What is Remixing?

The definition of a remix is:

A piece of media which has been altered from its original state by adding, removing, and/or changing pieces of the item. A song, piece of artwork, books, video, or photograph can all be remixes. The only characteristic of a remix is that it appropriates and changes other materials to create something new.[1]

In the workplace, you will often remix the writing of your coworkers. (This is sometimes called “patchwriting.”) For example, you might build on work that your coworker did: adding new information and rewriting older content so that it fits a new purpose. You might also remix content so that it is accessible to a new audience. For example, perhaps your company has been awarded a contract to create a new park. You might take design plans from a large proposal written in technical language and remix them into social media content aimed at a general audience to build excitement within the community about the new park.

In fact, even this textbook is a remix. The author wrote some chapters, but she also used pieces from multiple different open source textbooks. Sometimes, she did small edits, like changing American spellings to Canadian ones or adding different examples. She often combined sources and rearranged them. Other times, she reimagined the chapter. For example, she took some material that was focused on academic writing and reimagined it from a business writing perspective. Because this textbook is open source, other writers will likely build upon it in the future.

In the workplace, remixing saves time and helps use the talents of many different people. For example, if your non-profit organization often applies for grants, it wouldn’t make sense to write each one from scratch, but it also wouldn’t be a successful strategy to use the same material to apply for every grant. Through remixing, you can use existing material as building blocks to create something new.

Remixing can also teach us a lot about how the creative process works. Chances are strong that you already practice the basics of remixing when you learn a new skill. The video below will show you how many of the books, movies and songs you love are actually remixes.

Everything Is A Remix

In “Everything is a Remix,” Kirby Ferguson draws on examples like Star Wars, Quentin Tarantino movies and more to show the power of remixing. Take a look:




As you watch the video, think about how you use the three elements of remixing in your own life:

  • Copy:  When you learn a new skill, do you usually start with copying? For example, maybe you’ve watched a makeup tutorial on how to make the perfect smokey eye and followed along. Maybe you improved your skill with a music instrument by trying to play a song exactly as the original artist did.
  • Transform: Have you ever transformed the work of someone else? For example, maybe you mastered the smokey eye, but adapted it to your own eye shape and experimented with different colours. Maybe you created a cover of a favourite song in a different style than the original.
  • Combine: Have you ever combined elements of different works to create something new? For example, maybe you watched several makeup tutorials then combined a few techniques into a look that was completely your own. Maybe you combined two songs into a mashup.

Experimenting with remixing can help you in many ways in the workplace. Many people’s careers have been launched by the skills they learned while remixing for fun. For example, many graphic designers first mastered Photoshop by creating funny memes for their friends. But as the video shows, professionals often use remixing skills to create new insights on the job. For example, you might notice a trend going on in a different industry or a piece of technology with a different purpose and discover how to apply it to your own particular context.

In the past, communicators in North America sought to control how their words or images were used by others. Many public relations professionals were slow to adapt to the Internet culture, which led to a backlash. For example, in 2013, Beyonce’s publicist tried to get some unflattering photos of her removed from the internet. The move backfired. Thousands of people instead shared and remixed the photo, leading to many more views than if the publicist hadn’t tried to take the photos down.

Recently, many marketing and communications professionals have learned that embracing remixing can be a great way to promote their brand. Let’s take a look at how a mascot became a political meme.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remix


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Business Writing For Everyone Copyright © 2021 by Arley Cruthers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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