Monday, June 28, 2010

Mashup vs Remix - a tale of two text types

What are the similarities and differences between these two moving image commentaries? Below are some definitions and interesting examples.

A Remix - is an alternate version of an original source, a newly created version from source material. Elements are re-assembled in a new way.

A Mashup - is a version using multiple sources sometimes with little or no relation, often lampooning or referring to another text or source. It is a derivative work with properties of intertextuality where a texts' meanings are shaped and informed by other texts.

This bricolage idea of use what you have is not a new one, but with the easy availability of multiple texts and technology, the remix and mashup are moving from messages passed between peer groups into broader realms of social commentary and education. Aided by the speed of social networking, they can move from one phase to another in a matter of hours.

A Fair(y) Use Tale by Eric Faden - a remix illustrating copyright law, derivative but not lampooning. It's a great example of remix explaining Fair Use and Copyright law. Note that he cites his sources at the end.

The measurements for fair use involve elements of criticism, news reporting, teaching and parody. Keep these in mind as you review the following pieces below.

Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan - Jason Stakeman's remix incorporating mashup techniques intended to educate the viewer about the war in Afghanistan as well as comment on American foreign policy and culture. It compares the US invasion with the westerns of John Ford.

Edward vs Buffy - a remix by Rebellious Pixels/Jonathan McIntosh lampooning the romance genre in a mashup style and commenting on male/female relationships.

And another by Rebellious Pixels - a remixed commercial for a popular SUV.

Here's a mashup lampooning the Twilight series and the music video Wanted Dead or Alive that was created to market fake engagement rings by Ms. Taken.

Here's a mashup of a mashup - the Hitler video parody. Using a clip from the 2004 German film Der Untergang (Downfall), these videos number in the hundreds at least. Seeing Bruno Ganz as Hitler rant about current events and setbacks seems to have an endless appeal. The film's director Oliver Hirschbiegel seems to get the spirit in which they are presented, while Constantin Films, the production company, has requested the videos be removed.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Open Source – The End of Scarcity means More

IBM has estimated that the amount of digital information will double every 11 hours in 2010.

That’s an abundance of unlimited content, access, and information. Something barely imaginable. It is frightening and exciting at the same time. It is a huge paradigm shift for a culture used to a previous world driven by scarcity, preciousness and exclusivity.

The potential here is best understood in the context of education.

At Itunes U any number of amazing and free lectures from places like MIT, the Sorbonne, Cambridge and UNC Chapel Hill can be downloaded.

It’s a remix of the traditional idea of education: get some experts, people eager to learn and start a discussion. Where it takes place is less relevant, though to draw students the content must be strong and the sense of Bakhtinian sobornost – “togetherness” or “true sense of community” must still exist.

More control and choice for learners creates a P2P environment where students are both learners and teachers as well as creators and consumers. Knowledge flows freely rather than being stockpiled.

A unique example of this is happening at Purdue University. They have designed an app called Hotseat. It functions like Twitter for the lecture hall and in fact was developed with the idea that students were already texting anyway -- why not create a faculty endorsed distraction to focus that back channel discussion? With this app, students are commenting on the commentary and asking questions. Student to student sharing has been embraced by Purdue rather than seeing it as a threat for it’s potential to encourage cheating and non independent learning. In this way, redundant academic work becomes more vibrant and open. Hotseat is remediative - a new way of showing an old media form. Ie; the "class discussion" experience.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Spectacular Society: why the open source movement could lead to a conscious revolution for social justice

Kite running in Afghanistan is a dangerous sport. Lives are endangered in this endeavor so distracting that Afghans have plunged to their death from great heights or been gravely injured chasing their beloved kites, as precious and revered as baseball and apple pie for Americans.

Guy Debord, the author of “The Society of the Spectacle” suggests that mass media offers a distraction by showing a fake reality to obfuscate the degradation of capitalism. After being subjected to a few minutes of the reality TV series “The Real Housewives of New York” in a physician’s waiting room, one might suspect he was on to something.

Could distraction be the metaphor for our involvement in international conflict? Is the pursuit of war a massive spectacle to distract the ordinary citizen? The phrase, “Go fly a kite” comes to mind. In other words, beat it, so the important work can get done.

Victor Klemperer’s writing regarding the language used by the Nazi regime illustrate the importance of observing how those in power manipulate language. Ironically after surviving the oppression of this regime as a Jew he went on to serve in the Volkskammer of the former German Democratic Republic, one of the most oppressive states of the 20th century.

Repeated negative images, news of death and failure, unemployment, the continuing spill of oil into the Gulf all cause us to suffer from “compassion fatigue”, burn out, secondary traumatic stress disorder. Where political events and our private lives in the post 911-era intersect, it appears that scaremongering and schadenfreude create compassion fatigue which in turn is remedied tidily by spectacle.

The disconnect caused by spectacle has also engendered a sense of desperation for contact. We are so obsessed with the need to be ‘in touch” that we repeatedly reach out to our colleagues and family members via text message and Facebook. In a dislocated, spectacular world, our constant seeking of reassurance that everything’s “okay” drives us as intensely as the Afghan kite runners.

A little distraction is probably okay, within the realm of normal even. But how can we be assured that we aren’t completely disconnected from human suffering and injustice? One way is by reclaiming the message we’re given. If everyone can possess the means to reshape the images and messages sent to us, then meaning can be re-framed and the hegemony of those who have power over our language can be challenged.

New meaning can be recreated, communities formed and social change created. In this way, much like the open source software movement, open data and information access can be the tools of compassionate social change.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mind Mapping - Tinderbox, Scrivener and Neo Victorian Computing

I'm developing narrative that I hope to eventually turn out into the metaverse as an open source collaborative project/experience. It might be a hypertext, a space in Second Life, a web series, or it could become any number of things. Ultimately, I believe it's the narrative that matters and the experience of it, not the distribution method. To this end, I am exploring mind mapping software (which I admit sounds nefarious and cyberpunkish) in the form of Tinderbox and Scrivener to organize my non-linear thought paths.

I'm not sure which one I like better, the free demo for Tinderbox is limited by number of entries and features in demo mode but at this point I'm just not able to financially spring for it at $200+ for the full access. This is also partially why I downloaded Scrivener, which is only slightly more affordable by about $50. Initial use of both however as not yet swayed me one way or the other.

I am inspired by images. I have had photographs send me off into my imaginative deep end - diving into places where I step back after a frenzy of creativity and marvel at where this stuff came from. The world I am creating this codex for has origins in a lot of science and pseudo-science and multiple cultural influences. I want to keep these images, web links, PDF's and clips organized and also be able to see other ways I can mix them together to form the canon. For now I'd like it resident only on my computer, until I am ready to release, which is why I have not chosen a wiki as my main tool.

The creator of Tinderbox, Mark Bernstein has a blog which caught my eye, particularly his thread about Neo-Victorian computing and he defines it as

Built for people 
Built by people 
Crafted in workshops 
    This has a resonance for me because these seem to be the same characteristics held by the open source movement. Built by those who will use it. Created in small work groups by individuals. Democratic (as in the irregular chaos of a democracy). Inspired - people want to make things work better. An example of this is which Ton Roosendaal talked about as a community that evolved around the software with people from all over the world wanting to improve upon it.

    Thanks to Jonny Goldstein for this mind map image on Flickr.

    At the intersection of art and new media, a place where the convergence emerges.