Teaching Technology: Remix Video


Following up my previous post sharing my students’ projects in my Media Technology course, the second assignment was to create a remix video that in some way offered a critical examination of media, posting it to YouTube to potentially generate some feedback from people who stumble across it. One of my pet peeves about teaching is that often you get wonderful student work that is, by design, written for an audience of one, and has no lingering presence beyond the semester. By asking students to blog, share, and otherwise publish their work, it both raises the bar for their own sense of engaging a community with their ideas, as well as offers an opportunity for faculty to publicize their excellent work. Hence this blog, sharing a smattering of student work for your viewing pleasure.

One of the models for remix videos I share with my students is the political collage that recuts political speeches to offer subversive messages – a classic from the 1980s is the Reagans’ pro-drug message, and a more recent one is remixed Bush State of the Union speeches. George and Stephen followed this prototype to remix a Rupert Murdoch interview – I like how the form of the remix becomes increasingly odd and uncertain, with stutters and flaws suggesting a breakdown of the media machine:

Mica and Ernest took an experimental approach by playing with the possibilities of using the time-based control of video text to highlight how messages can be manipulated and controlled, focusing on multiple visions of Mica’s home country of Argentina. Be sure to watch through to the end for the payoff:

Another subgenre of remix video we watched was the parody trailer, especially the idea of shifting genres (like the classic Shining remix). Derek and Jessie took that approach with Independence, although they note that their goal was “to highlight the signifiers of romantic comedy under the frivolity that Independence Day seems to exhibit as a sci-fi/action genre film.”

Finally, Ross and Thompson take the logic of the trailer, and make a trailer for media convergence itself:

As always, comments are welcome, and feel free to poach this assignment for your own pedagogical purposes.


9 Responses to “Teaching Technology: Remix Video”

  1. I appreciate this series (and will check out the videos when I have some time) in part because I’m going to be teaching a course on using DV in social science research and have been thinking about having students edit their work with a service like eyespot or Jumpcut instead of on iMovie (or equivalent) to make use of the remix functionality of those sites, both within the class and with the public. Right now I have a class wiki set up on Wetpaint for one of my courses and the participation rate is very low. Each week students have a choice between contributing to a secure blog or to the public wiki. Students tell me that they are reluctant to post to the wiki because it’s public. It makes them worry about being “right.” This is an interesting, if not too surprising, dynamic. I’m wondering how your students have negotiated these issues of publicness.

  2. 2 Brett Boessen

    Hey Jason! Thanks for the post. These are clever in a variety of ways, and it seems like the producers whose work is profiled here were engaged with their work–something all teachers hope for but don’t often achieve.

    Have you selected particular projects to highlight here? Also, were students asked to reflect on the work they had done in another form, such as writing or class presentation? If so, how did those go? I sometimes find the less successful projects creatively encourage the more successful analyses–did this happen for your class?

    Finally, how much would you say the training your class does with the technologies themselves (you have a media technologist listed as an instructor for the course, right?) contributes to their success?

    (I’m asking all these questions because I’m considering retooling the class exercises for my New Media course and am trying to imagine how an assignment like this might work for me.)

  3. 3 bgblogging

    This is a natural, logical and easy-to-do exercise for a course on Media Technology, Jason–how else can students understand your subject if they do not literally immerse themselves in it as they analyze it? They must remix and mash-up as a way to comment on the media. They must publish and link and network,. Of course. So it’s good to see that you’re taking this step, and blogging about it.

    I’ve been having my students do this sort of work for years in courses at Middlebury not focusing on media at all, with sometimes stunning results–remix and mash-up as part of research papers in first-year seminars on Ireland and contemporary creative nonfiction, for example. In creative writing classes and arts writing, too. My students publish all of their work, and they also archive it to be used by future courses–an invaluable stockpile of models.

    The more that faculty engage their students in critical examinations of 21st-century expression and media using the very media being examined, the better. Huzzah!


