A Journal of Rhetoric, Writing, and Culture

Master Hands, A Video Mashup Round Table

Below you will find five different mashups of the film Master Hands and our respondents' round table discussion. Back to introduction

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"Master Hands Remix" by Richard Marback

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"master" by bonnie kyburz

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"Craft Hands" by Jeff Rice

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"Other People's Lives: A Projection" by Jody Shipka

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"Master Hands" by Anthony Stagliano
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First off, a hearty thanks to the mashers for giving us such great fodder. I'm super-excited to be a commenter. It's hard to know where to start, so let's just get to the superlatives:

The award for most ominous mashup goes to "Master Hands" by Anthony Stagliano

The award for the most overtly sexual imagery involving factory machines goes to "master" by bonnie kyburz

The award for the most "whatever" mashup goes to "Craft Hands" by Jeff Rice

The award for the most timely political message goes to "Master Hands Remix" by Richard Marback

The award for most creative use of found footage goes to "Other People's Lives: A Projection" by Jody Shipka

One thing that strikes me about the original video is that it is so very 20th century. The whole film smacks of Fordist (or Chevy-ist) propaganda, which of course it is. The term faits accomplis pops into my head because once the assembly line starts cranking out cars, it is a chain reaction that is very hard to stop. The main message I'm getting from the original vid is its affirmation of mastery. This seems important to those of us in the academy right now because we, too, were wrapped up in the idea of mastery during the 20th century. The notion that education is, at every level, about comprehensive knowledge is very hard to overturn. And yet I think we might reap the benefits if we can challenge that idea of mastery.

I think Rice is onto something here by replacing "master" with "craft" in the title of his vid. Mastery suggests a sort of large-scale control whereas craft implies control over small batches of things. Of course the two words have been combined to capitalize on the positive connotations of both words as with boats (http://www.mastercraft.com/) or tires (http://www.mastercrafttires.com/html/index.aspx). And, as will happen, this conflicting compound word usage will be ironized, here by the likes of MSTRKRFT: http://youtu.be/5OqyeRWml0k

This brings me back round to the mashups. When Chevy made the original, it could not have been done by an amateur or even a craftsman. Making the film necessitated access to the inner workings of the auto plant, film equipment and skills, and even the ability to make a title sequence using molten metal. But we're at a point now where we all can take that master video and recraft it into something else. Obviously, times are changing. Maybe mastery and craft can co-exist, but do we still aspire toward mastery? Do we resist mastery? On the flip side: do we romanticize craft in a way that will always mean demonizing and thus opting out of corporate systems (and health insurance benefits) at our own expense? That's kind of all over the place, but, well,


Submitted by sirc on

Great, great project. I'm flattered to be asked to comment.

These videos did what a good mix or mashup should: tease out and make explicit some of the tacit, multivalent subtexts of the original text. So Bonnie, for example, in about a minute, distilled the original clip down to its homosocial core -- "MASTER," with hot flaming things going into holes, all to a T. Rex cock-rock soundtrack. Or Anthony showed us this relentless engine, hands on the clock approaching midnight, and tall buildings dwarfing humanity, all to equally relentless, nauseatingly sinister doom-music.

Let me also add that the initial 'Master Hands" clip was to me so sadly depressing -- this past of men in charge, working like ants in a colony to make things, being lauded heroically, and the 'thing' they're making being this car culture that has ruined humanity and the planet. It's a good thing you didn't ask me for a video contribution, as mine would have just been all the flame footage from the original clip, along with all the clips of car crashes I could find, real Warhol Disaster Series stuff, very high morbidity factor.

I am, then, much less sanguine about the ability to re-figure, re-cast the master narrative of technology, which is something I'm getting, in part, from Richard's video when he reads art -- Eminem, Willy Wonka, the kid conducting the virtual symphony, even the Stooges (yes!) -- into the narrative, trying to make imagination and aesthetics predominant, blurring imagination into reality. Or Jeff, with the gesture I so want to believe in: turning the whole thing into a guild sort of economy based on craft. Jeff's video reminded me of all those wonderful Mr. Rogers' segments when he would take his neighbors watching at home to see how factories made candy or crayons or something, trying to put a human face on the industrial/capital machine, trying to gentle technology and the economic empire.

Jody offers an interesting alternative: a kind of Benjaminian wholesale substitution of a bunch of small, found little narratives, rescued from the trash or thrift-shops, in place of the official master-plot. (But Jody, I can't get out of my head the idea of watching a bunch of other people's home movies being like the main character in Cheever's story 'The Enormous Radio,' who sits in her apartment all day listening to her radio, which magically lets her tune in to all of the other apartments in her building, and which ultimately depresses the hell out of her, listening to their sad lives. But I guess home movies are more upbeat?)

Oh, there's one more thing I'd have cut into my mashup, the scenes from Kubrick's 2001 where we're revealed as just violent apes using the bones of the dead for our tools.

I agree with Geoff here: "These videos did what a good mix or mashup should: tease out and make explicit some of the tacit, multivalent subtexts of the original text." Thank you to all of the contributors---and to Enculturation---for their work.

When watching these mash-ups, I can't help but wonder about the trace of the hand in today's digital work (including the work of digital scholarly communication). I also can't help but wonder about the activities of objects. If, as Richard's vid suggests, "the line between Reality and pure Imagination just got a lot hazier," then where (if at all) do our hands leave a mark in this blur? What inscriptions remain after this seemingly immaterial mode of production? (Not that this question is unique to digital labor. We might ask the same thing of, say, the theremin from 1919, especially since Richard's digital handicraft, in an empty auditorium, somewhat mimics it.)

Tellingly, bonnie's mashup practically mocks this fetishization of the hand, evoking the male birth fantasy so common to the histories of technological reproduction. (Among others here, consider Edison and Bell.) After watching it, I asked myself: What drives this impulse for the trace? For leaving a mark? Is it mastery? If so, then over what or whom? Whatever the answers, bonnie's vid makes it clear that the legacies of technological reproduction are imbricated with legacies of power, gender, sex, sexuality, and violence. It also resonates with the work of Shinya Tsukamoto. Indeed, technological progress cannot be peaceful.

With the object-oriented character of Jeff's vid, I start to consider the influence of actants, or how to perceive the master's hands from the perspective (is there one?) of the object itself. If a thing is indeed a gathering (and perhaps a fantastical one at that), then how does it resist being marked? Having home-brewed for a few years, I'm reminded of a moment when (in June 2001) several of my growlers exploded loudly in my friend's car while he was driving. Stout, and glass, went everywhere. What was labeled (i.e., "'Til Death Do Us Stout") and signed (by my own hand) I also considered contained. Yet the thing surprised us, to say the least.

