from The Searchers. And the scene where Han Solo shoots Greedo resembles this scene from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
There’s also many other elements clearly derived from other films. We have tin man like the tin woman in Metropolis, a couple shots inspired by 2001, a grab-the-girl-and-swing moment like this one in The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, a holographic projection kinda like this one in Forbidden Planet, a rally resembling this one in Triumph of the Will, and cute little robots much like those in Silent Running.
George Lucas collected materials, he combined them, he transformed them. Without the films that preceded it, there could be no Star Wars. Creation requires influence. Everything we make is a remix of existing creations, our lives, and the lives of others.
As Isaac Newton once said, we stand on the shoulders of giants — which is what he was doing when he adapted that saying from Bernard de Chartres.
In Part Three we’ll explore this idea further and chart the blurry boundary between originality and unoriginality.
George Lucas was the most movie saturated filmmaker of his era, but that baton has since been passed to… Quentin Tarantino.
Quentin Tarantino’s remix master thesis is Kill Bill, which is probably the closest thing Hollywood has to a mash-up. Packed with elements pulled from countless films, Kill Bill raises filmic sampling to new heights of sophistication.
The killer nurse scene in particular is almost entirely a recombination of elements from existing films. The basic action is the same as this scene from Black Sunday, where a woman disguised as a nurse attempts to murder a patient with a syringe of red fluid. Darryl Hannah’s eye patch is a nod to the lead character in They Call Her One Eye, and the tune she’s whistling is taken from the 1968 thriller, Twisted Nerve. Capping it off, the split screen effect is modeled on techniques used by Brian De Palma in an assortment of films, including Carrie.
The act of creation is surrounded by a fog of myths. Myths that creativity comes via inspiration. That original creations break the mold, that they’re the products of geniuses, and appear as quickly as electricity can heat a filament. But creativity isn’t magic: it happens by applying ordinary tools of thought to existing materials.
For instance, all artists spend their formative years producing derivative work.
Bob Dylan’s first album contained eleven cover songs.
Richard Pryor began his stand-up career doing a not-very-good imitation of Bill Cosby.
And Hunter S. Thompson re-typed The Great Gatsby just to get the feel of writing a great novel.
Nobody starts out original. We need copying to build a foundation of knowledge and understanding. And after that… things can get interesting.
After we’ve grounded ourselves in the fundamentals through copying, it’s then possible to create something new through transformation. Taking an idea and creating variations. This is time-consuming tinkering but it can eventually produce a breakthrough.
James Watt created a major improvement to the steam engine because he was assigned to repair a Thomas Newcomen steam engine. He then spent twelve years developing his version.
Christopher Latham Sholes’ modeled his typewriter keyboard on a piano. This design slowly evolved over five years into the QWERTY layout we still use today.
And Thomas Edison didn’t invent the light bulb — his first patent was “Improvement in Electric Lamps“ — but he did produce the first commercially viable bulb… after trying 6,000 different materials for the filament.
These are all major advances, but they’re not original ideas so much as tipping points in a continuous line of invention by many different people.
But the most dramatic results can happen when ideas are combined. By connecting ideas together creative leaps can be made, producing some of history’s biggest breakthroughs.
Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press was invented around 1440, but almost all its components had been around for centuries.
Henry Ford and The Ford Motor Company didn’t invent the assembly line, interchangeable parts or even the automobile itself. But they combined all these elements in 1908 to produce the the first mass market car, the Model T.
And the Internet slowly grew over several decades as networks and protocols merged. It finally hit critical mass in 1991 when Tim Berners-Lee added the World Wide Web.
These are the basic elements of creativity: copy, transform, and combine. And the perfect illustration of all these at work is the story of the devices we’re using right now. So let’s travel back to the dawn of the personal computer revolution and look at the company that started it all… Xerox.
Xerox invented the modern personal computer in the early seventies. The Alto was a mouse-driven system with a graphical user interface. Bear in mind that a popular personal computer of this era was operated with switches, and if you flipped them in the right order, you got to see blinking lights. The Alto was way ahead of its time. Eventually Apple got a load of the Alto, and later released not one but two computers with graphical interfaces, the Lisa and its more successful follow-up, The Macintosh.
The Alto was never a commercial product, but Xerox did release a system based on it in 1981, the Star 8010, two years before The Lisa, three years before the Mac. It was the Star and the Alto that served as the foundation for the Macintosh.
The Xerox Star used a desktop metaphor with icons for documents and folders. It had a pointer, scroll bars, and pop-up menus. These were huge innovations and the Mac copied every one of them. But it was the first combination it incorporated that set the Mac on a path towards long-term success.
Apple aimed to merge the computer with the household appliance. The Mac was to be a simple device like a TV or a stereo. This was unlike the Star, which was intended for professional use, and vastly different from the cumbersome command-based systems that dominated the era. The Mac was for the home and this produced a cascade of transformations.