  4. Thanks for all the comments. The question about Shaun’s wiki might be more due to discomfort with wikis than the public/private question – my course’s wiki has a low participation rate as well, until the hammer of evaluation comes down from on high. The public issue does matter, especially post-graduation – I’ve had alums email me after a few years asking me to scrub their comments from old online discussions, as they don’t want Google to find their collegiate selves. I do turn off the searchability of my class blog, but obviously there’s no way to be fully private online without password-protecting a site (which I won’t do).

    Brett – I have selected projects, both for those that seem to best achieve the goals and represent a range of approaches. I don’t require “artist statements” anymore, as I want pieces to speak for themselves, but when we present them in class, we do discuss the goals (and when students present them on the blog, they can frame them however they’d like to).

    The history of this class is checkered, as the first two times I taught without a technologist (and scheduled lab), it was pretty much a failure. Having the dedicated ed tech partner and time allocated to tech throughout the semester has been transformative & vital. The need for external training is decreasing on some tools – video editing was a commonly held skill – but needed for others (my class is currently in hardcore panic mode over Flash!). The most important thing is that you need a point person to be available to field questions about tech – I’m not skilled enough for most applications, so working with Joe is crucial for me.

    Barbara – I’d be curious if we’ve had any overlapping students in our courses, as such activities at Middlebury are still so rare that for most students, it’s a shock to think about publicizing their work and composing in new media forms.

    Thanks again,

  5. Jason,

    I always enjoy the posts that illustrate the work of your students and thanks for providing so many ideas for us to import into our own classrooms. I plan on using a similar assignment in the Fall and I also had a few students tinker with things like this last year.

    I do have a question for you, but it requires a bit of a set-up first. This year in my TV Criticism course we used a blog space that functioned similarly to the In Media Res discussions (anyone wishing to see our version of this experience can visit aucommstudies.wordpress.com). This concept worked smoothly until about a week ago when our first video, a segment from House, M.D., was flagged for violation of copyright. Of course you and I know that using a segment of copyrighted video for this purpose is not a violation of copyright under the Fair Use provisions of the law, but to this point it seems that YouTube does not agree and so we’ve had to cancel one curator’s opportunity to lead a discussion.

    My question is this, what will you do when YouTube and a media monster like NBC Universal comes down on you and removes a student project because the code matches one that is forbidden by the service? For me, I have filed a counter copyright claim, but have experienced no success in waging the battle. I have also blogged about the experience just to be certain that it is at least marginally public.

    I firmly believe that having students participate in a public forum is a worthwhile endeavor and I also hope that someday a cross university experience can be developed so students who share common experiences with mediated messages can learn from one another and various scholars can add their voices to this learning experience. For right now, I’m still just testing the waters and my recent experience has illustrated one of the problems with the process.


    PS – On a lighter note, what’s the dang deal with Deep Blue Something and that irritating “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” number? I advise the radio station here at Alfred and my students have had this song in the rotation for a few months. I feel old saying this, but why can’t today’s kids find some of the good stuff from when we were younger? Is Deep Blue Something a better band than I remember?

  6. Chad – a good question, and I do think that this use of YouTube is a borderline case of fair use. Here’s my take: if the video itself uses copyrighted footage to make a critical point, parody, or otherwise remixes to say something beyond the original, it seems to be fair use and YouTube should not take it down. But it sounds like your students are embedding the commentary on another website, using YouTube as the source of footage to critique and discuss. I think there’s a clear fair use case for you publishing that clip on your website, but on YouTube, it is not functioning as criticism or commentary, just republishing without permission. So I think YouTube is warranted in removing it.

    What can you do? Well, you could post the clip on your own server, making it playable only from your website where it functions as the object of commentary. Or you could use Hulu.com’s embed function, since House is on that site (acknowledging that it would also play ads, which might not be acceptable for your pedagogy). Or you could have your students make a remix video with the House original to transform it into a work of criticism, reposting it to YouTube.

    Good luck!

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