Mashups=Future?

In the article “Remix video and the crisis of the humanities“, by Kim Middleton she argues Why should humanities scholars be interested in remix video? Equally importantly, why should remix video practitioners be interested in categorizing their work as humanistic endeavor? To reveal symmetries between the two that may motivate a reciprocal reevaluation of shared intellectual and cultural engagement, and to suggest that these contain the potential for coalition in the service of defending and promoting shared values. Jonathan McIntosh, a well known remix artist and producer of “Donald Duck Meets Glenn Beck in Right Wing Radio Duck” raises attention to the decline of employment in the American economy.

It now seems that just about everyone was hit by the recession. As we learned from the video, even lovable Walt Disney character Donald Duck has gotten financially discouraged. Using dozens of Walt Disney cartoons from the 1930s to 1960s, Jonathan McIntosh made this amazing remix where a downtrodden Donald gets his house foreclosed on after losing his job. He turns to Glenn Beck’s radio show for moral support, only to be stricken with fear about the Nazis, Communists, and Islamic extremists that undoubtedly surround him. The impersonation of Beck as a paranoid, psychotic radio slowly driving Donald mad with fear is hilarious, and the splicing of Beck’s sound bites with the old Disney cartoons is seamless. Watch until the end to see how Donald ends up dealing with Beck’s fear mongering.

Through the video we learned that humanities may become almost non existent but it will never go away. As long as there are people like McIntosh that promote innovating ways to incorporate humanities. we think the narrative of crisis belongs solely to the scions of language and literature, it should be noted that the documentation of dehumanizing tendencies of digital media is an equal opportunity activity.

“The new designs on the verge of being locked in, the web 2.0 designs, actively demand that people define themselves downward. It’s one thing to launch a limited conception of music or time…It is another to do that with the very idea of what it is to be a person”  (2.2)

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In Chuck Tryon’s 2009 book Reinventing Cinema: Movies in the Age of Media Convergence, he declares that we’ve entered an age of digital cinema, one marked by the complicated and intersecting actions and reactions tied to making, consuming, and critiquing film. The number of ways to come at a film are befuddling. It can lean towards the actions of one man or the entire culture’s view on filmmaking. There is an ongoing argument about remix videos. Some claim that the videos are pointless entertainment while others like Tyron, believe they are a sophisticated approach to the cultural/social/personal impacts of digital technologies.

The determining factor of a great remix is determined by how it is perceived by the public. How strong the “original”, if there is even a thing anymore (myth), purpose of the video is also crucial. In its most accomplished works, remix manages to encode both self-reflection and media critique.

Fear is the stem of technology. Everyone fears what they cannot control. Technology is advancing so quickly and has come so far from such a short time. Many people believe through technology such as mash ups and remixes that humanity as a whole will suffer and be deprived of that natural growth.

Rebirth of Humanities

The humanities are not dying, but similar to how people, technology and the world evolves, the way humans perceive humanities is changing too. Kim Middleton, author of Remix Video and the Crisis of Humanities, wrote an article on this phenomenon discussing some of the main concerns scholars have about the changing humanities. Remix and mash up videos may be the way humanities change and conforms to the digital age. Jonathan McIntosh, a well known remix artist and producer of “Donald Duck Meets Glenn Beck” raises attention to the decline of employment in the American economy.

The video shows Donald Duck, a hard working citizen who loses his job and his home due to foreclosure. The video uses pop culture references illustrate a myriad of perspectives in relation to humanities. This downfall of income has resulted in many universities to cut the humanities including: language, theater and art. Without these subjects, schools are merely reduced to technical or professional schools without fostering the cognitive skills the humanities challenge. Rosemary Feal,  the Executive Director of the Modern Language Association, fought against eradicating humanities with little success, holding onto the idea that cultural skills and cognitive abilities would be lost without this education.

