Thursday, August 03, 2006

Mash Up Fun

In a Washington Post piece called "Art and Marketing All Mashed Up," Sara Kehaulani Goo reviews how mash-up videos are being used to comment on popular culture, products, and current events. Goo explains that a "mash-up video mixes original images or sounds with music, quick-witted narrations or creative transitions. The result is a video dialogue of sorts that makes a statement that is political, personal or merely entertaining."

Fueled by digital cameras and recorders, and easy to use film and image editing software, it is easy for folk to create what are in effect multimedia compositions. The idea that mash-ups are dialogues with source materials or events suggests to me a kind of active reading. In reading a print text, a book say, we encourage students to respond, and we teach them to underline, take margin notes, draw connections to other things they've read. But it's always been hard, in my teaching experience, to have students do this particularly well. Their notations are begrudging and often are on subjects they're just learning about.

Mash-ups require the same kind of engagement we try to get in reading print in our classrooms -- making connections, interjecting ideas. However, they process of shifting from a private dialogue to a publically shared one via a mash-up causes some key shifts. First, the reading is a performance. Second, the technology makes it possible to engage write/edit images, words, sound and video directly into the primary text, pulling it apart and mixing it up in ways that just don't correspond at all to writing notes in a book's margin. It's this combination of freedom and performance (and the fact that doing these is a choice, not an assignment) that makes them so prevalent on the WWW.

So, can Mash-up assignments work? Would making a mash-up an option in a writing class rob it of some essential freedom? I don't think it has to --depends upon how you frame the assignment. The first thing I'd ask, is if any of my students have already done a mash-up or something like it (photoshop manipulation; fanfic story; parody or satire of some kind). The second thing I'd do is make my own mash-up just for fun and to see what it's like.

And that's what's also cool about Goo's piece. If you want to play around with mashups, the Washington Post
provides a clip of their political reporter, Dana Millbank, asking
questions. You can mix in your own answers, and if you want, submit
your M-up back to the Post for a little contest they're running.

So go ahead. Plan a mash-up assignment for the fall. And make your own to show your students.


At 3:22 PM, Anonymous joanna said...

Well, weren't we asking the same questions about blogging not too long ago? Once you bring something in the classroom, you domesticate it (rather than leaving it feral?)by creating the assignment and holding the class to expectations.


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