Meanwhile, Jody's piece demonstrates how technical competencies, or how we relate to machines, is no doubt historically contingent. If most people could once thread a projector in thirty seconds, then today most are likely unaware of why we would even bother. And if these artifacts are not or cannot be purchased by our historical societies, then what are we to do with them? I like one of Jody's answers: dig. It seems that, for many today, scholarly work in media and technology studies is starting to resemble the early work of DJs---gathering old media (often on the fly), working our way through their obsolescence, getting them to play again, and negotiating today's materialities with those of the past. As Jody suggests, such work by necessity entails interpreting the traces and memories people leave behind. If we cannot perceive how they did back then, then at least we have their stuff.

Finally, as Will points out, Anthony no doubt leaves us with the ominous. By his vid's end, I cannot imagine our current economy (the online attention economy included) as anything but an extension of Fordism. A finer, more discrete, and more individuated version of it, at that. Perhaps what we often frame as the democratization of production and circulation (e.g., the prosumer and open-source culture) is merely a sneakier instantiation of divided labor? Of privatization? Of alienating ourselves from our handicrafts and our physical/sensual/intellectual work? If this interpretation is feasible, then what are alternatives? And what can digital scholarly communication do about it?

With that last set of questions in mind, I'm inclined to return to the force of objects and things (an obsession today, it seems). Despite the historical footage that comprises a majority of these mash-ups, I think all of them somehow speak to the stories and traces (violent or not) that objects leave behind. The practice of mashing-up brings those stories and traces to the fore, and I (at least) am left curious about how we articulate an approach to mastery with non-human entities (and not humans) as our starting point.

Let the articulation begin.

I chuckled out loud when I read Geof's comment because, man, I have been there. (Then I felt bad for chuckling. But it was the kind of chuckle that comes from knowing I'm not alone when all I see is a Kubrick-esque present and future.) In this economic climate, it's really hard to imagine a way to "re-cast the master narrative of technology," as Geof puts it, as anything other than dystopian.

That said, I have to look again at Jeff's video as an alternative not just to that master narrative, but to master narratives in general. There might be another (perverse) way to read the clock in Anthony's vid. The industrial revolution gave us our leisure time so that we could not just enjoy beer in the field, but so that we could really spend time geeking out on the stuff. That is, the industrial revolution gave us choices, even as it automated, systematized, and homogenized industry. Beer-as-a-hobby would not have been possible prior to the industrial revolution. Craft beer prior to the industrial revolution was just called beer. "Craft" is the modifier we apply to it now to distinguish it from the swill created by the industrial revolution's production techniques and technologies. But those same techniques and technologies, and the fact that they scale down over time, allow us to make, find, collect, and drink the good beer. The industrial revolution gave us hobbies, from searching for craft beer to making mix tapes to scouring flea markets and thrift stores to whatever.

I've read some of Jeff's posts on why he blogs about beer. I've drank that Kool-Aid. I do something similar with food photos. There's something necessary about making digital media transparent (if only for moments at a time) so that I stop focusing on the technology long enough to see if/how it actually might work in a somewhat less techo-navel-gazey life. In Lanham's words, I want to sometimes see through the media. One way to do this is to find a hobby (or obsession) like food, beer, art, fonts, music, whatever, and focus on that for a minute. Incorporating that experience back into our disciplinary discourse keeps the field from being all meta, all the time. Don't get me wrong. I love me some meta. But if we don't understand the perspective of those who use technology in less (or non) reflexive ways, we partially misunderstand it, I think. Additionally, I think if we only ever think about the big picture of technology, we can't help but return to the fact that "we are just violent apes using the bones of the dead for our tools." That is the big picture. But I have to weave a narrative in which that is only part of the big picture. The other part of that big picture is this: first we steal bones of the dead and use them to clobber each other. Then we make swords. Then we make fencing foils. Then we write books about the manager of the fencing team leaving the foils on the subway. I have to think that technological advancement allows us the option to choose whether we pick up the bone, the sword, the foil, or the book. (Or the beer. Or some combination of the aforementioned.)

I dunno. I'm just freestyling here.

Submitted by sirc on

I appreciate your cautionary comments, Will (always happy to make someone chuckle, of course). And when you play the art card against me, you always win.

Yes, any capitalist/industrial process can produce some sellable something that leads to Salinger. Cars, besides ruining human and planetary existence, can also lead to Nabokov's road-trip book.

A friend & I went to see Bertolucci's film version of 'Sheltering Sky' years ago when it came out. As we walked out, shaking our heads over this empty, bloated nothing of a spectacle, as opposed to the actual Bowles novel it was based on, he wanted to talk economics: How much did it 'cost' for Bowles to live in Africa the year that he wrote the book, vs the millions Bertolucci spent on the giant cinematic nothing? Whatever, we sure got way more bang for the buck with Bowles. So 'big picture' technology, and all the corporate finance machinery behind it, crowding out, almost obviating, the little picture. Not to mention further turning people into low-brows.

So, Master Hands, the hands this time of a master writer producing, say, Catcher in the Rye. I'm teaching Henry James this quarter, the 'Master' as he's commonly known. Interesting to read his notebooks and letters, if you haven't -- the subtext: ALWAYS struggling for money, dickering with publishers over as seemingly little as a hundred pounds.

I desperately want to believe Catcher in the Rye is an official end-point of the 'bone-as-weapon' technology trajectory, but I've so lost my religion on this. Who is savoring Henry James's incredibly perfect, life-changing prose these days? (Don't worry, Anne Wysocki's already got a powdered wig on order for me.) The art/tech 'bone weapon' continuum seems to right now have leapfrogged waaaayyyy past JD Salinger, into, say, CALL OF DUTY, or any similar FPS game, the idea of which (not to mention popularity -- even amongst progeny I claim as my own!) is to me loathsome beyond words.

My cornball lament -- oh, why can't the world be just a sweet, neo-tribal space where there's craft beer and craft music and craft clothing and craft medicine and craft art and craft craft, and no one's a millionaire and the world isn't globally warming to this point of climatic hysteria? -- is a whiny utopian cheat that bores even me.

But may I be the first in our discussion to utter the words 'Occupy Wall Street'? Because for me, those words hovered over every one of the 5 mash-ups we saw.

OK. I'm going to oscillate back and forth between hope and cynicism as is my wont. Apologies if it's all over the place again.

As soon as I read the words "Call of Duty," I was like "Crap! Sirc's got me there." It's hard to put a rosy spin on that one. Not only have we gone to Call-of-Duty-style video games, we're now all the way into video-game-like drone warfare where the shooters are shooting at real victims from a mediated, abstracted video game like perspective. So, yeah, books are not the end-point of the bone-as-weapon trajectory. It's much bleaker than that. Although I might counter with Jane McGonigal's idea that reality is broken and games can fix it, I don't actually think her games like Evoke (http://blog.urgentevoke.net/2010/01/27/about-the-evoke-game/) are much of a match for blockbusters like Call of Duty. However, I think her messages and her games offer models that can tackle actual problems in RL, like, for example, the economy.