However,  with the incline of technology in the digital age, humanities will not becoming a lost art if eliminated from educational settings. People are being provided the same skills through digital mash ups and the interconnectivity of cultures through technology. “Donald Duck Meets Glenn Beck” today has over 2 million views, and was translated into 6 different language. This video not only speaks out to the economic crisis that resulted in the loss of humanities for some, but also how humanities can be incorporated into new, creative and inventive ways. The intertexuality actually makes us more superior learners, able to gain many perspectives and use different mediums, scaffolding to create a more complex and comprehensive understanding.

“It is a text that acquires meaning though its manifold social systems of circulation, and its cultures and subcultures, composed of knowledgeable community members who know what to do with it, and how to respond in a myriad of ways that add new layers of content to the video” (3.6).

Many, like Mark Bauerlein argue that the digital age is accountable for the decline of individual thought.  Many articles were released by individuals who believe technology is making us the least intelligent generation, relying on google to think for us and “they worry that we are losing what makes us fundamentally human” (2.2). The short clip below outlines a brief summary of Bauerlein’s belief and the teen response.

Technology has helped this generation shape what we understand about ourselves and others, and where we fit into this world with the potential we can offer. It has changed us both individually and on a cultural scale, but not because we are less intelligent. Because we became a generation who thinks and learns differently than the past and have learned to adapt with the times. We are innovators, creators and are able to apply the cognitive and cultural skills learned and combine our understandings with other means such as video, audio and text.

Discussed by Chuck Tryon, author of Reinventing Cinema: Movies in the age of media convergence, the audience has become an active part of production and can utilize our ideas through remixes, mash ups, or response videos like never before. This kind of engagement is very powerful and works in tandem with humanities in cognitive and cultural experiences. The humanities are simply being presented in different means than before, but that does not make the experience any less worthy or culturally rich. Digital humanities is all around us and becoming more sophisticated through cultural, social and personal implications. Instead of harping on the economic endangerment of humanities, we should begin to shift our focus to how we can learn and grow with digital humanities.

by @deannabertini

Instagram is for Creeps!

The majority of us who are not living under rocks are in touch with smartphones. With these wonderful devices we are capable of some wonderful, yet terrifying things. One popular app that I too will say is a guilty pleasure of mine is Instagram. “What is Instagram?” I doubt you are asking, well let me explain it to you. Instagram is a form of social media through pictures. It’s like an online photo album of our own, where we can edit and upload pictures of our choosing. On this app are pictures that include: selfies, food pics, and group outings in the dungeons of fraternity houses. Sounds great right? Well according to some people, not so much.

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Maybe we should define “creepy” first. I personally see it as a synonym with the word “nosy.” To be a creep to me would mean you enjoy spending your free time searching through other people’s information, in this case pictures. The online definition is a little bit more specific. Creepy: “causing an unpleasant feeling of fear or unease.”

 

In this frightening, but completely believable article one mother claims pictures of her infant were STOLEN and then used to portray the child of someone else. Who do you call? The police? Or the copyright police? Not sure.  Jenny claims she reached out to Instagram, and got an anything but helpful response from them. I believe it’s hard to be mad at a corporation that deals with millions of users daily.

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What Instagram has shown me is that as a society we love doing creepy things, and knowing what everyone else is doing! Is that a bad thing? I guess not since everyone seems to be in on it. When mothers such as Jenny complain about the usage of her infant’s picture, who is really to blame? Of course it is strange that anyone would want to steal the pictures of an infant they do not know and claim the child as their own, but we also have to take into account what we are putting out on the internet for strangers to see. Clearly there is a lack of privacy issue, but most users are well aware of this blurred line between what is “private” and what isn’t.

Most of the major role players are anonymous, so it’s not clear who they are or how to reach them. But those who do reveal themselves are almost always teenage girls. Oftentimes, tween and teen role players like these come from a broken home, where their parents are either divorced or the child has been abused, says psychiatrist Gail Saltz. “The idea that an adolescent can create an identity online and take advantage of that anonymity does not surprise me,” says Saltz, author of Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Secret Life.

