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A Monkey and a Stick Figure: Stories of Remixing and Social Creativity - CSCW (2012)

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Published on Feb 16, 2012

The Scratch Online Community is a website where young people, primarily aged between eight and sixteen, create, share, and discuss video games and animations. Since the inception of the website four years ago, close to one million people have registered and more than two million projects have been shared. Users can play, download, and remix the source code of all uploaded projects; close to 30% of projects are remixes of other Scratch projects.

Act One: a Remixing Cascade We present the story of Jumping Monkey, a video game
created by a teenager who shared it on the Scratch website. The game is simple and has received few views, but it triggered a cascade of remixes resulting in many complex versions made by others. The game first sparked the imagination of a fellow Scratch creator,
who quickly made a remix by adding some simple mods to the game. He then went on to restructure the idea into a fully edged scrolling game, crediting the original as a necessary catalyst: "I'd never have started this if it wasn't for her jumping monkey."

His simple mods had even greater consequences. Another user adapted the technique into an innovative
game, which in turn inspired another user to make another sophisticated remix that garnered more than
15,000 views and propelled 21 additional remixes. One simple project resulting in several complex ones.
Examining remarkable stories such as this can allow greater insight into the spread of Internet memes and
the dynamics of social media systems.

Act Two: a Grassroots Media Franchise We then look closely at Astro, a stick figure character that has emerged as a grassroots media franchise with hundreds of remixes. Astro animations, created by a user who goes by the same name, have inspired numerous fan clubs and galleries and more than 1,000 remixes. Most remixes are tweaks for personal customization, but many others take it further. One user utilized the original graphics of an Astro animation to create a template that invited others to remix and add their characters; this method is something we call crowd remixing. Many other participants animate the Astro character into creations of their own design, the iconic stick figure invoking projects on what it would be like to meet him. Akin to professional movie or TV producers, children on Scratch have created popular media franchises, building new cultural materials and inspiring many creative remixes.

Video by: Frances Yun and Andrés Monroy-Hernández

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