You are right. The OWS movement bears mentioning. It was hard to watch those mash-ups without thinking of the original as capitalist propaganda, a genre that is in no way obsolete. But I think the very ability to mash-up (i.e. do violence to) the original message--the very thing that is on display here--returns to us some bit of agency. Occupy Wall Street is only possible because of the same new media technologies that allow for this roundtable. (http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/15/social-media-gives-wall-street-protests-a-global-reach/). OWS has a $300,000 war chest in just a month (http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/occupy-wall-street-protests-movement-continues-to-spread-one-month-later/2011/10/17/gIQAhLyLsL_story.html). That is only possible with the the social media technologies we are using right now.

In addition to them focusing on craft (beer, old videos, new media), the mash-ups are themselves craft. Even the more popular aspects of the vids show some craft-like potential. Take for example Bonnie's use of "Terrible Lie." It was from a multiplatinum album. But the album was on an indie (albeit a big indie) label. Furthermore, Trent Reznor has released music with Creative Commons licenses (http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/8095), allowing for more craft. This is just one artists in a culture that allows for new media craft. Maybe we'll get our craft craft world after all. By craft craft I mean, for example, carefully crafted small-batch videos about carefully crafted small-batch projects.

That said, the cynic in me has to mention that Reznor's CC license makes sure that he's the only one who can profit form the use of the music. We can all make mash-ups for academic purposes. We can make them for fun or craft or hobby or whatever. We can make them to kill all the leisure time the industrial revolution brought us. But can we do mash-ups for profit? Can we do them to put bread on the table? Can we do them to fund a cause? Or can only the people at the top of the media pyramid determine who gets paid? Granted, Chevy isn't still making money off this film, probably. But we are voluntarily recirculating it for them. No matter what our critique may be, we are essentially giving them free (albeit dated) publicity, no? Ominous as some of these vids were, none of them offer a critique strong enough to dent America's obsession with cars. (Maybe a better way of saying this is that the critiques may be strong enough, but our craft craft audience is too small.)

And this maybe where OWS comes back in. This is a question we all have to answer: What's the benefit of making (and writing about) craft craft mash-ups as opposed to using similar skills to make, spread, and critique videos that engage with current social issues on a larger scale? That is, I think we are mash-up as end in itself. So what is it a means to? I should admit that I'm implicated here, too. I've made a couple of mash-ups. And I've talked about them a lot. And I'm here, gratefully. But I'm trying to sound out just what it is that we are all doing here.

Here's my best guess about what we are doing here (and don't let me speak for you): it's a little bit critique of the Fordist ideals, a little bit building and honing media skills, a little bit social commentary, a lot bit conversation about emerging media and genres, a bit consciousness raising, a lot of theorizing and experimenting with the skills that 21st century students might need. But is it enough that the words "Occupy Wall Street" hover over the mash-ups? On the other hand, there are 37,100 videos on YouTube tagged "Occupy Wall Street." Do we need more?

Thanks for this comment, Will: "So what is it a means to? I should admit that I'm implicated here, too. I've made a couple of mash-ups. And I've talked about them a lot. And I'm here, gratefully. But I'm trying to sound out just what it is that we are all doing here."

If we take for granted the claim that we are in a transitional moment for scholarly communication, then I think it's also fair to say that a lot of digital scholarly work will be experimental or speculative in character. I do think mashups make claims in ways different from print; however, they can also easily seem detached from social issues. (Of course, so can print.) Perhaps, as scholarly types continue to produce through new modes, the arguments we are making (as well as our engagements with social issues) will become more persuasive. Regardless, I do think it's time for digital work (in whatever academic field) to start engaging social issues and cultural criticism more directly. In times like these, how can it not?

Submitted by drbump on


Thank you so much for the opportunity to be involved with this project!

I was able to watch all five of the videos on Sunday night and was immediately struck by the idea that I wanted my first response to be in video as well: having walked up and listened for a while, I wanted to join the symbolic action in this audio-visual, Burkeian parlor. And so I contacted Jim Brown, who welcomed me to do so. Thanks, Jim!

It is probably important to recognize immediately that my mashup was articulated under much different terms from those to which it responds. First, I was informed by each of these other wonderful mashups, which were each created by authors who could not look over each other's shoulders in the same way. Second, mine was conceived and created within a self-imposed 24-hour time limit.

I'll have plenty more to say about each of my peer's mashups; however, for the moment, I'll let my mashup do the talking.

For now. :)

And so, here is my response.



I love the use of the text-to-speech voice. Can't listen to that without thinking of Fitter, Happier, by Radiohead. I actually think that song is relevant because of the fact that the Fitter, Happier lyrics read like a twisted capitalist liturgy, which somehow highlights the tension between work and the rest of life inherent to capitalism. In the song and in your video, and in the activity of mash-ups in general, there's a tension between capitalist production and leisure time. I claimed earlier that capitalist production methods provide us with the free time that allows for craft (or leisure activities like reading, swimming, etc.). The machinery of production provides us with the tools for remixing, the materials for remixing, and the time to do it.

Submitted by drbump on

calm, fitter, healthier and more productive
a pig in a cage
on antibiotics

Yes, the moment I heard "Fred" I recognized him as well. I didn't know that I had choices in text-to-speech. This was my first experience/experiment with it. I was happy to learn that I could use a command in Terminal to create an audio file (aiff) made directly from the text I entered. Sweet! And, that I could select from several robot voices. I really wanted a female voice to help ameliorate the rampant dudeness of Master Hands. However, after I had selected "Victoria" as my narrator, I found that I wanted her to have a very male and even more robotic narrative wingman. So, despite his celebrity, I went with Fred. I really enjoyed picking things for them to say together--and considered adding even more robot voices.

I used these voices for a video for TheJUMP. At the time, I thought a lot about the tradition of using robot voices in creative works like this. I had a whole bit worked up about techno-alienation v. cyborganization. But another really big part of my decision came from not being comfortable with my own recorded voice yet. (Perhaps this is the Benjaminian-via-Cadava thing: "all works are funereal.")

Anyway, there are a lot of options for the robot voices. You can actually spend a lot of money for a robot voice. I'll cop to it. I've paid for a french female robot voice:

Bonjour1 by willburdette

As far as the probably mangled syntax, don't blame her. It's garbage in, garbage out.

Submitted by drbump on


Good point, Will. I often wonder how leisure time spent online is now rendered value-productive. Think about networks like Netflix, Pandora, and Amazon, all of which are more or less taste-making machines. Most of us now volunteer our consumption habits (e.g., movies we watch, songs we listen to, and sentences we read at home) to these networks, which respond with profiles at the individual and aggregate level. We are, indeed, "more productive."