Scrolling through my Instagram’s newsfeed I see people upload baby pictures all the time captions including cries of how they want their nonexistent child to be “that cute.” Or fake Instagram pages of various people. It brings up the question, where do we draw the line of ethics between what is okay to upload, and what isn’t?

I’m curious what everyone’s take is on social media, considering just about all of us seem to use it in some sort of fashion. Are you cautious about what you post? Or do you feel safe enough where you’re items are private.

 

We See Differently

Scott McCloud author of The Vocabulary of Comics graciously points out that there IS a difference between what we see and how we perceive it, versus what our neighbor might see and interpret.

Here’s an example: 

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What is the first thing that comes to mind when you see these images? Is it the difference in the tilt? Most likely that is not what you’re focused on. While a good majority of people would see either of these images and automatically regard it as the controversial symbol for the Nazis, some will know that one of these images (the one on the bottom) has an ancient history and has been associated with many Indian cultures such as Buddhism and Jainism – a complete 180 of an idea and symbol in comparison to the Nazis idea of the symbol on the top.

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Or what about this image? Depending on whom you ask it can be a sun, a hoop, a ring, or just a circle. A lot of the determining factors would be the culture we live in and how our needs differ. The point being, different cultures give different meanings to things, and just like McCloud says “words are abstract,” and symbols can be as well until a person decides to give meaning to it.

The American Psychological Association did a study on our brains and culture, and came to the conclusion that we see what we need to see, and when our brains correlate an image with notions that our positive to us we receive a strong reward circuitry in our brains. What rewarded our brains differed for each culture, this study did a comparison of the Chinese and Americans.

“We see that what the brain finds rewarding reflects the values of the dominant culture,” says Ambady. “People can see the same stimulus but have completely different neural responses.”

Here’s an interesting take on how we view ourselves in a mirror versus how others might see us.

It would seem that many people view themselves in a negative light despite what others might think and express to them, or even if it is not negative, they just do not view themselves as the world does. McCloud coins this as “non-visual self-awareness” (37). He believes that while we know what our bodies are actually doing, we cannot picture it. Our own image of ourselves is just a sort of sketchy display of what we think we look like.

While a previous blog post “Is that Jesus in my soup/toast/street sign/tree?” pointed out being able to initially perceive something was originally a way to help determine the threat level of whatever passed us by and to protect ourselves. Now that every passerby is not particularly a threat to us I believe that we judge ourselves a certain way in order to once again keep us from harm. But the harm we are trying to save ourselves from is a distorted view of how others will judge us. So basically, rather than allowing someone else to look at you and perceive you as ugly, you instead do it for them, preparing and protecting yourself from what could POSSIBLY happen. This is truly a “distortion of reality” says Emily Sohn author of “Why We Don’t See Ourselves as Others Do.”

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Bringing this back full-circle with McClouds theories, just like we root for the underdog because we see ourselves, we appreciate cartoons, because we can fill in the gaps with the details of ourselves. I agree when McCloud states that “universiality of cartoon imagery” is a huge reason why we all adore it at some point in our lives. A lot of people can identify with a character that lacks every wrinkle, freckle, and gray hair that we all might have in real life. In a simplistic cartoon you can fill in the blank space with details of yourself, in comparison to a well shaded, more realistic cartoon that clearly portrays a certain “look.”

What cartoon characters did you imagine yourself to be?

Here’s a quiz if you need help!

Overall, perception of symbols, icons, and pictures can all vary depending on the person for multiple reasons but one huge one being culture. It can be considered a sign of what we as a culture consider important, your own personal experiences, and/ or what we need to survive or to reward ourselves. Keep that in mind next time you are deciphering a symbol. Ask yourself, what else can this be a concept of?

