Mash Up

She’s Going Down: Mash-Up

 This was not the first time I’ve worked with digital video, but it is the first time I’ve ever made something even remotely similar to a mash-up. Recording how-to videos, vlogs, or video game-related videos and editing those is one thing, but looking at hours of media and trying to process and synthesize them into a video is a very different animal.

To be frank, I dislike the idea of mash-ups, both in video and otherwise—I had to write a “multi-genre” piece in another class that was a similar idea of combining various styles into one thing, and I disliked that, as well. I like telling stories and I like making statements, but I’ve always been very particular with how I do things: Why buy a computer when I can make one myself, why buy a Halloween costume when I can sew, why put together a video that is a stitched together version of other videos when I can make something myself?

With that in mind, I had to really rethink how I approached this assignment. At first, I had the ideas sketched out, much like the storyboard rough draft we were assigned to do. I knew what I wanted, and I wanted to find things that fit right so, but when you’re not working with your own creations, things simply do not work like that, so instead of trying to find videos that fit my story, I ended up scrapping everything and finding videos that had images I thought I could work with, editing those videos down to the related sections, and then seeing how those could fit into a greater story. I needed to tell a story, but I could not do it by looking at the story in a linear fashion and hoping what I had would fit. Instead, I started to look at it as a puzzle where I had all these pieces, and if I put them together just right, there would be something there: It would no longer be a mass of colors and lines, but a fully-formed image (or in this case, idea).

Another challenge while creating the mash-up is that I do not think—or make any sort of art—with semiotic theories in mind. I think, “Putting that clip next to that will be powerful,” or “Speeding up this clip will create a sense of urgency” without telling myself that I’ve used this-or-that theory. These theories are things I assign to what I’ve done afterward, when I look into my motivations and reasoning, and this is also why I know I have trouble discussing my work in relation to these ideas. I can tell you why did something in this process, but to say it was a conscious choice to relate one clip to another in an active attempt to represent the idea of truth of falsity is not how I think, and in that way I approached this assignment like I approach any story I write, thinking about what I want to say and how to get there without getting bogged down by concepts. I worked on giving it meaning before searching out ways to add to develop the little nuances that would make or break my point.

And while, through all of this, I still dislike the mash-ups as a whole, I have come away with more respect for the medium: To tell a story without using your own words and/or images, with content you had no hand in the creation of, is a strange and arduous task. It required thinking in ways that I rarely do, and to some extend helped me make realization about my own story-telling. Although not related to mash-ups, often I would look at non-linear stories, or mysteries, and think of how I would never know how to put together a plot myself, creating something that was not more tradition in form, but through my many mash-up trials and errors, I have figured out this: That sometimes it is best not to see a story as a linear thing, but as a puzzle waiting to be solved (or taken apart). Puzzles make an image, and images tell stories, but they are not given to you with the pieces numbered 1 to 1,000, and the ability to think of stories in this way has opened many doors for me, writing was (although I do still expect many errors along the way—after all, it only took me scrapping one whole draft to finally get this project on track).

Semiotic Analysis

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MediMasks

I am familiar with video editing and many different programs to do so. The technical aspect of this medium was not a hurtle for me but conveying a message without being concrete was difficult with this medium. In writing classes, we often hear “show don’t tell,” in video we automatically show and use the sound and images in order to tell. Because I was not allowed to use text, the mashup only allowed me to show and not tell. Showing and not telling added to the noise. Noise, according to Sean Hall, is the “distortion or alteration in the meaning or method of transmission of a message” (41). The mashup is made of noise entirely. There were times when I was composing this video that even I was not sure what I was conveying. I think the largest obstacle I face (and I’m not sure I even overcame it) was creating meaning through the use of familiar material. If I use a word in my writing its context only exists within my story, but if I use a clip in my mashup it’s context exists both in its original context, the context I intend to create in my mashup, and the context which the viewer perceives the clip in.

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Testing Testing 1 2 3 Reflection

 

A. The Process
At first glance, when I signed up for the course I was extremely excited for the mash up. Looking over the student samples gave me great pleasure. And then my experience; I have never edited a video. My laptop is 6 years old and takes far too long to download clips, let alone software. I used my boyfriend’s adobe premier that crashed multiple times on imports and trimming. I then moved to on a specific Mac in the James Hall computer lab using iMovie to complete the assignment. For very first draft the work I put into mashing the clips together took about 5 hours. This of coursedid not include watching videos for that one second of footage needed. I severely underestimated the amount of work needed for the mash up. When I first watched the students work I immediately thought how well put together they looked. Little did I understand the work needed to get there.

The whole process was incredibly time consuming, almost to the point where you just want to stop and never open YouTube ever again. This is the portion where my learning occurred. Spending those long hours was necessary in order for me to understand the software. Looking back, I needed that time to figure out how the software worked, because I have never worked on something similar with devoting hours to learning it, I wouldn’t have been able to work with as easily as I did towards the end. It made me think that if I wrote, including this very sentence, with the effort of a minute worth of mash up video, the sentence would be full of eloquent craft, composure, and nonetheless grammar free. I regret to note that my writing is never as such.The art of video mash up is intense, you can no longer write when inspiration strike. For me specifically I could only do it on a specific computer. That alone limited when I could compose.