Can these networks be used to generate something other than data for ad revenue and culture industries? When networks are designed to be mined, what kind of information do we feed them? And for what purposes?

Submitted by sirc on

Another thing I've been mulling over concerning this project, which goes to the very heart of the project itself and systemically spreads from there, is the phenomenon of the use of a certain kind of found footage: that old 'official' footage concerning technology. Can't tell you how many films I've seen, done by folks in the field, which draw on old clips of typewriters or early computers or old TV's or any traces of tech-past.

It's become such a received gesture now as to be a trope. I'm not in any way judging here; just curious to get your thoughts on the persistence of this strategy, which seems endemic to how academics do film.

Submitted by drbump on

Not that this speaks to the full scope of the gesture you have identified here; but part of it, I think, is what Stuart Selber would call a "functional" concern. This old footage is not so much "official" (i.e., bona fide) as it is legitimate (i.e., in the public domain). This functional concern has given the kiss of life to a genre that may otherwise be determined to be, simply, born of/pandering to nostalgia. That said, it certainly carries the rhetorical weight of tradition as well. But even as "Master Hands" announces its purpose to expose the skilled auto workers otherwise invisible to the 25 million automobile drivers, this fucntional/ethical, writerly, copyright concern remains invisible to most critical analysis--even though it influences the production of work in these media.

And much of this has to do with use. As Lawrence Lessig claims, “the public domain is presumptive only for content from before the Great Depression” (Free Culture 25). This means that if we find a piece of media made after 1930, it is safe to assume that the media remains protected by copyright. Therefore, finding resources for media with clear terms of use and collections of media that are in the public domain (that is, no longer protected by copyright) is increasingly important. The technologies of moviemaking allow us increasingly wider and wider territories for harvesting the raw materials of our work. However, the ethical/legal constraints regarding sharing the products of our craft shape the products that actually surface.

In some ways, these ethical constraints are akin to saying, "you can cook anything at all for dinner as long as it includes cheese." And then determining, simply from reading the menu or tasting the meals, that the cook has a cheese fetish.

Yeah. I've noticed this too. I think a lot of it is right on with what Bump wrote. There are two issues going on here: one is legal and the other is emotional. The Prelinger archives has this kind of public-domain footage so that's what people use. But also, there is the nostalgia that Bump mentioned, too. I think there is an impulse to connect what we are doing to things we have done in the past. Thus, the old footage of writing machines makes us feel like there is a techno-writing tradition there, even though we are inventing (or at least reinforcing) the tradition through the recirculation of the old footage. As Geof says, we've done this enough that it has become a trope. At this point, it's so much of a trope that there are even filters built into the software and hardware that will help you nostalgia-up your footage if it's not old-timey looking enough for you. So the legal and emotional issues kind of feed back into each other.

Three ways out of that loop of the top of my headl: 1) take the DJ approach and keep digging in the (virtual, film, etc.) crates until you find something that tropes the trope and takes you into new territory; 2) shoot your own footage (although it's no guarantee you'll avoid tropes); 3) be aggressive about fair use and use whatever footage you want.

The next question, I think, becomes how do you move away from the trope (i.e. old footage of writing machines) without going so far as to be not relevant to those used to dealing with writing machines (i.e., our disciplines). That is, footage of writing machines is ubiquitous in our discourse community because writing machines are familiar to those concerned with reading and writing. I think the master hands footage is a good example of this tension. It's not footage that is in any way directly about writing, rhetoric, or culture (except in the sense that we can make anything about writing, rhetoric, or culture). In our discourse community, we don't have to worry about the trope of everyone talking about, shooting, writing about, and sampling auto plants. But it does raise the question: why are we mashing up footage of old auto plants again?

Submitted by drbump on

Will, the mashup that does all of the things you suggest is Jody Shipka's. She has turned to a archive of public domain footage (though it is most certainly not all in the public domain) that is far more vast yet far less expedient (if potentially far more user friendly) than the Prelinger Archive: yard sales & flea markets. I think Jody is asking us to reimagine mashup in fantastically expansive ways.

I love the liberal use of found stuff in Jody's mashup. And yard sales and flea markets are great because you get the tangible artifact, which can be manipulated in lots of ways. Found work is actually where I began my research in grad school, so it's near and dear, and it led me here. And the way Jody puts together all that found stuff is really artful. In fact, it does what art should do, in my opinion. It raises questions.

As you noted elsewhere, drbump, Jody's use of Master Hands footage was akin to garnish (as was Jeff's). Master Hands was kind of our common text. Yet it can be hard to make connections between Master Hands and craft beer and yard-sale footage and NIN and clocks and conductors. We all can make some connections, as we all have in this conversation. But the genre seems to lead to a sort of conversation that spirals out in all directions. This is meant as an observation, not a critique. Obviously, I like these kinds of conversations. But this observation leads me to a key question, I think, about mashups in general, and about how mashups operate in our discipline(s) specifically.

And I ask this because I am struggling for an answer to this in my own work, which tends toward the expansive. And I ask this because I'm going on the job market. And I ask this because I want to be able to answer the question cogently. And I recognize it's a loaded question. So here goes:

What does the expansive use of extra-disciplinary multimedia material do to/for the professional communities to which we are all supposed to be (according to hiring and T&P committees) contributing? Are we moving toward artistic expression as scholarship? If so, great. I'm on board. But what are the best ways to explain this move to people who expect analysis, not expansiveness? I often go to the beats, hip-hop, jazz, and lots of other cultural traditions to support the mashup as a genre. And I've sampled the idea of Bakhtinian multivocality. But can the same explanations that situate the art situate the scholarship? Or, is this—what we are doing right here—the scholarship?

Submitted by drbump on

The questions I find myself addressing most in my roles as teacher, scholar, writer, and editor are the one I've articulated above (is it worth it?) and this one: what does it do? I have little concern for mashups as things--apart from the metaphoric extension that is, at times, productive: all writing is mashup. Other times, it's not so productive since, as we all know, all writing is NOT mashup. The clear distinction provides the stuff of metaphor.

When I find that mashup is productive is when it points to the work of writing: either common moves or specific rhetorical effects. For example, bonnie's approach to her mashup could give us the opportunity to talk about quoting and the multiple facets of ethos that emerge or recede by way of the sources we cite. Sources are not merely authoritative or not: NIN & T-Rex & The Dandy Warhols bring with them a host of ethical associations and bonnie's use of them blends and balances those associations. Or not. The Dandys are not just singing & performing "Get Off," they are doing so in bonnie's mashup after havng done so as popular recording artists who became all the more popular after being the subjects of a popular documentary about them. So they bring all of these associations with them, fittingly enough, to bonnie's credits.

