mashup

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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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.

Storyboard On ‘Human Testing’

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I approached my storyboard in a bit of an irregular fashion. I wanted to have movable pieces so that I was able to rearrange and think of how to present the image. This presentation is a bit linear, so I’l have to rearrange them.

Being a by unsure of what and how to address ‘Human Testing’. Honestly, I had only thought that human testing was done unintentionally or with the testing subject unaware of the actual testing and had not ventured into the realm of intentional/forced human testing. Originally thinking I was looking into pollution, food pesticides, atomic bomb and technology radiation rather than Holocaust twin and African American syphilis unethical testing. Humans testing on other humans is an area I want to peruse as well. This mash up will include both intentional and unintentional testing on humans is a strangely intriguing idea. I want to connect the idea of animal testing to human testing to show that we are animals. Animals, as creatures and animals as monsters.

While I do not want to blatantly state my opinion of both being wrong I want the viewers to ponder about both idea and how humans control both of them. I am nervous about finding human testing clips. Having a magnitude of actual testing clips will be effective for the viewers, but depressive for my sanity.

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.

 

Mashup Storyboard: Alien Invasion

Mashup Storyboard

The first clip in my mashup immediately establishes that the mashup is going to be about the personal side of immigration, the way it affects families and individuals, by zooming in on what an “immigrant” looks like.  This puts a definite face behind immigration issues rather than the numbers that are portrayed on the news.

After the first clip, I work through the types of signs and metaphors that I will use throughout the mashup, starting with “aliens” and “freedom.”  The alien images, including spaceships and close-ups, reflect the American view of immigrants – as an unknown force, typically associated with negative connotations and invasions.  The images of the statue of liberty are broken or twisted in some way to show that our view of freedom cannot be whole while we treat immigrants with disrespect.

I am including clips of Obama to recognize that he is taking some action against the wrongful immigration policies, but I am going to show his face in sarcastic moments.  Winking, for example, will show that not enough is being done.

The last images, of bugs, plays on the “invasion” metaphor.  By juxtaposing the bugs with science-fiction alien families, I hope to point out the gap in logic between seeing immigrants as people and as invaders.  The bugs, in this contrast, will reveal the first step in “othering” the immigrant families.

More detail, and the purpose for each specific clip, is written in pink under each image.

Army All-Time Killstreak Champion Storyboard

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So–what’s going on in the first thirty seconds of my mashup?

I open with a title screen from a World War Two training film (8th Air Force, for those keeping score) called “Target for Today,” which I like because it has two interpretations you can make the first that this is a training film, and we are seeing kids learning how to operate killer drones, and second (bit more chilling) when paired with the next image, we see that the target for today (for the military) is as always, the next generation of kids. This is a bit of paratext.

The next clip is lifted from a news piece on the USMC’s toys for tots program, but I’ve trimmed it down to just Marines lifting kids into humvees, presumably taking them to some sort of indoctrination camp. I’ve culled some images of child soldiers from Africa that I use later and I am building an intratextual reference here.

Straight from 1988 comes a pair of hands playing Nintendo. This is a very iconic controller, and it’s symbolism for gaming  is the reason I’m using it.

Then, we have a Predator drone cruising through the air. (I learned during this clip that some operators live stateside, which is really weird to me.) This is supposed to develop juxtaposition-that the controller-hands are operating it. This will be built on throughout.

Following that is a vintage Nintendo commercial, with a really chilling slogan. This idea I thought provides a weird intratexuality/intertextuality for the argument that I’m trying to make.

The final 16 seconds of the clip are a montage, using the controller hands, digital footage of drone strike, and Mario celebrating to make it appear that the drone strike is just a game, denuded of real consequences, an idea I will be exploring more later.

Mashup Proposal: Immigrants as Human Beings

Though most Americans may not realize it, immigration is still a problem in the United States.  People from Mexico, China and the Philippines are settling as often as they were years ago, and the policies that the government tries to uphold are simply failing under the influx.  Immigrants that come illegally can face charges like jail time or deportation, but immigrating legally is difficult and held under strict rules.  The worst part, in my opinion, is that immigrants are not viewed as people but as mindless foreigners trying to steal the opportunities of others.

