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Montage, Filmmaking, Queering Macho Culture, and Mashups

March 17th, 2010
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smYwygReJdU&feature=related

Scorpio Rising (1964)

I suppose I just want to add to everyone’s lovely examples the idea that mashups aren’t really anything new…filmically they are the spawn of montage, meaning the juxtaposition of normally alienated sound and image or image and image…classically with the Communist/Soviet montage of Eisenstein.  Prior to that the idea of remixing is probably as old as tales themselves, as old as oral retelling/remixing.

The above clip is from a great gay filmmaker, Kenneth Anger.  He took straight iconic imagery and pop songs and queered them as well as gave them a savage, sinister angle.  He mixes in a movie version of Christ’s life, seemingly innocent comic books, various iconic images, old horror movies, and Elvis’ Devil in Disguise (taken off of the YouTube video for copyright violations).   These items are juxtaposed in a way which deliberately queers the eye of the watcher.

Marley, Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac remix: Woman Hold Ya Head

March 16th, 2010

Bob, Tupac & BiggieThis is a remix of songs of three musical icons in Black communities in both the USA and Jamaica. All three are deceased but continue to engage the imaginations of various publics the USA and Jamaica. No doubt the creator of this remix saw similarities among all three men: black, male, coming from oppressed classes, music that dealt with themes around violence, machismo, and also the interrelatedness of Reggae and Hiphop music, the latter being influenced by or arising out of the former. Even though Bob is from an earlier generation and Biggie and Tupac are from a later one, there is a continuity in terms of the issues addressed in their music, more so Tupac with this concern for the sufferings of black youth in American society. Bob was equally interested in liberation struggles of the poor in Third World countries. This remix creates a space with respected artists from different generations and culture meet and dialogue about issues of concern in Bedstuy, Brooklyn, especially the killing and dying of the young, black male. Even more important, I think the remix highlights the suffering of black mothers who lose their sons to violence, to the streets in untimely deaths. Tupac and Biggie too, died untimely deaths and their mothers publicly grieved and mourned. In using Bob’s song from the 70s, the remixer is able to create a new product and connections across many years and generations, highlighting that things have changed but in many ways are still the same.

debate deja vu

March 15th, 2010

This video comes from Comedy 23/6, which is a part of the Huffington Post.  Watching the Presidential debates in 2008, you may have gotten the sense that you were hearing the same lines over and over again.  This is to be expected to some degree: each candidate has talking points, perfectly pitched to be the most effective.  But heard over and over again, these lines lose their sincerity.

This video shows that your feelings of deja vu were justified.  While each debate is supposed to focus on different issues, the candidates made the same points, over and over, in exactly the same way.  This video certainly drives home the point that each debate was no different from the others, a point that could not be made (at least not so well) by watching each debate separately.

The feeling of deja vu is not the only feeling this video evokes.  You get the sense that the candidates are simply feeding you lines to convince you of their points.  But once you see (as the video shows) that they are just lines, repeated over and over, you cannot help but to question the integrity of the candidates.

Rick Astley Nirvana Mashup

March 15th, 2010

DJ Morgoth (audio), Thriftshop XL (video), “Never Gonna Give Your Teen Spirit Up,” 2008. Video, uploaded to YouTube, color, sound; 3:53 min.

This seamless mashup of Rick Astley’s 1987 pop hit “Never Gonna Give You Up” and Nirvana’s grunge anthem “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991) was released in the middle of 2008, when the practice known as “Rickrolling” was becoming popular among mainstream internet users.  Rickrolling began as a simple prank on the cult imageboard 4chan: a user would click on a misleadingly-named link and find herself watching Astley’s original (unoriginal) video. But it quickly evolved into something much bigger. It was unarguably a meme – millions of users worldwide were rickrolled – but, beyond this, rickrolling became a disruptive countercultural act, mobilized on- and offline for protest or lulz. In February 2008, the song was broadcast at anti-Scientology demonstrations by the group Anonymous. In April, the New York Mets conducted an internet poll to select an eighth-inning singalong song – five million voters wrote in “Never Gonna Give You Up.”  In November Rick Astley, whose career had been lackluster since the early nineties, was voted MTV Europe’s “Best Act Ever,” and rickrollers in the UK attempted to resist the entrenched dominance of a TV talent show by pushing his record to the top of the Christmas singles chart.

As the meme peaked, though, its subversive power eroded. YouTube rickrolled its users on April Fool’s Day, and at the 2008 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Rick Astley unexpectedly performed (or rather lip-synched) the song from a float, rickrolling 50 million viewers.  Nancy Pelosi even rickrolled anyone who clicked on her tour of the Speaker’s Office  when the Congressional YouTube channel launched in January 2009.  Encyclopedia Dramatica has thus declared it an “old meme.”  