That's some of what that mashup does. Just some of it. Or, rather, some of what it CAN do. There's some stuff from John Dewey (Democracy and Education) that I think speaks to this. And, in the spirit of a discussion of quoting, and at the risk of posting another tome, I'll cite some of it here:

"One accepts, for the most part, the studies of the existing course and then assigns values to them as a sufficient reason for their being taught. Mathematics is said to have, for example, disciplinary value in habituating the pupil to accuracy of statement and closeness of reasoning; it has utilitarian value in giving command of the arts of calculation involved in trade and the arts; culture value in its enlargement of the imagination in dealing with the most general relations of things; even religious value in its concept of the infinite and allied ideas. But clearly mathematics does not accomplish such results, because it is endowed with miraculous potencies called values; it has these values if and when it accomplishes these results, and not otherwise. The statements may help a teacher to a larger vision of the possible results to be effected by instruction in mathematical topics. But unfortunately, the tendency is to treat the statement as indicating powers inherently residing in the subject, whether they operate or not, and thus to give it a rigid justification. If they do not operate, the blame is put not on the subject as taught, but on the indifference and recalcitrancy of pupils" (287-88).

OK, so my point in citing Dewey (and all of the good and bad associations HE brings) is to look not to the thing--mathematics or mashups--and what it IS or even what it by nature does, but rather to look to how it is being used and to critique what it is doing when identified by way of applying a given interpretive lens.

The mashup has no intrinsic powers of art nor of scholarly symbolic action. Not even people have these intrinsic powers. These powers are determined by way of rhetorical action and the effects they appear to have.

The discussion that has emerged in the wake of the posting of these mashups is what we make of it. In some ways, it has been and continues to be as predictable as the dear-old-footage genre that Geof has identified. But, as I say to my students, don't blame the crayons for childish art.

Watch Erol Morris', Fog of War (or pretty much any documentary, for that matter). Morris uses mashups to enact portions of Mcnamara's historical narrative. The footage he uses in many of these mashups has no direct correlation to the events Mcnamara describes, yet Morris uses these found assets--ones we are unlikely to recognize from other uses--to give the illusion of a re-enactment. Now, those who know Morris will likely know that his documentary work is both celebrated and suspect due to his use of re-enactments. That's no different from observations I made about The Dandy Warhols above. But Morris, in this situation, appears to be using these mashups not so much as evidence, but as means to evoke scenes of action. And, as such, they become probability enhancers (or not). As Burke says in Grammar of Motives, “scene is a fit ‘container’ for the act, expressing in fixed properties the same quality that the action expresses in terms of development” (3). Morris uses mashup, I argue, to direct how we interpret Mcnamara's story--as fitted to this TYPE OF scene, if not this particular scene.

Now, to mashup Dewey's language in my analysis: Morris' mashups do not accomplish such results, because they are endowed with miraculous potencies called values; Morris' mashups have these values if and when they accomplish these results, and not otherwise.

So, rather than decide whether to a) throw Morris' mashups under the bus, or b) accept them hook, line, and sinker, I think the matter is best left to rhetorical analysis. And the question I most often have for that is the following: what does it do? Here? Now? In this context? For the purposes we can imagine that it is attempting to accomplish?

Mashups can be expansive. They can take us place where we don't often go. As such, the range of their expanse can be used to claim metaphoric territory. Are the metaphors that result from them productive? I don't know. What do they do?

This exercise gave the five mashup authors little guidance apart from three directives: mandated contents, running length, and self-containment (that is, they could not provide any other forms of text to provide context or interpretive clues about their mashups). That was it. As such, these authors were left to imagine or invent their own uses. Each text communicated its context(s) to me more or less clearly. What seems to me, still, is that the unifying element here, in this experiment, is that each mashup author, regardless of his or her self-selected context, has produced an artifact that gives us clues about the rhetorical choices she or he did or did not make. These texts give me, at least, a lens into the writing moves made by my peers--in this specific instance. In other words, these texts tell me more about what the authors did than what their texts mean. To determine the latter we have to imagine contexts for their interpretation, as we have done--for example, that some of these texts are to be contextualized by OWS. To determine the former, we just need to study the texts--which is really all we were given.

And that's why I have responded as I have. I honestly don't know what Jody's movie has to do with Master Hands per se. However, by studying the many rhetorical choices she has made, I can begin to posit a connection that is more fundamental than surface. Jody's film affords us myriad opportunities to observe the craft of her own master hands at work. As such, I now want to think not about how good or bad her movie IS, but rather how I might re-examine visual framing in my own work. And, yes, I am immediately thinking about my own movie making. However, I'm also thinking about my other forms of writing and how this new, expansive awareness may bring me to productive metaphors for framing in story telling in general. Its expansion may lead me to spiral out of control--to test metaphors that I determine to be non-productive. And if that happens, then I'll know.

I have a dear friend, an artist (painter, Alex Echo), who many years ago gave me a song lyric he had composed for me to consider using: "chase the clouds and the sunny days." Do it all. Try. As Jentery credits to Jody--and a word you (Will) use in one of your responses--and ironically, the title of that documentary about The Dandy Warhols): dig! Dig in. Will, you tell us to "keep digging in the (virtual, film, etc.) crates until you find something that tropes the trope and takes you into new territory." Several of us seem to have gotten that message from studying Jody's text, specifically.

My last word on this for now is to say that I hope that we--all of us who populate this field--can stop expecting or demanding that each form of writing will do it all--do all of the other things that other forms of writing seem to do for us. Scholarship is the product of scholarly action. I understand the operation of scholarship, at its heart of hearts, to be the act of getting people who are not currently talking together about a particular topic to start talking together. In doing so, new meanings can surface. And, if it is done well, these new meanings may also be determined to be not only plausible, but credible. But even more important, and stemming from credibility, other scholars will be moved to quote/cite/remix these works: i.e, they will participate not only in an instance of scholarship, but will participate in the ongoing project--the operation of scholarship. Mashups MAY participate in scholarship according to the understanding I've articulated here. But, as Dewey says, believe him or not, just because mashups MAY participate in scholarship does not mean that they DO.

That's up to us.

I see the challenge before us not to be crafting more accommodating definitions of art or scholarship, but creating/composing/writing new audio-visual texts that invite scholars to both regard them as works of wonder and consider them as necessary resources for supplying words, images, and sounds necessary for them to craft their own compelling, convincing, and credible (to use documentary scholar Bill Nichols' language) contributions to the conversations of our field.