My mashup will look at the “othering” that happens with immigrants in the United States – the way they are treated by native people, their struggles with jobs and domestic life, etc.  This also includes political issues like being deported or detained, but will focus on the personal rather than the political standpoint.  Although it is impossible to avoid politics, my mashup will not look so much at the political propositions toward fixing immigration as the humanity side of the argument: individual stories, emotions, families, and the ways that immigrants can benefit from coming to America.  Old clips from when immigrants were encouraged to come to the US – particularly in viewing the Statue of Liberty as the immigrant’s statue, and when the US was considered open to everyone for opportunity.

To emphasize the othering, I will contrast these images with clips from science fiction movies where the main race of the show/series/etc. treats another species harshly without understanding their intentions.  This could add a shock factor if I utilize brutal or inhumane clips filled with anger.  It also highlights how the first reaction of people is treat others, different from themselves, with violence and unreasonable judgments.

I also want to contrast the othering with images of bugs.  I want to emphasize the American belief of infestation by using clips that have bugs that work in groups (like ants, for example), like an immigration takeover.  This will tell the other side of the story, the common American take on immigration no matter the benefits.  I think the bugs will add an unexpected element that will make the viewer feel uncomfortable, but also lead the viewer toward the idea that they are uncomfortable because they do not know all of the information about the situation.

I plan to use music that will create a feeling of anxiety.  The music will be fast-paced so that I can use quick cuts to make the situation seem overwhelming and difficult to sort out for the viewer.

Proposal: Intellectual Property: Who Owns What? Understanding and Examining Ownership and Creativity

Whenever the topic of copyright is discussed, the conversation seems to take off in multiple directions, seemingly without any concrete answers. Sure, the definition of copyright is self-explanatory: the rights given to the author of a production/creation (copy privileges). But as Kirby Ferguson states in Everything is a Remix, “creation requires influence, everything we make is a remix of existing creations, our lives and the lives of others.”

The contradiction of the expression/idea muddies the water, as copyright law does not protect ideas, yet an expression is an original thought (even a summarized thought from a previous text) that should be credited. Siva Vaidhyanathan offers an insightful cautionary look into the copyright laws, which clashes with Brett Gaylor’s liberal beliefs that encourages viewers of RIP! A Remix Manifesto to “take [RIP! A Remix Manifesto], rip it, remix it, help remake it.” We can also throw in Lawrence Lessig’s Creative Commons, a somewhat hopeful solution that allow for others to legally use and share others’ creations.

Yet when we hear stories in the past of the RIAA suing the average person (regardless of age or income) who downloads a song from the Internet or working with Internet providers to cut off their service if they search and download music, YouTube pulling down users remixed versions of music videos and mash ups and news coverage of record labels, publishing companies, musicians and writers being dragged into copyright lawsuits or accusations: such as singer Robin Thicke suing the family of Marvin Gaye for making ‘false’ copyright infringement claims (basing off the aforementioned idea/expression role), later Gaye’s family went after Thicke’s record label for not protecting the estate, Lessig’s recent fair use battle from using music during a class lecture that was eventually posted online, even chefs questioning the popularity of individuals taking “food selfies” and posting them on Instagram, claiming it takes away from their intellectual property, the average person who looks at these issues at a whole is left confused as to what the goal of copyright is and who is (or who should) be protected.

For this video mash up, I would like to re-examine the issues discussed within copyright (piracy, copyright infringement, and fair use laws) through visuals created by others, all remixed and filtered through my understanding. I am a little uncomfortable with making this the sole focus of a major project because there is so much gray area within the copyright and ownership rhetoric and being a student who appreciates direct answers and has always erred on the side of caution when discussing copyright, I am not sure I will find one or expect to find one as I go along. But I want to join in on these ongoing and complex conversations that take place not only in the courts but in classrooms, message boards and communities all over the world. I believe a video mash up is the perfect medium to explore these issues and the visuals will add a new layer to the intensity of this ongoing battle.