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Discussion: "Improvising Digital Culture"

The topic of discussion was "Improvising Digital Culture" based on an interview between Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) and Vijay Iyer. The interview is available at critical improv. In thinking about improvisation and digital culture there lay an undercurrent that continually reexamines the relationship between being human and engaging in improvisation. In beginning from an understanding of "improvisation as a human response to necessity", we will explore some of the ways in which digital culture inhibits and/or enhances how we respond to situations and engage with notions of community.

Moving specifically towards thinking about dj culture (see for more info) and electronic music, Paul D. Miller suggests we think about these two arenas as responses to the macro structure of global digital society. Indeed, when we look at copyright and copyleft, creative commons and a number of other spaces, dj culture and electronic music appear to be at the forefront of articulating responses to changing economic, social and legal conditions. Human responses to specific changes in our social world then require a notion of improvisation linked directly to protest, agency and democratic expression. However, looking more broadly at digital communities and improvisation in this context, then live video mash-ups, and dj remixes also enter the discussion as something more than just entertainment. Human agency at large then is a central area of interest as improvising digital communities negotiate and at times refuse consumeristic relationships to records, videos, musical scores and other spaces infused with capitalist logic and interconnected to capital production. We will discuss these ideas and more at the upcoming Thinking Spaces Reading Series Session Friday October 28, 2011.

Listening itself, an improvisative act engaged in by everyone, announces a practice of active engagement with the world, where we sift, interpret, store and forget, in parallel with action and fundamentally articulated with it ("Mobilitas Animi" 113).

– George E. Lewis