Will, when you write this --- "But the genre seems to lead to a sort of conversation that spirals out in all directions" --- I wonder if another angle is through the distinction between long-form and short-form, or finished-state and middle-state, scholarly communication. In other words, it seems to me that many digital knowledge workers are now keen on publishing, or releasing, things into the wild before they are "done." Perhaps this makes the production process more artistic. I'm not sure. For me, what it does do is demand new ways of modelling and networking scholarship. If we become increasingly comfortable with communications spiralling out of our control (like my footnotes), then we might also look to ways in which we can creatively aggregate and even visualize those spirals. Know what I mean? Maybe we are actually talking about scholarly networks here?

Submitted by billiehara on

Yes, and this is the thing I like most about Jody's video, the use of "found" footage and its juxtaposition to the archival footage in the original film. It is in her video that I am able to see the art and interest that that intrigues *me* as a viewer/reader. It's in her video that I see value in the mundane, in the everyday. This is not to say that the other videos lack this insight; it's just that Jody's seem grounded in the real in ways the other do not.

Submitted by drbump on

One of the things I have learned to appreciate--and loathe--over the past decade is that I tend to watch movies as a movie maker. Of course, this decade is simply layered onto the previous 25 years of being a song writer and the marvels--and damage--that did to my appreciation of music.

My first instinct upon reviewing these 5 videos was to have at the raw material as well. I really get to know a movie when I take it apart, mess with it, take some bits, throw others back, and put it back together again in some fashion or other. It's during this process that I find things that are useful, question authorial choices in the original work, and find bits that I learned from documentary maker Ken Burns to call "little darlings": eye- and ear-candy, shiny things, stuff you really want to use even if it's not terribly relevant to your own use.

And so, having had my way with Master Hands, I thought it may be useful now for me to go back and see how my peers used the bits that I've come to know more intimately, and in this portion of my response to look for the writerly moves and decisions that I can begin to read into the five wonderful--and wonderfully unique--videos crafted by Richard, bonnie, Jeff, Jody, & Anthony. Along the way, I'll try to track their influence on my video response. This exercise has created its own little dialect of a genre--one emerging from this isolated group of symbolic actors. Patricia Bizzell has talked about the "grapholects" of writing. What we see emerging, I think, are any number of audio-visual grapholects that are inscribed by at least 1) the viewing and auditing habits, 2) the writing histories, and 3) the imaginations of the individual audio-visual writers who use these a-v grapholoects. Furthermore, these grapholects, since they are realized in concrete texts, seem to be tied as firmly to genre as they do forms of communication.

The five texts offered here are representative of five voices within the a-v grapholect of this very cool mashup experiment. Having now watched each of them, stolen ideas from them, and then carefully inventoried their assets, I'll talk about the writerly moves I see in each and put those in relation to writerly choices I routinely make--or not--expressed, always, with the envy I have for folks who either see/hear the world differently from the way I tend to or who express how they see/hear the world differently from how I tend to, even though we seem to share a base-line perspective. Or both.

Richard Marback:

Richard's writing strategy seems to be guided predominantly by juxtaposition: by moving from one sort of presentation to another. We move from Quest for Fire to Master Hands interspersed with old steel engravings of ranges of motion and gestures of the arms and hands. Then the section of the Flint Plant sit-down--and the jubilant song & dance of the striking workers--is juxtaposed w/ the Three Stooges' goof on sit-down rebellion. All of these political and filmic gestures are then juxtaposed against scenes of metal stamping in Master Hands which segue seamlessly to nearly identical shots recreated in Eight Mile (2002). We then move to the video advertisement for Master Hands DJ gloves--likely the nexus of the gestural theme of the work. We then juxtapose to a new era of Detroit--scenes and music from one of the recent Chrysler ads that promote automobiles imported from Detroit.

Throughout, the edits are hard, in that there are few visual cross fades and there are few places where we see or hear any sorts of blending of scenes or audio-visual assets. There are a few exceptions: in the intro, the 1936 Master Hands music plays behind the Quest for Fire clip. In the middle of the work the MH music blends with the Eight Mile music; however the visual track maintains hard cuts. And in the final minutes, we have quick juxtapositions between both visual and musical works. However, this editing strategy seems to be more summative than synthetic--as though the work is accounting for its moves rather than attempting to make new meaning from this new tempo of juxtaposition.

Overall, the work seems to have been motivated by the film Master Hands--or possibly the Master Hands product ad--as all of the other decisions, including the opening and closing quotations that refer to "gestures," seem to go through the scenes and themes of the Master Hands film: workers, work conditions, automobiles, machines of production, and fire.

I find it telling that Richard includes only film credits--no music credits for his work. The music throughout is directly tied to the clips, which at times presents quite hard aural transitions when the aural and visual boundaries of the clips co-occur.

I stole the theme of worker disquiet from Richard's movie in my mashup response. I also stole the dance of the assembly-line that Richard uses toward the end of his work--but then again, this footage shows up in several mashups. How can it not? It is total eye candy. I also am sure that I was influenced by Richard's term "gesture" as a way of entitling Master Hands' illustrations of skilled craft--a moniker that seems to say something special about the individuals, but only as organs within the industrial body. When the factory dies, so die the organs. So, thank you, Richard.

The authorial style of this work and the wide range of audio-visual assets makes me imagine that Richard would do well on Jeopardy.

bonnie kyburz:

Music. Bonnie's work, for me, is defined by her three primary musical selections, which seem to run the show--evident by the 30 seconds of Dandy Warhols that run beyond the final credits and also evident in the 25 seconds of black screen that accompany the introduction of NIN's "Terrible Lie" and the final 60 seconds of mostly black screen that precede the end credits. Each of the three, recognizable songs move through cycles of completion--they fade out at the ends of song sections (choruses, verses, bridges).

I am struck by how many portions of bonnie's visual track are eye candy: flames, sparkles, and the spinning wheels that we all seem to have ripped into our mashups. The one piece of total eye candy that only bonnie uses is the turning of the white-hot, metal coils at @ 2:50 in her mashup. Brilliant!

Both bonnie and Richard use pieces of media for which they do not have express permission to use and publish. I am glad they do. And yet, I am not quite so brave to make these authorial choices for my own works. I hope their works are not subject to corporate bullying and/or objection from individual copyright holders. Bonnie uses substantially long portions of music that record companies, song writers, artists, and/or heirs of Marc Bolan may decide to question, should they learn of this use. I would hate to see bonnie's or Richard's works pulled while they argue for their fair uses.

I stole Bonnie's music-video approach to this assignment; however, I used only one piece of music--one that mirrors her central musical work, the industrial track, "Terrible Lie," by NiN. Master Hands screams industrial to me, so that's the term I used to search CC Mixter for a piece of music that I knew I could use and publish without first seeking permission. I also, specifically, didn't want recognizable music in my mashup. I wanted the genre association, but not specific personal memories that would be attached to pieces of known music.

I also wonder, why bonnie has chosen to list her music out of order in her credits.

The authorial style of this work makes me want to have access to bonnie's record collection!

