Remixing In Rainbows (and the church)

Radiohead/ Remix/ Nude

In the spirit of creativity and utilizing the web to foster fan-based participation, Radiohead has launched the website Radioheadremix.com and are inviting everyone to remix their latest single “Nude.” They’ve split the song up into five separate tracks and have made each available for sale so that you can remix the song however you’d like. I was a little surprised and disappointed to see that they are selling the tracks, but otherwise I think it’s a pretty cool thing they’re doing. Despite the name of the band the number one remix right now is really good and worth listening too. Let me know if any of you decide to go ahead and make your own remix, I’d like to check it out and vote for it.

Remixing in the Church?

This move of radiohead’s is a great example of how the culture of the web is influencing more and more a high level of participation similar to what we see with sites like Wikipedia, Youtube and muxtape.com. Participation is the name of the game in today’s culture, even if (and it usually does) it comes with some kind of cost. People everywhere are given the space to join in and add their input, even if that input is bad, weird, or potentially harmful or unhelpful. But the uncertainty that comes with this high level of participation is far more appealing (and often more exciting) than the alternatives.

I think a lot of church going people (at least those heavily influenced by this web-culture) desire, hope to see, and eventually become disillusioned by the lack of participation in church. Church for many is still consumption based; come, be “fed,” pay your tithe, consume the words given through sermon and song, take advantage of all the services these buildings offer and head out until next Sunday. We often think of participation solely in terms of consumption — I can only participate when I consume.  So, why is there so little participation when it comes to creative output, fostering key ideas, and in the actual leadership of many of our churches? Isn’t the old “joke” that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Strangely, this joke makes no sense when it comes to the level of participation we see in web culture. Would more people be willing do these kinds of “remixes” within the church, even at some kind of cost (say, personal time), if they were given the open door and freedom to do it in the way they wanted? What keeps the church from enacting this Radiohead model, where they give away albums for (basically) donation, and then invite people to remake their music however they wish, no matter how good or bad it turns out (of course, this illustration can be stretched to the breaking point).

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

5 thoughts on “Remixing In Rainbows (and the church)”

  1. I’ve often wondered why we don’t see more of this in Christian culture. My bet is that 10-15 years from now we’ll see this kind of thing happening in Christian circles as that seems to be the “lag” time it takes for something to seep from pop culture into Christian culture.

  2. Whoa, Wess, you really hit me with this…and isn’t “teaching” a similar institution which has undergone a change similar to remixing, with the change from “stand and deliver” to “integrative, student-centered”?

    What I think I learned from my 70’s/80’s schooling is that it’s still good to have a pedagogy that is inclusive, but also to retain a core set of goals (both shared and imposed) which need measurement and a shared criteria for what good process looks like, otherwise it can become too chaotic.

    I think Radiohead is definitely headed in the capitalist direction, steering folks to their work via their site and their governance of their product (sorry for the hollow-analysis of such an emotive genre). People can and have done remixing underground, but their “legitimizing” it by giving it a sanctioned forum (see Apple’s iPhone Web Apps, as a model)–the delivery and purchase point is still owned and controlled by them, so it’s not truly free, though it is participatory (criteria for buy-in is relatively low). Maybe it’s kind of like blogging!

    This is why I like this connection you make–the Quaker faith asks us to play by certain rules that just aren’t negotiable: a faith rooted in Christ, based on a European founder, and centered on that of God in everyone. These are the imposed criteria, but let’s remix it, find ways the tracks we’re given (the Testimonies?) can be reinterpreted in our own vision and submit them back to our Meetings.

    I think this last stage of decision is the most challenging–which ones get posted? What if there is offensive language that isn’t “sanctioned” by Radiohead? What if they got the Negativland treatment that U2 got? We’ll probably never know, as they’ve got the mic on this. Maybe it’s actually like Obama’s speech, a symbol of strength of message rather than being coopted into the whirlpool of public perception.

    I wonder how Jesus got control over his message. Talk about being remixed ;-).

  3. Wess,

    Nice thoughts. I have been thinking a great deal lately on what it means to participate in the Kingdom of God via creation, and for that matter, how the Church could advocate it a bit more. It would seem as if God is a God of creation and has been from the beginning, and in our likeness to the image of God, there is something that resonates with us when confronted with the option or opportunity to create. This may be music, food, a table, an organization, etc., we seem to have something that gets excited within us with creating. I think a big place that we grow in this is exactly what you are speaking of in that we look at broader models and new ideas that take us away from consumerism and materialism and moves us towards participation. The object is not to create a great product for consumption, but to create a forum and median for participation.

  4. @Chad – great comment, and some really good points you bring up. I really like how you pulled out the idea of rules and form, that there is something still there of radiohead’s even though it’s now something new, something remixed. A remixing has to recognizable as both the original piece and as something completely different and new. Too far in either direction and it’s a flop. This is what we’re trying to do with convergent Friends I think — right? I also like what you said about Quakerism, and seeing the testimonies as tracks! Nice, I am sure that’s the first time that’s ever been imagined!

    @Josh – thanks for dropping by man! I like that you bring in a number of other areas and tie it into creation, I completely agree that this is the mode and task of the church today — to create a forum and median for participation [in the Kingdom of God].

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