Last week the political science department held a conference on pragmatism. And one of the things we talked about was creativity. What are the conditions under which it happens? How does it happen?

Everything is a Remix Part 1 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

I'm going to broadcast the other parts here in the weeks to come. Ferguson doesn't talk about politics per sé, although we can and should talk about the politics of ripping off black artists without compensating them, as well as the response to black sampling–it's now impossible to do what the Sugarhill Gang did without having a large sampling budget. And he doesn't really get at–in this or any other parts–the process that causes someone to engage in remixing. Take the original example of "Good Times" and "Rapper's Delight"–and as an aside I love the example he began with not only because of the book but because I believe intellectually there's so much to mine in post-soul era black cultural production. 

Why "Good Times"? 

It's possible, though not likely in this case, that "Good Times" was chosen in order to make an ironic comment on Chic. I LOVE that song, but in hindsight I remember the year it came out, and neither I nor anyone in my neighborhood were experiencing what could be called "good times". Sure the summers were filled with hide and go seek, frozen tag, tree climbing and the like. But my parents struggled while I did that.

Most likely it's the infectious beat. But why that beat rather than another?

People choose what's available to them, and then either under duress or under the influence or under other forms of inspiration they come up with something new.

I'm interested in this process as it relates to a number of different political dynamics. We don't get change–of any kind–without creativity.  

And this to me is the essence of pragmatism. Here I refer to pragmatism as a philosophical concept, rather than pragmatism as a form of expediency.