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“You Just Witnessed a Completely Original Moment in Human History”

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Just a clip from Garden State that shows how much we value originality.  Now, onto the opposite of originality…

Actually, I wouldn’t consider mashups and remixes the opposite of originality.  Instead, Brian Lamb describes the mash up as two completely different things being combined and the remix as the working/adapting of an existing work.  Mash ups and remixes aren’t unoriginal, instead they are highly original play offs of something that has already been created.  By taking, for example, a movie and changing scenes/music to tell an entirely different story, the masher (??) isn’t stealing or trying to pass themselves as original.  Instead, they are embracing the ability to create and story tell in a brand new medium.  This form of art doesn’t need to be demonized, but praised.  I tend to think that this form of art has actually always been part of our culture.  A historic text is not just an original work, but instead the writer took ideas from the culture they were part of.  Nothing we do is completely unique.

However, I understand that this scares some people.  I see it scaring people for a few different reasons, but I go on to explain why we shouldn’t worry about this if done properly:

  • There are risks in copyright.  People may not be able to determine what is the original art.  However, I believe that this can be avoided by, as Brian Lamb describes, open and transparent licensing.  When using someone’s work, you need to state where it came from.  By making this an integral part of the internet, we don’t have to worry about not giving credit where it is due.  If things are open and attributed, we can always see where the source started.  Melanie McBride explains that students often are still not able to do mash ups because they are not allowed access to copyrighted materials.
  • In a society that is individualistic, it is scary to see all these kids creating art and culture, and then mashing up each others projects.  This summer, I worked at a day camp and the kids in art class would always say “Joe and Sarah are copying my art project.”  My response became, well you should be flattered.  They like your art and we can all learn from each others art work.  We can all expand on each other.  This is what is happening online, but it is taking a little longer to reach the classrooms.  The idea of individual success, grading, rubrics, etc. in education is not as important when you ask kids to mash up each others ideas.  If the point of a class becomes to create something and then respond to others and allow others to respond to you, the traditional idea of education is turned upside down.  It’s like… when your teacher says to sign the honor pledge, but in a digital course, signing the honor pledge would seem wrong since of course your ideas came from others and culture.  Instead, there has to be a push towards attribution and understanding that we are not original, but products of our culture.
  • Schools are teaching students to obey laws, even if they are unjust laws.  Melanie points out in her article that when she is teaching, she often points out to students that this is the law, this is the consequences for breaking it, and then she allows students to make the decision.  Especially in college, this is an important distinction for a professor to make.  Professors should not shy away from a project because something is the law or taboo, instead this is a learning opportunity for students to decide as an active member of society what they believe is right and wrong.  By allowing students to be active in culture and society, the laws may eventually change if these students grow up to understand how to go about changing them.  I really want to emphasis that this argument for me extends to taboos and cultural norms, not just laws.

So, now that I got out of the way why mash ups are good and necessary, I want to reflect on my own usage of them.  I really haven’t done much until this class.  I’ve admired songs on the radio or on youtube that were mashed up, but DS106 was the first class that asked me to create for myself.  I did some visual/design mash ups with the big caption assignments.  For the audio assignment, I tried to do a mash up of some songs, but I didn’t quite have the skills or time to master a mash up as good as I could find online.  But, the entire audio assignment ended up being a mash up of different decades, radio clips, commercials, youtube clips and movie reviews.  Although I haven’t done much with the mash up, as I stated earlier, I see most of education and life as a mash up of existing ideas and culture that I then take and use as “original.”  It would be wrong to think that everything I come up with is uniquely my own.  Generally it is a response or addition to others.

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