I find it both easy and difficult to compare and contrast video mash ups to alphabetical writing. I found sources by speaking to those around me for inspiration. Additionally, I had to rely heavily on key word specific searches for my videos. The hardest part for me was watching content that made me uneasy. Usually, I would mute the audio and only focus on the visuals while finding clips. By doing so I was able to separate myself from the clips. When first starting the mash up, I had fears that I would get upset due to the content that I was researching : human testing . Occasionally, I would get stuck on what clips I should be looking for and I turned to articles and other sources that gave information on specific experiments on humans, just as I would a research paper.

There were also piles of video from movies that I had stumbled upon. These clips were easily found and were some of the first items mentioned when asking friends to help brainstorm scenes to use. The only issue was in the way that I included them. At the time, they were the most realistic clips I had found, but when I inserted them, it almost made the mash up comical, rather than serious and dark. While I thought putting clips of wolverine screaming would be effected, other perceived it as a moment to laugh because it was over the top. With that, I knew that I had to relook my approach and proceed deeper into video clips to find actual more raw footage. It was as if I were doing the research for a research paper, but not necessarily using that initial research. Once you uncovered an idea, you have to dig deeper and deeper to really get to what you were looking for. As a writer I tend to struggle with narrowing down a thesis for paper, but with the mash up, I did not have to worry about actually stating my thesis. Instead, the viewers are supposed to infer my meaning through the content.

Just like writing, the mashup needed constant revision. I would talk to something about what my purpose was and realize that a clip didn’t work or I would be explaining why I used a certain clip and realized I needed to use it more throughout the video or take it out. It was not until my last draft that I realized how much I had invested into the mashup. In general, I never talk to others about school, but here I was asking people for ideas and showing them the drafts I had published. It might have been because the work was actually meant to be viewed by the public that I cared more about it than an essay meant for a professors eyes. Or, was it because I am actually proud of the way the video turned out. For having no background in video editing I felt as though I was invested in the mashup, more than any other college assignment before. Even after I submitted my final draft I thought of another aspect I wanted to include and went back and revised and published again.

 

B. Semiotic Theories
The art of the mash up was an entirely new process for me. The idea of creating video as a form of writing is innovative. Previous college assignments are unparalleled to the challenge of my creative and writing processes. Creating the mash forced me to dispute my own understandings of what writing is, or rather now, what writing was. While, my creation did not necessarily comply with looking for ways to use the Semitic theories, instead diving deeper into the mash up allowed me to find out what my subconscious was doing in the process. I continue to look at semiotics based on the back of Sean Hall’s “This Means This This Means That” which states, “whether they are conscious or not, all graphic designers are semioticians.”

Throughout the video there are multiple clips of the progress of an atomic bomb exploding. As the video progresses, the mushroom of the bomb grows larger.  Each clip of the atomic bomb are sped up 800%. This was done to exemplify the idea that experiments can get out of control quickly. By using fast and slow clips, Hall mentions that the clips can be used as a flow to determine speed (108).  This quick flow is a symbol for one human, becoming several or one bomb, becoming 3000.

The clip of the bloody mouth throughout the mash up is used as a symbol of gore.  When it first appears the viewers are forced to watch it for approximated 3.5 seconds, concluding to the idea that you cannot hide yourself from the truth. Because it is in your face, it is meant to show viewers the dirty world of testing. This clip has claimed the prominence over the mash up, as it is repeated several times throughout the whole piece (Hall 122). This disturbing image, along with the various scenes from a LUSH campaign showing a human in a nude bodysuit getting treated as an animal would should allude  to an uneasy feeling in my viewers. I did this so that my audience remembers the disturbing image, just as human testing is.

Additionally, I want viewers to realize that chemicals once deemed safe by organization have had terrible side effects on the participants at hand. The clip of spraying DDT on the children and in a city street demonstrates an idea that children and society were being used as testing subjects without their knowledge, and without the knowledge of the scientists.

I show a scene of children acting as doctors three times within the mashup. These clips are always following or preceding clips of scientists or doctors. By juxtaposing them side by side I am creating the irony between innocence and intentions (Hall 60). The children playing doctor is used with juxtaposition to show the irony innocence plays in relation to real life situations. Additionally, it is also attempting to make intertextual relationships between the two images. This is to say that are connected under s common theme, and that “the various works are interrelated,” (Hall 126). Doing this communicates the idea that these innocent children are our future.  As children they play doctor and in their adult life they take on the career. Depending on our needs they will either follow in our footsteps or change the behaviors around. There is a chance that they will continue to use humans as testing subjects or possibly be the humans that the testing is being done to. Much of science is exploratory, without any knowledge of dangerous effects some drugs of chemical produce. Cellular radiation, for instance has not been researched heavily for the cause of chronic illness, but like DDT could become the cause of diseases in future findings.  These clips you may note are also in vibrant color as the saturation has been up, that is until the very end of the video when the saturation is turned all the way turning the children into grayscale. This change of clip demonstrates that chance for the children to grow up and continue testing on humans in unethical ways.