Jeff Rice:

Beer. Jeff and Jody both seem to me to have made movies that have lives of their own outside of this exercise and outside of the influence of the Master Hands footage. I wonder where Jeff got the idea for his film, but am left to assume that he was working on a movie about beer that was shaped by the assembly process--by the various technologies of craft beer production. Jeff's subtitle, "Mashed," (and his Facebook posts!) makes me think he was well on his way with this idea before he ever considered a moment of video stock. That said, there are clear analogs between the movie Jeff offers and Master Hands. However, the black and white Master Hands footage from 1936 seems to be in support of the otherwise 21st-Century beer production footage.

Jeff's music choices seem to guide his video editing in a way that is unique in this group of movie makers. The seemingly schizophrenic editing of footage that includes shots of beer barrels on the brew floor surfaces as the visual equivalent of the musical loops present in the accompanying music by The Apples. I love this idea and want to try it myself. Very cool.

Unlike the previous mashups, Jeff's has a title: "Craft Hands."

I stole a lot of Master Hands footage from Jeff's work: the guy who looks into the eye pieces, the big spinning wheels, the old guy watching his boring machine, the one set of female hands that I recall from Master Hands.

I also stole some of Jeff's story-telling approach; however, rather than use my own words, as I assume Jeff has done, that appear in text slides, I chose to steal language from both Master Hands and from other films to tell my story. This authorial choice also argues, for me, that Jeff has his own idea about what this film is trying to be. As such, I think this gives me the best clue into the authorial confusion that Jeff expresses at the end of the movie: "a project in progress." This work is not done. And I am happy to follow Donald Murray's advice to "glory in its unfinishedness." The rules of this exercise seem to have given birth to an really great idea for a movie. However, the rules of the exercise mandated that Jeff retain "the little darlings" of the exercise--footage from Master Hands. I will be surprised to see that footage in future versions of this movie as the project progresses. And I most certainly hope it does.

I've offered an awful lot of guesses in response to Jeff's work--mostly because his credits don't tell me much--in fact, nothing beyond the titles for the two musical works by The Apples. So I am left to assume that Jeff shot all of this video--even though some of it seems to come from advertisements for craft beer and a video made expressly for Russian River Brewing Company. I haven't searched for any of this footage, but wouldn't be surprised to stumble upon some of it on YouTube.

The authorial style of this work makes me want to follow Jeff on a pub crawl!

Jody Shipka:

Jody's work, like Jeff's, seems to turn to Master Hands as garnish. Conceptually, artistically, rhetorically, this work could lose each and every second of footage from Master Hands and not be compromised. That is not to say that Jody's use of Master Hands doesn't fit or work--it most certainly does. It just means that Jody's work, like Jeff's, seems to live well outside of this exercise--it serves another master, so to speak. And that's a claim that is pretty easy to back up. The star of Jody's show is her house of treasures--not the treasures of MH--and Jody's remarkable photographic genius and visual design ingenuity.

Also like Jeff's offering, Jody's has a title: "other people's lives: a projection." And though it does not mention the word in its title, as does Jeff's, "craft" defines Jody's work. Each and every frame of this movie is crafted. Jody's still photography becomes the home to video action, which is always subordinate to the still photo--contained within it--assigned a territory within its dominant boundaries. As such, Jody brings still photography and design to life in a way that rivals Ken Burns' effect of moving within still photographs. Only Jody's effect doesn't morph still photography into video action; it locates action within a static, visual field. And I love it. Worse: I envy it. Completely.

I could write a book on this piece, but I won't--at least not here. This work is a treasure trove of authorial choices. I'll just say here that I also love how Jody's work pushes at the boundaries of mashup and its reliance on/value for "found" assets. I love that the timbre of Jody's authorial voice is characterized by media she has appropriated in the form of abandoned and sold authored works--photographs, home movies, and machines of production whose time to shine has moved on. Jody finds her voice in and through these assets. They are both her muse and her musings.

And let me say this: I can't imagine how many hours went into this production. If we see a film clip, it likely has been found at a yard sale, re-found in a box of stuff, fitted into a movie projector that was also found at a yard sale--and brought back to life, projected onto a screen that has been otherwise set into a visual scene, and then videotaped within this new visual design. And that's just one 15 second clip in this 10 minute movie!


OK, so let's move on to all of the stuff I stole from Jody. I stole, wholesale, Jody's appropriation of the massive industrial gears and wheels from MH as the visual analog of film reels. Beautiful. Brilliant. Valuable. Stolen. I also stole Jody's use of audio from other films--some that we never see--that forward her argument. Even though we hear Jody's speaking voice narrate in the beginning, we mostly hear her authorial voice as articulated in found narration.

Most likely inspired by Jody's mannequins, I used robots to narrate my movie--machines that replaced the skilled narrators of yesteryear. Even as Jody re-situates video within still photography, I let my robots narrate the opening text slides of Master Hands and then let them have their/my way with that language to mashup those words to create new, counter meanings. I stole this mashup approach from Jody. Thank you, Jody.

Even Jody's credits are part of her audio-visual design.

The authorial style of this work makes me want to quit my day job and do nothing but make movies.

Anthony Stagliano:

Collage. If Richard's work is a model of juxtaposition, Anthony's is a model of collage. Most frames of Anthony's nearly six-minute movie feature layered information in both the visual and the audio tracks. Where others cut between shots, Anthony blends them. We often see three or four visual tracks simultaneously even as we hear some blend of all of their associated audio. In fact in his credits, Anthony indicates only video assets: seven of them. As such, I feel as though his work, like that of bonnie & Richard, emerges from the Master Hands footage. This film is the center of the work.

Anthony's pacing is really unique among his peers. It . . . is . . . slow. Deliberately so. Often we see layers that simultaneously show clips in regular speed and clips in dramatically slowed speed. Combined with the quiet, low register, droning of one of the musical layers, the pacing of Anthony's mashup evokes Stanley Kubrick--especially in the slowed motion of the spinning wheels of production (a la 2001: A Space Odyssey). Anthony also relies on footage of clocks and an increasing sense of spinning throughout his movie.

I stole a lot of clips from Anthony's movie. I also stole his use of the opening text slides--the one's I had the robots narrate. Anthony uses some of these words from MH as his title: "Master Hands command the great machinery of production." And because Anthony's work reminds me of Kubrick--and specifically 2001: A Space Odyssey--it likely influenced me to use robot narrators who would eventually start talking for themselves. Of course, Richard Marback's use of the female robot from Metropolis probably nudged me in that direction as well.

The authorial style of this work makes me want to experiment with layering translucent video tracks--something I've never played with in this way.

In all:

The most interesting thing that I notice across these movies is the eye candy that gets the most play and the conspicuous irregularity of the credits. As we grow into this new (to us) way of writing and of doing our business, we will need to come to some consensus about how to give credit to those from whom we have stolen: a form of honor among thieves that will greatly aid in the efficient operation of scholarship--itself a machine of production.

