Below is an essay I wrote about JGL’s production company hitRECord. Keep reading to learn more about what makes JGL such a lovable guy.
Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt is often spotted at public events wearing a red circular button. It is the icon of his online collaborative production company, hitRECord. He launched the website in 2010, forming a community of artists to remix content and create new forms of art. Growing up he often used the phrase “hit record” to remind himself to stay creative whether it was through writing music, stories or filming (Sperling, 2011, p.2). His videos even begin with him asking, “Are we recording?” In a 2011 interview, Gordon-Levitt said, “That round [record] button became a symbol, a metaphor for taking things into my own hands and doing it” (ibid). HitRECord features artists defying the traditional means of production in a participatory culture that facilitates innovation and creativity, creates a community revolved around collaboration, and encourages people contribute their talents to benefit the community at large.
The term remix, or digital remixing, will be used to describe the process by which people download existing content from the Internet and use digital technologies to incorporate other media that often changes the intent and purpose (Lankshear, 2008, p. 283). A recordrefers to any form of user-generated content on the site, such as stories or animations. In this context, community is defined as the collective participatory culture that contributes to hitRECord and those who engage in the content (i.e. going to hitRECord events, buying albums or books they release, etc.).
This website is a catalyst for forming new and original ideas, and it allows artists to share ideas quickly with a large group of users. On hitRECord, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (or “Regular Joe”) plays a large role in the company by constantly encouraging people to “record” and prompts members of this community to upload specific types of content based on his visions. Most recently, he is requesting videos and animations that will fit into the variety TV series created around hitRECord (Gordon-Levitt, 2013). This community of collective creativity produces content that would not come out of a traditional production company. The hitRECord community is unique, because it combines the efforts of many artists to create forms of media that are only possible because of the Internet.
The founder of this website, Joseph Gordon-Levitt most recently released a film in which he was not only the star, but also the writer and the director. This is important to note, because this online production company is founded on the idea of multiple forms of creativity converging. Digital remixing and online collaboration are important part of culture, because they are emerging art forms used by these avant-garde artists. Gordon-Levitt is spearheading this movement of artists showcasing their abilities and collectively refining them by “[focusing] on spotlighting his lesser known—or completely unknown—collaborators,” (Travers, 2013, n.p.). The website benefits the large community of artists and producers, because it provides a space to enhance their creativity and further their interest in the arts and entertainment. The wide variety of records and possibilities is crucial on this kind of site, because it allows people with all different talents and levels of experience to contribute.
HitRECord invites artists of all kinds to contribute to these projects created by collective creativity. It is a participatory culture, fuelled by the combined efforts of thousands of artists. This community reflects the definition by Henry Jenkins et al. of a participatory culture in that it is one with “relatively low barriers to artistic expression”, and “strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations” (Jenkins et al., 2009, p. 7). HitRECord is similar to the ideas of Jenkins et al., because RECorders can use the “Browse” tab to view other works, and they can easily download the piece that they want to work on. There are also features like the “recommend” button to show your support for another’s work, and the comments often display admiration and excitement about what a fellow RECorder created. Even curators play an important role in sorting and disseminating records to the community. This kind of environment—in which writers, musicians, illustrators, video editors, and other types of artists can pool their talents—is beneficial to our culture, because collective creativity is stronger than the creativity of individuals.
This website enables people to use each other’s work and build off of other’s ideas. It is also a participatory culture in that it has “varying degrees of belonging, interaction, and contribution” (Henderson, 2013, p. 276). This is demonstrated through individual profiles, which show how much someone has interacted and how many records they have worked on. HitRECord is innovative, because it forms a creative environment for collaborators by encouraging artists to share their talents for the benefit of the community, as well as compensation. Features like the “contribute” button on records are important, because they invite artists to engage in the process of creating new forms of art.
The art produced by this collaborative community benefits the culture as a whole, integrating these forms of entertainment and art into the more traditional mediums. The content from hitRECord doesn’t just stay on the Internet. In fact, it is has been displayed at the Sundance Film Festival twice, along with many other film festivals. They have published books and recorded albums, and—as previously mentioned—they are working on a variety TV show (Gordon-Levitt, 2013). Participatory cultures, like hitRECord, are changing the way that people collaborate by inviting ordinary people around the globe to contribute in an online space. Conversely, this type of community might raise some concerns about the quality of content being contributed. Critics like Andrew Keen argue that the Internet has become too centered on user-generated content, and that the experts will fade into the background as amateurs flood the Internet (Keen, 2006, n.p.). However, Keen’s argument fails to recognize that there will always be professionals and that amateurs offer a different perspective that can benefit the community as well.
HitRECord brings people all over the world together through the collaborative space of the Internet. They can respond to Regular Joe’s requests, seek inspiration in each other, and build off the works of the community. It’s a participatory culture that prospers from the contributions of others. Yet in the simplest sense, it is an experiment. It is taking something that has never done before with people who often have little or no experience in the production industry, and it is crafting new and imaginative pieces through collective creativity. This kind of community reminds all kinds of artists to be creative and to share their talents. Even if they have a small portion to contribute, it could be just what someone else needs for inspiration, or it might find a place in someone else’s work. In a society that thrives on innovation and creativity, it’s time we start asking ourselves, “Are we recording?”