I wanted to emphasis that many times the testing subjects do not have control on their situations and are forced, without their knowledge or consent to the testing. For this idea, I included direct clips of animal testing with the images of the beagles in cages and receiving injections The viewers should connect with intertextuality to the clips of the mental ward which appear towards the end of the video and the multiple clips of the atomic bomb exploring. The clips of a white rat being dangled from a scientists hand is used as a direct symbol of animal testing, like the term, “lab rat”. That being said the rat is also being used as a metaphor for humans whom replace rats in certain experiments (Hall 54).  This clip of the rat being handled is in grayscale until the very last clip where the saturation is upped and the scientist is petting the rat instead of dangling it. Coming after the children playing doctor clip I used the proximity to show that not only can the children change our future, but the adult can as well. The return of the color is potentially the return of kindness and hope for better treatments of humans (and animals alike). Here, is where you should pay careful attention to the color of said rat. It is white. Looking back I connect white to the scientists who carried out the treatments. More often than not it was a white male who was the doctor in my other clips and in society. By having a white rat I am depicting the idea that it has been historically Caucasians who have used other minorities for subjects (Hall 66). The scene where white ferrets pace in cages is using the color white to depict the main race that control who or what is being tested on. Hall notes that what is being depicted, “may also be different than what it represents.” When there are other groups that are below the majority that minority has been used for scientific experiments. Whether it is African Americas, individuals with disabilities, women, or children; when they are not seen as equal sometimes they are used in science as the testing subjects. Another metaphor that I used was the guinea pig, to go with the saying that the first one to test out if it works or doesn’t, are the guinea pigs .

While I do not necessarily believe that my mashup tells a story or narrative I believe that these final clips (children play doctor in grayscale and scientist petting a rat in color) give the mash up and ending thought to ponder upon. Whether that is the entire narrative of my mash up, I am not even sure, but it is one that draws attention to itself (174).

The trimmed a vaccination video clip to a section of  a baby getting drops from a tube squeezed into its mouth. With Hall’s, “viewer and image” it can be assumed that the baby is receiving a harmful OR helpful drug. While in the original video the child is receiving a rotavirus oral vaccine, due to the doom and gloomy feeling one could receive from the video that specific image could be human giving a child a deadly drug. That being said, that clip in particular is very effective. Having two sides of possible interpretation, I like that conflict is provides viewers. It make them question what they are viewing and can in turn be used as a lie. While my originally intention for that specific clip was to portray medicine helping humans, the idea that the drugs being given to kill the child is also interesting. I feel as though in this clip I am not only lying or misleading my viewers, but also myself. In reality, the whole purpose of the video is to questions humans and society as a whole, this clip seems to do both of that, as long as the viewers are able to make that meaning from my content.

Engaging stereotypes for the mash up was an effective was to persuade my viewers to think as I do. By using a clip of a white doctor injecting serum or ‘treating’ blacks during the Tuskegee Syphilis Project I engage my audience to the ideal that testing on humans is unethical. I attempt to shame doctors, past and presents for their work regardless of how it helped others.

I used the video of a white blood cell chasing bacteria multiple times thorough the mash up. Many times it comes before and after the clip of a baby receiving an oral vaccination. Because of the proximity of the white blood cell consuming bacteria and the vaccination I mean to create the idea that vaccinations are necessary in the prevention of diseases.  You may also notice that this clip appears in place of the machine gun at a certain point in the mash up, but doing this I was posing a double meaning. This is not only suggesting the need for vaccinations, but also reflects the dark truth that many vaccinations are created by using humans for testing. The sense and reference theory explains how our perceptions can shift “meaning of reference…to undermine or compromise our ability to communicate clearly” (Hall 84). By engaging two purposes for a single clip I am referring to two separate meanings.

Each draft of “Testing, Testing 1 2 3″ explored my own process, shifted the manner I composed, and ultimately pushed me revise, even when I thought the end product was final. I originally wrote the word “‘made’ me revise”, but the truth is that I wanted to and needed to in order to enhance my purpose for the assignment. I felt it necessary in order for my readers to better interrupt my message. For the first time ever in my college career, I was self motivated to revise my work, because I thought or understood the ideas behind the mash up more clearly in retrospect. By exploring the theories and comparing them to how I created my mash up, I have discovered my internal semiotician and I will continue to see the world with this view.

Do the Robot: My Mash-up and Reflections

On composing my first mash-up:

Graduate school has been all about firsts for me: first website build, first memoir written, and now, first mash-up video mashed up. First video of any kind ever for me, actually. There were both good experiences and bad trying to create a five-minute video in the newest version of iMovie on my 5-year-old MacBook, but nearly all were valuable lessons learned in composing texts.

In writing, the author need only produce words. In a mash-up, however, the author not only communicates through clips culled from outside sources, but he or she must also consider the audio and its relation to the images appearing onscreen. And because the cadence of the audio track determines the longevity and frequency of the video clips, I knew I had to start by selecting a song first.

Something I had not anticipated but became immediately apparent was how trimming one video clip, even by a tenth of a second, or by switching clips between places disrupted the video’s entire flow. Trying to sync the clips to the video was such an arduous and time-consuming process that, at times, my arm got so sore and stiff that I would have to walk away from my computer and stretch it out for a few minutes before I could get back to it.