The mashup melds seeming antitheses – eliciting outrage from some Nirvana fans who find it disrespectful to the memory of the lead singer, Kurt Cobain (he committed suicide in 1994). It was “Teen Spirit”, though, that propelled Nirvana to mainstream success; their album Nevermind ultimately went 10x Platinum, outselling Astley’s debut by five to one. The mashup can be read, perhaps, as comment on a culture that eats its young, and elegy for those young, who from this distance seem equally innocent, and lost.

Note that in spite of objections by the copyright holders both video and audio remain widely accessible on YouTube and file-sharing sites.

March 15th, 2010

Remix Culture Assignments

March 12th, 2010

Hi Everyone,

Here are the updated reading assignments for this week:

Lessig, Lawrence. Remix: making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy. New York: Penguin Press, 2008.

Intro + Part I: pp. 1-117
Part 3 + conclusion: pp. 253-295

Heffernan, Virginia. “The Hitler Meme

Various, “Downfall” videos on YouTube.

Further reference: “Downfall/Hitler Meme” on Know Your Memes

Leavitt, Alex, “Memes as Mechanisms: How Digital Subculture Informs the Real World.” Convergence Culture Consortium Blog. 2 February 2010. .

Assignment to Explore:“Memes and Remixes/Mash An Argument” by Bill Wolff

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Blogging Assignment: Remix Curation

Write a blog post on our group blog that presents a remix video that you’ve found on a public video sharing site like YouTube or Vimeo. Imagine that you work in a museum and that you are curating remix videos as examples of 21st century popular culture. Your blog post must embed the video and include a paragraph or two explaining its significance from a formal, cultural, or social perspective. Suggested length: 250-500 words

n.b. To embed a video file, copy the URL from the YouTube/Vimeo page, click on the YouTube icon above the posting interface, and paste the link in. If you have problems, contact Matt.

Here is an example of what this might look like:


Kutiman, “01 – Mother of All Funk Chords” ThruYou, 2009. Video, uploaded to YouTube, color, sound; 3:36 min.

Israeli artist Ophir Kutiel, known as Kutiman, published the ThruYou video project in early 2009. “The Mother of All Funk Chords,” the first track in the project, contained no original music produced by Kutiman; rather, his video presented an entirely new song — a new melody, a new rhythm — derived entirely out of old footage that Kutiman had found on YouTube. Most of the clips chosen for the project were instructional musical videos that either provided free musical lessons for viewers or performed some relatively banal exercise, such as a scale, on an instrument. By weaving together these mundane clips into a vibrant piece of music, Kutiman demonstrated Lawrence Lessig’s point in Remix that the best remix videos tend to “deliver a message more powerfully than any original alone could” (71).

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If you have questions about the assignment, please let us know.

Following Up and Looking Forward

February 20th, 2010

Thanks, everyone, for a great discussion last Wednesday. Here are links to a few sites I mentioned in the course of our conversation:

Two ideas from Jim Groom, Instructional Technologist at University of Mary Washington and blogger at Bavatuesdays:

  • A Domain of One’s Own, in which he discusses the idea of giving students control over their own domain/server spaces.
  • The Digital Five Ring binder, in which discusses the idea of giving every student a blog and syndicating content from student blogs to aggregated course sites.

Also, I wanted to mention two other resources that can be used to create digital spaces for your classes:

  • Ning: Ning allows users to created social networks around topics of their choosing. Like WordPress.com, it is a hosted solution. It has two problematic aspects: it is not open source, and non-premium accounts have text ads in the sidebar. But it does offer a very easy-to-use social environment that my students, at least, have responded to very positively.
  • Elgg is an open-source social networking platform. If you have your own server, you can use the open-source Elgg platform to create a social site for your courses.

Finally, here’s a reminder of the chapters we’re reading from Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks:

Chapter 1 Introduction pp. 1-28
Part One Intro. The Networked Information Economy pp. 29-34
Part Two Intro. The Political Economy of Property and Commons pp. 129-132
Chapter 6. Political Freedom Part 1: The Trouble with Mass Media pp. 176-211
Chapter 7. Political Freedom Part 2: Emergence of the Networked Public Sphere pp. 212-272
Chapter 8. Cultural Freedom: A Culture Both Plastic and Critical pp. 273-300
Chapter 10. Social Ties: Networking Together pp. 356-377

Benkler’s text is available online in many formats, including PDF, Google Books, HTML, and others.

Welcome to Core 2

January 26th, 2010

A hearty welcome to all students enrolled in the Spring 2010 Core 2 class in the ITP Program. Steve and I are excited to work with you this semester.

We are asking that you do a bit of reading in advance of our first class meeting on February 3rd. Both readings are pretty light and are meant to give you an introduction to the larger themes of the course:

February 3: Introductory Materials
Friedlander, Amy. “Asking Questions and Building a Research Agenda for Digital Scholarship.”

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