Susie Carmichael, The Rugrats

-Brittany Smith

@BrittanySmithRU

Read Between the Lines

You read that right, and it means exactly what you think it does. But only because you do. Confused? Don’t be. Closure, as discussed in writing, research, and technology, is what happens between the panels. not just in comics, but in all forms of communication. If a person told you to, “read between the lines,” you wouldn’t need to ask which lines they were talking about, you’d simply use your understanding of the phrase to extract meaning (and respond accordingly, of course). As McCloud points out in Blood in the Gutter , we build stories based on what we already understand and fill in the spaces accordingly. It could be something as complicated as a murder in a comic fight

 

or as simple as knowing that when ‘t’ comes after ‘a’ it makes the word ‘at’. This understanding helps every single person in their every day life to understand what occurs around them.

Closure can also be changed from what is usually understood. How does the mind react when put in a situation it did not know it would be in? In many cases, hilariously. As Ashley DeBella-McNem pointed out in her tweet  on Tuesday, messing with a person’s understanding can have funny effects on the message of a well known comic like Garfield. These examples often don’t give a story to the reader, but more often take any essence of a story away from the strip due to the lack of anything happening between the panels.

One anti-hero who is a great study for closure is the anti-hero Wade Winston Wilson, or Deadpool. He so perfectly exemplifies what closure is by completely disregarding what a comic book hero is supposed to do. Sure you can tell when he shoots his gun, someone is most likely dying in between the panels, but other times, he doesn’t fit so perfectly in one panel. He may feel the need to walk into the gutter and explain a few things to the reader. And more often than not, this explanation further confuses the situation and sheds absolutely no light on what could possibly be happening between those two panels.

Another fast rising example of closure-confusion is a very recent occurrence, and doesn’t have a single name yet. For all intents and purposes they will be called “noscope” or “Shrekt” videos here for simplicity sake, but there are many variations of the model. These videos use internet memes, poor animations, sound-bits, and music over preexisting video or audio files to create strange and usually disturbing video. Let’s watch:

This video demonstrates the odd, new style and has the basis of a story, but all the elements have been thrown off. For almost a year, there has been a strange cult following of the Shrek films and this video reflects that fad. This is a very tame example of this genre where as the next clip is very over the top (language/loud):

This video uses more memes and poor animation to poke fun at the first person shooter games and how engrossed in skill people become. Both of these videos show the odd new developments in media but still manage to have some small, if not confused, closure.

But why does it matter?

Because all of Garfield’s strange adaptions, Deadpool, and even the “noscope” and “Shrekt” videos perfectly exemplify how flexible closure is. Even though most of the Garfield comics make almost no sense, websites still run those comics and people still pay attention to them. Deadpool is gaining fame at an exponential rate and even had a game released last year. These two new video memes are only two of the millions that have been posted to Youtube already. The reason closure is so flexible is because to understand something, a receiver simply needs to know a few key points of a piece. In the future, dare to be strange and walk off the beaten path. Thanks to the internet, someone, somewhere will understand you, and have closure.

 

Marvel vs DC- Do they share a mirror?

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Recognize either of these characters? If not please allow me to enlighten you. The man to the left is DEATHSTROKE, a DC COMICS vigilante mercenary who is a gun for hire. The man to the right is DEADPOOL, a MARVEL COMICS vigilante mercenary who is a gun for hire. Do you know when they appeared? 1980 and 1991 respectively. Now, are you curious as to their real names?

Deathstroke– Slade Joseph Wilson

Deadpool– Wade Winston Wilson

Incase you aren’t connecting this let me elaborate: Deadpool is a direct recreation of Deathstroke in response to the popularity of Deathstroke in the DC universe.

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Very cool story, bro. In the recent years of Marvel and DC movies coming out raking in millions and millions of dollars we seem to pick allegiances to a single brand and shun the other. But little do we realize how much overlap is actually occurring between the brands. Deadpool and Deathstroke are sterling examples on how the dispersal of ideas among this creative medium have flowed without legal intervention- within reason- and creates a fountain of imagination that we can all build on and from. Not saying if you made a character called Livingtub in place of Deadpool that you wouldn’t meet legal recourse but it is enough to say that it can help spur ideas.

Now enter Marvel Comics 2014 as they have always tended to do, they address strong world topics in many of their comics. This time, school bullying.