It also never occurred to me just how much time was required just to gather my materials before I could even think about mashing any of them up together. In a way, I suppose such a scavenger hunt isn’t so dissimilar from researching journals for a written article, but, with text, at least you can start with reliable search terms and not have to feel around in the dark on the off chance you might find something pertinent to your mash-up goals. I found some videos useful for my purposes from memory, but not nearly enough to carry four minutes and 43 seconds of video. The lack of readily available material forced my thinking, though, because I then had to ask myself “What can I compare these images to? What can I contrast them with to craft the message I’m delivering?”

Shuffling and reshuffling video clips in a movie editor seemed easier than doing so with text, and I think it’s because I can physically see the text unfolding, so non-sequiturs are even more apparent. I watched and rewatched my video in its various stages so many times at this point that I could probably recite the order of events from memory. Trying to be so exacting with each frame is exhausting, but a part of you wants to make the puzzle pieces fit. I think the reason why I don’t normally obsess over editing and revising my written work is because the words I put to the paper are from my own mind, making me more hesitant to judge them and admit they may be flawed or ineffective, rather than borrowed from someone else’s composition in which I have no emotional investment in deconstructing. Or, rather, perhaps it’s not the words written that are my own but the sentiments expressed in those words that I’ve adopted from the creators of language that are my own, so maybe composing in the written word isn’t so different from making a mash-up.

The more I think about it, the more I find similarities between mash-up and writing than I realized existed. When I’m writing, I often struggle with writing enough for the reader to feel invested, but not revealing so much as to make the reading predictable and boring. The same is true of mash-up; you don’t want to be too overt, yet you also don’t want your viewers to have to make such great leaps in reasoning because your construction was too ambiguous. I repeated central images, such as computers and webs, for the sake of reminding the viewer that all other images relate to a bigger picture.

When composing in a new space, such as a movie editor like iMovie, I usually find that my rhetorical bones grow faster than my technical know-how muscles can carry me. Thankfully, iMovie affords enough control for beginners like me to create an entire mash-up without having to master the whole program to create a decent video. It took almost an entire month, but I’m happy with the finished product and pleased with myself for sticking to it, even through all the lagging, skipped frames and unexpected restarts. Here’s to hoping still images for our photo essay are a bit more cooperative.

On semiotics and my rhetorical strategies:

Creating “Do the Robot” was far more difficult than I expected. Fun, but challenging. The song in my mash-up, The Gorillaz “Empire Ants”, suited the tone I wanted to convey. It begins with a soothing, ethereal piano ditty and, about halfway through the song, changes into a crunchy, unrefined synthesizer sound. The shift in sound matched my idea of the web starting out 25 years ago as this awe-inspiring “information superhighway” that was going to revolutionize civilization, and now it’s become such a central part of our culture that anyone, including the government, can spy, monitor on or steal any piece of information about you that you make available online, whether it be your credit card or your address.

To represent the dotcom boom age, I used popular videos from the era, some from before the word “viral” was used to describe them. For example, at 0:09, 0:38 and 0:55, I use clips from the “Numa Numa Guy” video, “The End of the World” and alien “(I Will) Survive) videos of yesteryear, respectively, to create synecdoche for pre-video hosting website web videos. In the same way, I use footage from the trailer for You’ve Got Mail and a Dell commercial featuring Ben Curtis or the “Dude, you’re getting’ a Dell” guy at 0:13 and 0:14 to harken back to turn of the century computer pastiche. Rather than use computer models themselves to represent their respective eras, by using recognizable mascots of their time, I can invoke nostalgia in the viewer and instill a level of emotional investment in the video’s message.

Also pervasive throughout my mash-up are similes we’ve adopted for web and computer use over the past decade and a half. At 0:26, for example I show a shot of a net (short for “Internet), a clip from Super Mario Bros. 3 at 0:56 of Mario sliding up warp pipes (to show how we instantly travel from one place on the web to the next) and reoccurring footage of a spider spinning a web (0:007,1:55) to create the comparison to the world wide web. I increase the frequency of the repetition of the spider web-building shot in the latter half of the video (2:05, 2:25, 3:20) to stress how the web of today is a little too perfect and that we’ve become trapped in it.

Closure becomes key in the second half of the mash-up, as well. At 2:07(?), I insert of clip from the video game Mass Effect 3 in which Commander Shepard dives into a portal to synthesize organic and synthetic life, his transformation evident as a green glowing grid overcomes his body. At 3:02 I begin using the simile of surfing the web with a shot of a surfer falling off his board under a huge wave. In the gutter between the clips of fisherman catching tuna (3:15, 3:22), the clips of the surfer wiping out (3:04, 3:11, 3:18) and the clips of Shepard fusing his body into both man and machine (3: 21, 3:28) lies the message that the further we rely on the web-connected technologies, the more we make ourselves vulnerable to those who would look to invade our privacy online.

(3:00, 3:30) To incorporate the idea of a surveillance state through technology, I used clips from a Sloman Shield commercial that demonstrates a home camera system. Of course, people pay Sloman shield to help keep their homes safe, not to intrude on their daily lives. But, in the context of the video, when the shots are juxtaposed with clips of men in hard hats trying to hammer down a door and shots of an eerie shadow appearing in the doorway, it looks as if the technician is pointing to the monitor and gesticulating “Look at how easy it is for me to see into your life and watch everything you’re doing at all times.” Twisting the intentionality of the clip worked so perfectly, given the employee’s carefree body language, that I had to include it.