Firstly, Apple removed one of the buttons on the mouse to make its novel pointing device less confusing. Then they added the double-click for opening files. The Star used a separate key to open files. The Mac also let you drag icons around and move and resize windows. The Star didn’t have drag-and-drop — you moved and copied files by selecting an icon, pressing a key, then clicking a location. And you resized windows with a menu. The Star and the Alto both featured pop-up menus, but because the location of these would move around the screen, the user had to continually re-orient. The Mac introduced the menu bar, which stayed in the same place no matter what you were doing. And the Mac added the trash can to make deleting files more intuitive and less nerve-wracking.
And lastly, through compromise and clever engineering Apple managed to pare down the Mac’s price to $2,500. Still pretty expensive but much cheaper than the $10,000 Lisa or the $17,000 Star.
But what started it all was the graphical interface merged with the idea of the computer as household appliance. The Mac is a demonstration of the explosive potential of combinations. The Star and the Alto, on the other hand, are the products of years of elite research and development. They’re a testament to the slow power of transformation. But of course they too contain the work of others. The Alto and the Star are evolutionary branches that lead back to the NLS System, which introduced windows and the mouse, to Sketchpad, the first interactive drawing application, and even back to the Memex, a concept resembling the modern PC decades before it was possible.
The interdependence of our creativity has been obscured by powerful cultural ideas, but technology is now exposing this connectedness. We’re struggling legally, ethically and artistically to deal with these implications — and that’s our final episode, Part 4.
What if Xerox never decided to pursue the graphical interface? Or Thomas Edison found a different trade? What if Tim Berners-Lee never got the funding to develop the World Wide Web? Would our world be different? Would we be further behind?
History seems to tell us things wouldn’t be so different. Whenever there’s a major breakthrough, there’s usually others on the same path. Maybe a bit behind, maybe not behind at all.
Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz both invented calculus around 1684.
The theory of evolution was proposed by Darwin, of course, but Alfred Russel Wallace had pretty much the same idea at pretty much the same time. And Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray filed patents for the telephone on the same day.
We call this multiple discovery — the same innovation emerging from different places. Science and invention is riddled with it, but it can also happen in the arts.
In film, for instance, we had three Coco Chanel movies released within nine months of each other.
Around 1999 we had a quartet of sci-fi movies about artificial reality.
Even Charlie Kaufman’s unusually original, Synecdoche, New York, bears an uncanny resemblance to Tom McCarthy’s novel, Remainder. They’re both the stories of men who suddenly become wealthy and start recreating moments of their lives, even going so far as to recreate the recreations.
And actually, this — the video you’re watching — was written just before the New Yorker published a Malcolm Gladwell story about Apple, Xerox and the nature of innovation.
We’re all building with the same materials. And sometimes by coincidence we get similar results, but sometimes innovations just seem inevitable.
“The interdependence of our creativity has been obscured by powerful cultural ideas, but technology is now exposing this connectedness.”
I believe Ferguson is right to say that todays technology is instigating a vivid awareness of connectedness of ideas, an awareness of previously obscured intertextual connections. However, lets be clear about the precise role of technology here. Digital technologies have made it tremendously easy to copy, transform and (re)combine existing material… over and over again. Yet, these technologies themselves should not be seen as ‘instructing people to copy/imitate existing material’. Instead, it is people’s urge to do so that has given rise to such technologies. Technology increase our awareness of interconnectedness in an indirect fashion. In fact, what increases our awareness of the historical existence of ‘appropriation cycles’ is our use of these technologies and the issues it raises.
Ferguson briefly shows, most of human invention is based on appropriation rather than discovery and original  thought. He could also have stated that human culture is the epitome of appropriation processes. Ferguson considers examples of appropriation that are focused on industry and commerce. Another example would be the educational system. Consider, for instance, the traditional understanding of literacy as being able read and write. Elementary or primary school literacy teaching has been, and still is, depending largely upon copying. Children learn write by copying individual letters, words, sentences, and eventually entire texts presented on the blackboard - or on the projection screen. They learn to read  by reciting these letters etcetera; imitating their teacher and classmates. This is similar to the way an infant learns to speak by imitating the sounds made by adults. Ferguson correctly states that copying is the way in which people learn, but perhaps he could have elaborated on this and used it as an example in itself.
What is interesting about all this, is the connection between digital technology, creation and learning. If people learn (to create) by copying, transforming and combining existing material, then the affordances of digital technologies present interesting opportunities for studying learning outside of formal educational settings. Current social media practice might help us to (re)evaluate and appreciate educational policies and practices.
 Original thought = the origin of a stream of cascading thoughts or ideas.
 Learning to read = (in its most elementary form) making a cognitive connection between grapheme and phoneme, i.e. between text and speech.