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kottke.org posts about Kirby Ferguson

Everything Is a Remix

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2023

Kirby Ferguson has released the final and “definitive” full-length version of his fantastic Everything is a Remix video series (transcript).

Memes are remixing. You take a photo, you repurpose it, then someone else tries it, then there’s a flood of everyone trying out combinations, including remixing other memes.

When you take something old and use it in something new, that’s remixing. It might just seem like just copying, but it’s actually something much more. Remixing can empower you be more creative.

Remixing allows us to make music without playing instruments, to create software without coding, to create bigger and more complex ideas out of smaller and simpler ideas.

You don’t need expensive tools to remix, you don’t need a distributor, you don’t even need skills or… good judgment. Everybody can remix and everybody does.

From our songs and games and movies and memes, to how we train computers to create, to the way we sense of reality, to the evolution of life itself, everything is definitely a remix.

(via matt haughey)

The First Battleground of the Age of AI Is Art

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 09, 2023

In this final installment of Everything is a Remix, Kirby Ferguson offers his perspective on image generation with AI, how it compares to human creativity, and what its role will be in the future. In watching the part about the anxiety in the creative community about these image generators, I was reminded of what Ted Chiang has said about fears of technology actually being fears of capitalism.

It’s capitalism that wants to reduce costs and reduce costs by laying people off. It’s not that like all technology suddenly becomes benign in this world. But it’s like, in a world where we have really strong social safety nets, then you could maybe actually evaluate sort of the pros and cons of technology as a technology, as opposed to seeing it through how capitalism is going to use it against us.

I agree with Ferguson that these AI image generators are, outside the capitalist context, useful and good for helping humans be creative and express themselves. Tools like Midjourney, DALL-E, and Stable Diffusion allow anyone to collaborate with every previous human artist that has ever existed, all at once. Like, just think about how powerful this is: normal people who have ideas but lack technical skills can now create imagery. Is it art? Perhaps not in most cases, but some of it will be. If the goal is to get more people to be able to more easily express and exercise their creativity, these image generators fulfill that in a big way. But that’s really scary โ€” power always is.

Tarantino’s Fan Fiction: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 23, 2022

From Kirby Ferguson (Everything is a Remix), a short video essay about how Quentin Tarantino remixed reality in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Quentin Tarantino is well-known for mashing up different movies into his own. The peak of this method is Kill Bill, which is loading with bits taken from other films. Since then, Tarantino seems to have changed โ€” there hasn’t been nearly so much obvious copying in his movies. But actually he’s still doing the same thing. He’s just copying in a different way, and the sources he copies from are less often movies and more often reality.

What Can You Do About QAnon?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 19, 2021

Over the past several months, documentary filmmaker Kirby Ferguson has been making a series of videos about conspiracy theories, including This is Not a Conspiracy Theory, Trump, QAnon and The Return of Magic (which I posted about here), and Constantly Wrong: The Case Against Conspiracy Theories, as well as this analysis of the tactics of infowar. Just before the election, he made a video for the NY Times (embedded above): What Can You Do About QAnon?

In particular, Ferguson singles out humiliation by ridicule as something to avoid when attempting to bring QAnon supporters back to reality. Instead, he suggests staying in contact, sharing relevant information, asking questions, and being patient. But as Open Culture points out: “After the violence of January 6, however, it’s reasonable to ask whether we need something more than coddling and patience.” (via open culture)

QAnon, Conspiracy Theories, and the Rise of Magical Thinking

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 11, 2020

Kirby Ferguson, creator of the Everything Is a Remix and This Is Not a Conspiracy Theory video series, has a new video out that attempts to explain the rise of QAnon, conspiracy theories, and magical thinking in America.

Ferguson zeros in on the divide between two different ways people make sense of a complex, chaotic, and uncertain world: evidence seeking and magical thinking. All of us employ both of these techniques to help ease our anxiety about the world, but those who tend towards magical thinking arrive at explanations that are based primarily on instinct, emotion, feelings, and gut reaction while evidence seekers mostly rely on scientific and empirical reasoning.

He also identifies six main aspects of magical thinking:

1. Obsession with symbols and codes (e.g. pizza as a “deep state” code for child trafficking)
2. Dot connecting (e.g. linking 5G with Covid-19)
3. Behind every event is a plan concocted by a person (e.g. Soros and the “deep state” conspiracy)
4. Purity (e.g. the Satanic panic and heavy metal music)
5. Apocalypse is nigh (e.g. the “deep state” again)
6. Preoccupation with good and evil (e.g. liberals are not only wrong but evil)

For me, the key quote about magical thinking is this one for late in the video: “These are not systems of knowledge, and they cannot build solutions. They can only criticize and second-guess.”

Everything is a Remix: The Force Awakens

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2016

When it came out in December, Star Wars: The Force Awakens made a shed-load of cash, garnered positive reviews from critics and fans alike, but also got dinged for borrowing too much from the previous films, particularly the original. In this edition of Everything is a Remix, Kirby Ferguson considers JJ Abrams’ remix settings on The Force Awakens and wonders if the essential elements of such an undertaking (copying, transforming, combining) were properly balanced.

Everything is a Remix, the ideas episode

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 21, 2011

The third episode of Kirby Ferguson’s excellent Everything is a Remix has been posted. The first episode was about music, the second dealt with movies, and the third is on technological innovation.

“I invented nothing new. I simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work. Had I worked fifty or ten or even five years before, I would have failed. So it is with every new thing. Progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready and then it is inevitable. To teach that a comparatively few men are responsible for the greatest forward steps of mankind is the worst sort of nonsense.” โ€” Henry Ford

FYI: the credits are actually in the middle of the video…there’s another few minutes of material after they run.

Everything is a Remix, part two

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 03, 2011

Kirby Ferguson is back with the next installment of Everything is a Remix, his examination of remix techniques used in film.

Featured are two of the most extensive borrowers in film: George Lucas and Quentin Tarantino. Part one is available here.