Finally, and perhaps the inconspicuous message in the video, there’s the series of clips with the cartoon police officer shooing off the young boy who tries to steal the apple from the market (beginning at 2:30). After the boys runs off for fear of being arrested for theft (3:00), the officer finds the apple just as attractive as the boy did (3:11) takes the apple for himself and eats it, without paying and committing the same crime the boy was ready to commit (3:40). The apple, signifying temptation, vibrancy and health, is a metaphor for the double standard placed on the people by the law. A teenager can be sued for thousands of dollars for posting copyrighted material, such as a musical composition or video game, yet the government can read our emails and text messages, basically any communications we should assume to be private, with impunity.

 

Mash-Up Reflection (Part Two)

Putting meaning into a video mash-up isn’t only easy, it’s inevitable. Two pictures, videos, words, or even sounds can’t be placed next to each other without altering each other’s meaning—or creating an entirely new meaning for matter. Effectively controlling the meaning—in a mash-up for instance—is the harder part. When making my mash-up, I wanted to really hit it home that scientific debate has no place in politics. And I implored some semiotic methods to do so:

At 2:05, Michelle Bachmann is standing before congress giving a speech. Following her at 2:07, Gary Busey appears giving his speech at the Comedy Central Roast of Larry the Cable Guy. Understanding Sean Hall’s definition of intratextuality in This Means This, This Means That as “the internal relationship between different parts of the same work,” the viewer can see these relationships: both are standing behind podiums, making similar hand gestures to an audience.

Through the intratextual relationship between the two clips, the viewer can interpret that I am making some sort of comparison between these two. However, the comparison can take on heavier meaning if the viewer can recognize Gary Busey as a symbol of ‘crazy.’ Such an understanding of Busey would require the reader to not only know about his erratic behavior, but also of the popular understanding of him as crazy that would sustain his symbol-status as such.

Assuming the viewer is attuned to Busey’s symbolic qualities, the viewer can finally interpret the metaphor. A metaphor, as Hall defines it, is “an implied comparison between two similar or dissimilar things that share a certain quality.” If Bachmann=Busey, and Busey=Crazy, then Bachmann=crazy. Ultimately, this emerging metaphor acts to do one of two things effectively: introduce Bachmann is crazy to a viewer that might not know much about her (or thought otherwise), or reaffirm any of the viewer’s existing thoughts that she is crazy and show it in a new way.

I applied a good level of intertextuality to this mash-up. According to Hall, intertextuality is “how works of various kinds (e.g. books, paintings, sculptures, designs, advertisements, etc.) make reference—often in clever ways—to other works”. I did some reference of my own when I used a clip from Breaking Bad wherein Huell, a crooked lawyer’s henchman, falls onto a pile of money. Assuming a good amount of viewers have seen this show, they can know that the pile of money that Huell is falling onto is dirty money—obtained through selling methamphetamine and murder. Using the meaning that Breaking Bad’s producers have already created around this widely-known scene, I inserted it into my mash-up to add an important layer of meaning: dirty money fueling the religious and political attacks of science.

Now, that dirty money scene will influence what meaning is made in the gutter—or the space between two separate items (video clips in this case)—preceding and proceeding it. For instance, when juxtaposed to the scene of billionaire Charles Koch (:40), the gutter contains the following implications: the money that pumps into dark money groups like Americans for Prosperity is dirty itself. By themselves, these two clips probably wouldn’t suggest that much for my purposes—probably only facts and ideas that people already knew. Now, however, my viewer is able to see political funders like Charles Koch in a way that challenges their ethics not just politically, but morally. Ultimately, Koch’s lack of morality that I implied will carry into the greater point, politics and science, and suggest something new: dark money groups are funding anti-science politicians. Now, the issue isn’t just who is crazy or uninformed, but also corrupt.

I use the word “viewer” a lot in this reflection, so I should probably do some analysis of whom I’m speaking of and how they are interpreting my work. Obviously, this mash-up is very political, and in terms of American politics, is critically aimed at the Republican Party (Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, Mitt Romney, and Sarah Palin are all Republicans). Knowing this, I have to understand that different viewers may have different conceptions about what I’m saying. A conception, as defined by Hall, is a “thought” about something that can be very different from another’s due to “different information coded into the concepts that they use.” A person who regularly follows politics might have a different understanding of the clip I used of Mitt Romney, and know that was when he mocked President Obama for wanting to “heal the planet.” A person who doesn’t watch politics, however, might not know how loaded that clip was. I tried to set my mash-up so that people across different levels of contemporary political knowledge can follow my point. I did this by making sure I used clips of recognizable, high-profile politicians who are not only widely recognizable, but also whose agendas are clear. I believe doing this made my mash-up’s message accessible to a larger audience.

Mash-Up Reflection (Part One)

One thing that took me a while to realize while I was making this mash-up is that I need to not only consider the ideas I’m putting across, but the actual genre in which I am composing. My first drafts seemed to get a clear point across, but seemed more like a series of blunt and uncreative juxtapositions and montages. When I started to make the music and clips speak to each other—general things more in line with mash-up conventions—I started to see a much more interesting and clear product. For instance, I started to make the people in the video dance to the music (Rick Perry rocking his head at :18, Mitt Romney rocking his head at :31, Gary Busey at 1:32). Doing this engaged the ‘characters’ into the ‘play.’