Click HERE to read Rick Schindler’s article.

As shown at the very top of the article in the “featured image” spot we see some of Marvel’s A-list players. As we established with Deadpool and Deathstroke, there is a doppleganger to each of the characters. And this would be where the fanboy-ism shines as each team reps their label in fierce debate of who did it first and who did it better. Below we have a youtube video from WATCHMOJO as they outline some of the biggest similarities (and notice the bias).

Intriguing, no? What matters most is this: How has this not legally been pursued to prevent such close imitation? Companies like Disney and BMG fiercely look into anything resembling similarities and pursue legal courses. What have Marvel and DC done here that transcend the battle of originality and gave us some of our most beloved characters. Want more examples? Okay. Here is Canadian artist DARREN RAWLINGS as he presents his art and shows amazing similarities- “MARVEL SUPERHEROES vs THEIR DC EQUIVELANTS” (once again notice the bias and the selection or wording in the title).

My opinion in this is as such: As the comic labels grew in popularity through the 1950s and onward it was met by considerable resistance from the general population. The resistance came mainly with the horror and adult themed comics. In an effort to preserve their companies they moved into more super hero models. The companies may have forgone the legal actions on the characters to further their own place in the pop culture world. If they decided to start seeking recourse, that could have stalled their growth and buckled. Of course now they are behemoths and could seek recourse- but why? They have already had these characters as staples to their universe.

That being said, the bully issues of Marvel comics come out and help bring attention to an issue. An issue that DC could very well respond to as well with their exact same characters (notice my bias).

-Mike Sullivan

Bring on the EDM

A remix/mash-up can put across political, social, and ideological messages through video, but how have these two tools helped to evolve music? Statlor Waldorf’s Imagine perfectly exemplifies this process.  While the video is political, the practical implications of using completely unrelated sound bits to create a song has inspired a whole new genre. Electronic Dance Music (EDM) uses this old idea of reusing music in a new genre, but adds a newer ability to completely use, remix, and mash-up preexisting recordings easily. This process has only been made more publicly available in the past few decades. With new technology, artists have the ability create multi-million dollar music without touching physical instruments. This genre of music almost exclusively uses mash-ups and remixes to create what often sounds like completely new music. From more pop-focused sub-genres like trance and house to more niche focused styles like dubstep and trap, EDM has gained popularity all over the world with a large and varied audience. This music has evolved from small groups of people remixing in Europe, to the average person being able to pick up a remix program at Walmart. Electric Dance Music perfectly exemplifies both mash-ups and remixes in the music industry.

Take for example “trap” music, which was originally a form of “aggressive” hip-hop which, in 2012, bled into EDM to create a new form of trap. This new sub-genre helped to bring more fans to both trap and other forms of EDM from both sides of the trade. Songs like Scumbag

by Bro Safari which uses samples from Biggie Smalls’ “Suicidal Thoughts” to create an almost completely new piece using only two lines from Biggies’ song(and one gunshot). The original track was a supposed to be a sad and depressing one but has been transformed into music that is supposed to be danced to. This type of music thrives on the ability of the modern musician to take pieces of other songs from the internet and throw them together perfectly to create a new song.

With that said, EDM DJs have been criticized for their recycling of other peoples songs, and even ridiculed. This ridicule stems partially from a belief that not playing an instrument for a song means that the person is not a musician, they are merely someone stealing music from other artist. Some artist, like Daft Punk, seem to be sheltered from this criticism,while other EDM stars seem to always be under scrutiny. (Scrillex in particular)

The use and reuse of others work is not a new idea, it is simply more obvious within this genre due to using a person’s actual voice or music, instead of just the sheet music. As Ferguson points points out in his series Everything’s a Remix, the world runs on building on the ideas of those that have come before you. Granted, music is not exactly as helpful to mankind as building on the jet engine design or slice bread (which was hilariously made illegal for several years), but this style of music inspires a generation of people to go out and be active, even if it’s just to dance.