To close, for now, I want to thank these fine folks for all they have given me to steal.

Jeff, you pick the beers. The first round's on me!


I was really curious about the choice of "Terrible Lie" over the open source work NIN has released.

I applaud the decision to go with the copyrighted music for two reasons: 1) we need to exercise fair use as much as we can; 2) I think that something different happens when you use a hit, a familiar song, in a new, unexpected context. I don't know about you all, but nothing from "Ghosts I-IV" is as recognizable as "Terrible Lie." I think the power of mashups depends on this "something different." I'm not sure what to call it. Juxtaposition seems too pat.

Submitted by drbump on

Something different does happen. Popular music brings with it all of the associations that we attach to it. As such, it is powerfully rhetorical. It's an audience definer. It defines us by those of us who love it, those of us who have loved to it, those of us who have powerful memories attached to it regardless of our indifference to it simply because it was inescapably all around us during a certain portion of our lives, and those of us who positioned ourselves counter to it (e.g., disco sucks). OK, so that just revealed my age. But there's even more. Obviously. The point here, is sometimes NIN has to be NIN. For all of those reasons and more. Yes.

And yes, we need to demonstrate our need for uses that we want to claim as fair. That's why I said that I'm glad to see these uses. And yet, I wonder, in this particular case, if T-Rex needed to be T-Rex, if NIN needed to be NIN, if the Dandy Warhols needed to be the Dandy Warhols. I LOVE these music choices. bonnie is preaching to the choir and I'm 3rd baritone. However, I also notice that what I remember most from that video is those three music selections (well those & the whole flaming rod deal that has garnered plenty of attention already).

Each author has to make her/his own decisions about these things. I ask my audio-visual writing students to make these choices. I've seen projects posted to YouTube & pulled (or worse, branded with advertisements) simply because of a single piece of music. And when that happens I ask my students, "Is it worth it? Is this piece of music that you love worth compromising the work that your movie is meant to accomplish?"

And when their answers are "No," then something different happens.

That's a really great teaching moment, no?

"Hey, students: Guess what? Your rhetorical decisions have real world consequences. Ask yourself: 'is it worth it?'"

"Is it worth it?" might be one of the best rhetorical questions ever.

The situation also helps get students used to the somewhat bureaucratic, legalistic processes that effective rhetoric engages. Like, there are channels you can go through to argue the take down. Is that worth it?

I'll interrupt this comment to plug my colleague Scott Nelson's viz posts on the process for disputing automatic takedowns:


I like that you suggest that branding a project with ads is worse than unpublishing it. There definitely seems to be an adbusters vibe around here. But I think there is a real ethical issue here: some of the ad revenue presumably goes back to the copyright holder, but none of it goes to the YouTube member who is responsible for getting the eyeballs on the page. Is there a way for all parties to—yes, I'll say it—profit? Shouldn't there be an affiliate program for people who use copyrighted material, get an ad on their page, and redirect a portion of profits that would not have otherwise existed back to the copyright holder?

On the topic of giving credit, we also need to consider how to credit those we are working with when composing digital projects. After all, most (practically all) digital projects are collaborative in character. Here, I've found the Collaborators' BIll of Rights informative.

Submitted by sirc on

The original 'Master Hands' footage shows us what happens when production and capital become fused -- the die is literally cast.

The very product our 5 mashup artists use in their works, laptop movies or whatever you want to call the genre, represents their attempt to reclaim one form of production (media production) from capital. And by teaching the means to their students (as I assume they do?), they are betting their students will have a credible voice in the postindustrial information economy. It's straight Walter Benjamin ("The Work of Art . . ."), how access to the technology of (re)production (in B's case, ability to post in 'letters to the editor' column) means everyone can be an author.

Of course, Benjamin's claim didn't wholly upset the dominance of corporate-based authors. Laptop music production, though, seems to be doing something; so, too, the mixtape cd, how it's started to transform the corporate music paradigm (at least in hip hop, the only pop music genre I'm at all familiar with). So something is happening, maybe. Gods know we've needed some alternative to corporate music for quite a while. (It's Pauline Kael's old observation: as soon as corporations like Gulf-Western bought up the Hollywood studios, American movies went pfffft.)

I notice, too, how so many of the OWS signs are really slick. I'm thinking unemployed graphic designers? Maybe that defines our contemporary curricular mission: teaching future protestors to use sophisticated media tools to craft their message from the picket lines?

(And thanks, Bump, for explaining the old tech footage phenomenon.)

I appreciate the gesture toward teaching here: "And by teaching the means to their students (as I assume they do?), they are betting their students will have a credible voice in the postindustrial information economy."

From my vantage and experiences, much harm has been done by fast and loose claims about "digital natives," including assumptions that today's undergraduates are ostensibly biologically engineered to think and produce digitally. (Ok, I'm exaggerating, but just a little.) These assumptions smooth over distinctions between using and making, habituation and critique, and so on. In short, being born when technologies were already digital does not imply technological, digital, or information literacy. (It could imply quite the opposite, in fact. I often think that analog technologies and old media give me a better perspective on things digital. And in these vids, the digital and the analog are combined in compelling ways.)

Submitted by billiehara on

This is why I appreciate using a Mashup (or other similar construction) in today's classes. Students are NOT digital natives, and they learn so very much by creating something that, from the outside, looks so easy. They learn very quickly how much thought and time goes into the construction.

the glitch-y sequence in bonnie's vid

There's this moment in bonnie's vid that I find really compelling. It's the minute between 3:18 and 4:18 where there is just this blinking light. I like it because it exposes and, um, capitalizes on, the kind of glitchy aesthetic of web video. It's blurry and pixelated, but it's flashing to be beat of the music. One gets the idea that the larger and louder you played it, the better it wold get. And we just have to sit there and wonder is something wrong, here? Is it a light? Is it molten steel? It is getting closer? Is the video playing correctly? Then, what does it mean? Also, it's, like, 1/5 of the entire vid. I think of it as a rhetorical glitch, not in the sense that it's an unwanted or accidental moment. It seems very clearly constructed. But I think of it as a rhetorical glitch because it seems to want to be read as an intentional representation of a temporary breakdown of a self-correcting system. The VO says "The evolution will not all be peaceful. It can't be." And in this moment, we could apply those words to the auto factory, the auto industry as a whole, the original video, the mashingup of the original video, the moment in our own profession(s), or the evolution of our species. We're not sure what's going to happen after that minute...there's an elliptical 4-5 seconds of darkness and silence. Then the mood totally changes "Get Off" by the Dandy Warhols kicks in, but the flashing light comes back. We're just going to have to live with the glitch for a little while longer. I'm cool with that.