Not only is this more entertaining, but if forces the viewer to engage with the song as well as the video. And once the viewer becomes the listener, a whole new mode of communication opens up for me contribute to the main idea: science + politics = bad. Oingo Boingo’s song, “Weird Science”, is a perfect way to play with this idea, so I decided to make the song speak to the video and vice versa. For instance, when the singer goes, “It’s my creation,” I made it match up to what was going on in the video (once at :48 when it goes to a clip of Mrs. Garrison from South Park teaching evolution, then at 1:47 when electricity passes through the doll which eventually gets turned into a person in the movie, Weird Science).

This was far from easy to do. Every time I’d change just a second from one point in the mash-up, everything else after it would be changed. I decided to adapt to this by replacing certain clips with clips that were exactly the same length of time. Doing this had its own problems, though. Some clips needed to be longer whereas their replacement clips would need to be a tad shorter. So, with that, I’d have to take a fraction of a second off of one clip, and then another fraction of a second off of a different one. After a while, editing this mash-up turned into juggling numbers—almost like balancing a budget for a business. Perhaps that’s just one essential part of video editing that I didn’t know about.

I did a lot of reflecting on the technology that goes into certain types of composition while making my mash-up. Certain technologies are more stable—or at least generally more dependable. I’ve never had even close to the same technological frustration with a pencil as I have with video editing software. With a pencil, I don’t need to format a .mp4 to .avi or vice versa. Nor do I have to make sure my trial subscription to the program hasn’t run out. It’s a fair trade, though. The compositions you can make with newer technologies are so much more engaging and can simultaneously utilize different modalities to zoom in on an idea or message.

Reflecting even more on the technology, I wonder if a lot of my frustration wasn’t necessarily from any inevitable difficulty of editing software, but rather from the time I’ve taken in developing literacies in different modes of writing. For instance, is video editing software any more sophisticated—or at least harder to use—than Microsoft Word? The more I think about it, the more I think not. The only difference is that Microsoft Word serves the function of a much more institutionally-dominant mode of writing: alphabetic text. If I had spent one percent—and I’m not being hyperbolic with that number—of the time I have spent writing essays on Microsoft Word and used that time to use video-editing software, I’d be pretty proficient at it. Furthermore, I’d probably be a lot more perceptive of the different elements of composition as a whole, outside of alphabetic texts alone.

Using different technologies to write has also brought to light my use of other people’s expressions of ideas. I have to admit that I felt a bit uneasy as I binge-downloaded video after video off of Youtube, but the more I thought about what I was doing with them, I realized that I was doing nothing wrong. I like to think about it in the same way I’d consider intellectual property when writing an essay: you don’t feel uneasy about using any excerpt as long as you cite it. It would seem so absurd for novelists to get together in movements to stop people from using their excerpts. Of course when money is being made, different issues arise. However, when people are making statements, ideas, and messages all for the sake of communication as we are with our projects, the sky should be the limit. When downloading these videos, I was merely participating in a conversation. And ultimately, the more that I saw was out there for me to use, the more liberated and enabled I felt in getting my point across.

Othering Mashup: At First Glance

 

Reflection 1: On Video Composing and Writing

Creating a message within new mediums always creates new and unexpected challenges.  I have been writing all my life, honing and crafting the various ways to create meaning for audiences.  Composing a mashup took me out of this comfort zone as I learned to make meaning in new ways.  Through my struggles I learned the specific ways that creating a mashup was like writing and the ways that a mashup was a unique medium.

First, the process of composing is very similar to the process of writing.  My video editor of choice, MAGIX Movie Edit Pro, needed to become another type of tool just like the pencil.  The video editor was only a method of composition, but I couldn’t depend on it to make a message for me.  I needed to be fluent in knowing how to use the editor, until I could use it without thinking about it, just like I could use Word processor without thought.

This was the first time I had used a complex video editing program to compose, but MAGIX offered a relatively user-friendly alternative.  I first resisted the new technology but soon realized that I needed at least some of the new features, like manipulating time in clips or mirroring an image.  I allowed time to just learn the software, cutting and merging clips, rearranging them, and adding effects.  I didn’t create anything that made sense but I had a good handle on the things that MAGIX could do.  Working without goals first gave me time to enjoy the medium for all that it could accomplish.

In creating the mashup, I sometimes couldn’t find how to create a specific effect.  If I couldn’t find it in MAGIX itself, I would simply describe what I desired in Google.  Someone, somewhere was more knowledgeable.  For example, this tutorial showed me how to create ending credits after I struggled with the speed.

All in all, MAGIX wasn’t frustrating.  Most of my trouble came from intellectual problems rather than technical ones.  I can’t say that I have a mastery of the program, but I know how to find the answers that I need.

Elements of video creation also parallel the writing process.  I gathered my sources by watching clips, similar to searching through books or academic articles for the perfect quote.  It was more difficult in searching for the videos.  Images aren’t processed on search engines the same ways that words are, and my keywords had to be on point for any success.  I found myself recalling the videos I had watched for something that would be useful, like “when have I seen swarms of bugs?” I simply had to remember, or ask around, until the answer was revealed.

One of the images I knew I wanted to employ from the beginning was a child playing alone on a playground.  This spoke to me as a clear message of isolation: innocence should not sit alone in public.  YouTube search brought me to the short film “Awake,” where a teenager played alone on the swings.  This wasn’t particularly useful because he wasn’t innocent and seemed to prefer isolation.  However, the discovery wasn’t useless because it led me to two very relevant short films that I used extensively in my mashup: “Identity” and “Plastic.”  Just like a list of sources can lead to more relevant articles, the YouTube related videos brought me to images that I could use.

I needed to revise as I continued through the mashup as well.  Just like when, in writing, I realize one of my arguments is weaker than the others, I realized that I needed more footage to make a sufficient point.  For example, images of being excluded through family didn’t appear until the third draft of my mashup, but was a necessary contrast to home deconstruction.  Finding the Harry Potter footage was like finding the new, perfect source that should have been in a written composition all along: once it was there, the rest of the composition fell together nicely.  I did more research and kept revising until my mashup, like my writing, felt succinct.

When it came to making meaning, however, creating a mashup was vastly different from writing.  In writing, I chose each word and sentence carefully to argue my point.  Each choice, and most importantly, the thesis, are meant to guide the reader into my own opinion.

The mashup, however, left the meaning in the reader’s hands.  The viewer doesn’t know what my intentions were in including a section of video, so my argument is muted.  I have the swarm of bugs as a symbol to show that these creatures, in parallel to the problem, survives in various environments.  The viewer make read it differently: maybe they are disgusted by bugs and become uneasy about the rest of the video, or maybe they read the swarm like there is no containment to the problem.

In a mashup, the viewer determines what they take away from my work, and their interpretation makes the difference, like reading a poem.  Yet I definitely wanted to get a point across. I began to think of the mashup as creative writing: we argue for a feeling and an overall message rather than a strict way of thinking.  Just as a poem can be read in many ways with vastly different moral outcomes, the mashup can be interpreted in multiple directions.

For example, T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land” has one famous line, “these fragments I have shored against my ruin.”  Readers interpret this line as either he is protecting himself with the fragments that he has collected, or that the fragments are a showcase to his downfall.

My mashup can be read in the same style: in many ways.  Viewers may see it as the community gives you a place of respite when all others abandon you, or that each person is hiding their identity no matter what.  This may not be my point, but in using incorporating juxtaposition I have created something for them to see.  My message doesn’t matter because viewers will still have formed some conclusion about othering that they didn’t have before.  I only wish I could hear the interpretations.

Creating a mashup, therefore, was a form of creative writing for me, in which I used a tool to create meaning left open to the interpretation of the reader.  It is a tool I hope to employ in academic projects and personal life in the future.

Reflection 2: My Mashup, Semiotic and Remix Theories

Othering Mashup: At First Glance reveals the ways that people are othered, both from their respective communities and from each other, by enhancing the isolation of each individual in and among specific communities.  This meaning is created by the interpretation of the reader.  More importantly, the mashup can be read in light of many semiotic theories about how meaning is made.

A majority of the meaning in mashups is made through juxtaposition, or the intentional placement of two images next to each other to create meaning.  As Jason Palmeri, in his article The First Time Print Died: Revisiting Composition’s Multimedia Turn, explains, mashups must be read in a associative manner, “looking not just at how everything on one page or in one chapter is connected but rather looking at how fragments from diverse pages might be reassembled to create new compositions” (101).  The message of the mashup becomes dependent on how the reader determined that each clip related to the others.

In my own mashup, I carefully juxtaposed clips to give the audience a specific message.  At 1:26, the image of a bug burning under a magnifying glass is juxtaposed with the image of a girl covering her face with a mask.  The message to the reader is that the intentional harm to another creature is a reason to cover your true identity: letting anyone past the mask you present to society will become dangerous if they do not value your life, like they do not value the life of the bug.

In order to completely understand the juxtaposition, the viewer must first consider the various semiotic theories at work.  The mask itself is a metonym, or, according to Sean Hall, in his book This Means This, This Means That, “when one thing is substituted for another” but that the reader can interpret based on associations made in their society (56).  The mask is a metonym for identity: when people try to create a new identity, they put on a figurative mask of the new person that they want to be.  With this image, I brought in the idea that the way a person identifies him or herself depends on how they believe society thinks of them.

The viewer then must also consider how the bugs act as a symbol.  According to Hall, a symbol is “any sign where there is an arbitrary relationship between signifier and signified” (32). Each image recalls another larger idea that may or may not be obvious.  To me, bugs are a common symbol of perseverance and outliving all modes of destruction.  In this specific clip, the bug squirms, but lives, under the heat of the focus of the magnifying glass.  Even with the specific intent to burn the bug, the bug never dies.

If the viewer also considers the intratextuality of the image of the bugs, the idea of survival is reinforced further.  Intratextuality, according to Hall, is the way an image relates to itself when it appears multiple times in the same work (126).  The image of the bugs transforms from being uncontained at :31, to withdrawn from at 2:50, to studied and scrutinized at 3:21 and 3:18.  No matter what environment they are placed in, the bugs still survive.  Even though the bugs appear weak when being burned, isolated and vulnerable, they are surviving just like in any other image.  The fact that the magnifying glass appears to dominate makes no difference when compared to the rest of the images.

In between these two images is a gutter, what Scott McCloud, in his book Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, explains as a place that the “human imagination takes two separate images and transforms them into a single idea” (66).  The image of a bug burning and a mask do not have an obvious relationship to each other.  But because the human mind wants to create meaning where we believe there should be meaning, we relate the two images together into one whole unit.  Even if the viewer does not understand the various forms of meaning like the metonym of the masks or the symbolism of the bugs, they can still understand that the violence done to the bug – by killing it, by burning it – is a reason for a person to be afraid and hide who he or she really is.

At another moment in the mashup, at 3:48, each of the faces that have been seen throughout the mashup, looking in different directions, come together to all look at each other.  A young boy alone on a playground looks left and begins an exchange of glances in which each person in each clip looks in the proper direction to return the glance.  The message behind this selection of glances is that the communities of each of these individuals, while outcasting them, also forces them to outcast each other.  In other words, the othering that is developed in a community reaches farther by othering anyone that is not exactly like you.

The looks of each of the individuals is an example of Hall’s idea of center and margin.  In this theory, the object in the center is the most idealized, but creates a margin of things that are not the focus and therefore have less importance and less status (98).  Because none of the individuals are the central focus in this montage, each one of them becomes marginalized.  Their juxtaposition allows the reader to see each of the individuals looking at the next one in a circle, where no one is happy and no one has found a true sense of community.

These glances depend upon their intertextuality, when the context of the original clip adds a new level of meaning to the clip itself.  Chuck Tryon, in his article Reinventing Cinema: Movies in the Age of Media Convergence, notes that “movie remixes, through a complicated renegotiation of intertextuality, illustrate the degree to which texts work in constant dialogue not only with other texts but also with audiences themselves” (173).  In other words, when the audience understands the context they will be able to pull more meaning from the mashup.  For example, the young boy, Ben (at 3:47), is a clip from Daddy Day Care.  In this moment in the movie, other children are playing on the playground beside him, but not with him.  He isn’t necessarily discontent with his loneliness in the movie, even though he does want friends.  Knowing this context would add to the sense of isolation: Ben is more lonely because he cannot connect with others, no matter which direction he looks in trying to find friends.

Other glances can be read in the same way: each of the individuals is outcast from his or her original social circle.  Harry Potter (at 3:54), from the Harry Potter franchise, is othered by his foster family, the Durselys.  Castiel (at 3:50), from Supernatural season 7, episode 1, is othered by members of a church group.  The young girl wearing a mask (at 3:52), from the short film Identity, is othered by the other students at her school.  If the viewer can understand the intertextuality of all of these moments, he will have a true sense of the isolation and othering created when all of them look at each other.

However, as an example of noise, in which the message is not transmitted with the writer’s original intentions, the reader is likely to not understand the context of all of the clips.  Luckily, they will only need to read so far as interpretation of gesture to create the same meaning that the intertextuality defines.  In western society, a frown is generally a closed gesture which does not welcome others into a conversation.  When all of the characters share similar expressions, all of them are excluded from each other, highlighting the ways that they are each marginalized.  The prominence of each of these faces throughout the mashup leads the reader to this moment, to the epitome of loneliness.  The girl with the mask, in particular, even draws the reader back to the symbolism of the bugs and survival under all conditions, so that they don’t have to know the context of the original image at all to understand her purpose in the mashup.

As a final point for this moment in the mashup, the glances also reflect Hall’s concept of sameness and difference.  In this theory, Hall argues that the only thing that separates one face from another is the viewer’s own perception of difference (74).  We can chose to see one as different because she is a woman, or because one is wearing a mask, or because one is significantly younger than the others.  At the same time, we can also choose to see no difference at all, relating each person because they are human.  With this theory in mind throughout the mashup and exemplified in this moment, I urge the viewer to see that there is no need to other people that are different because there is always at least one similarity that links two people together.

These are a scarce few examples of how Othering Mashup: At First Glance can be seen through semiotic and remix theories.  The associations and theories are endless in application, but I hope that the few examples of specific moments that I have outlined here create a clear picture of the thought process behind the clips in my mashup and the complicated way meaning is created in mashups in general.  These associations argue for the general acceptance of all people, and the careful consideration of the communities that build identity.

Mashup Storyboard: Mental Health in Media

mashupstoryboardMy mashup will begin with some panned shots from Girl Interrupted, Prozac Nation, and season 2 of American Horror Story. This initial set of clips will confirm that the mashup deals with mental health. I will be adding other clips which include dialogue from the movies including diagnoses of patients and descriptions of patients pasts. I am only using clips from patients who demonstrate extreme behaviors or who receive extreme treatments, such as tranquilizers or electro convulsive treatment because these are the examples people use to compare normal and crazy.

I will be using clips from musicals of the 1940’s and 1950’s to show what people believe happens after a patient takes medication: everything is all cured and everyone is happy.

I am still trying to find clips of people with masks because SSRIs and other psychotropic medications do not actually cure mental disorders they only mask the symptoms.