vrmcs12 mixin’, mashin’, and remixin’

Assignment Overview

(Portions of this assignment are borrowed from the CFP for Volume 1 Issue 2 of the Journal of Undergraduate Multimedia Projects [JUMP].) Other portions are not.


Samantha Brown, Drug Mashup: Changing Faces in the U.S. (2012)


Steve H., Sarah Palin Rides the Crazy Train (2010)


Rebecca Force, the remix before the prefix: she still picks the apple (2010)


Kevin Champion, The Crisis of Significance (2009)

Assignment Description

This assignment is going to ask you to think expansively about an historical and/or contemporary subject that you feel strongly about and compose a mashup of video, audio, still images, digitized versions of found materials, and (in one of the options, original voice-over), in an attempt to make a rhetorically savvy and visually complex social/cultural critical commentary or argument. (Windows users, please see this about video editor options.) The remixes you create must draw from these sources:

  • instructional, educational, ephemeral, or other archival film footage from the 1920s, 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, or earlier
  • contemporary media (TV, movies, television commercials, video games, online video, and so on from 1990s to the present)
  • found archival material (old postcards, old magazines, old letters, old books, and so on) that you have found in the real world and then digitized by photographing and/or scanning them

This, as you can see, is an enormously broad assignment, which leaves the door wide open for a variety of possibilities, but which also requires a great deal of student self-direction and critical conceptualization.

Perhaps, for example, you can’t stand the blather coming out of the mouths of cable TV news correspondents and you think it is causing the decline of civility in our society. Or, maybe you’re fed up with all the waste that contemporary cultures create. Or are enraged at the ravaging of the environment and lack of clean drinking water around the world. Or displeased about the state of race relations, the state of the education system, and so on. Or, maybe like in Crisis of Significance, you are wondering about the fate of humanity as it tumbles ever forward in some sort of direction.

Or maybe you have been pondering some historical issue that you’d like to rethink by contextualizing it in a contemporary setting but haven’t had the time or space to do so. For example, the excellent radio show, Studio 360, has a series called American Icons that explores one icon in significant depth. In one show host Kurt Anderson looked at The Autobiography of Malcolm X, though an historical and contemporary lens and by doing so touched on issues of race, gender, economic status, religion, and many others. He did the same with their most recent installment on Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” (which I think is the most important non-classical song ever written). Your remix could approach something similar by using an historical event as a launching-off point to investigate one particular related issue from a contemporary vantage point.

The most important thing, however, is that you locate a topic, idea, or issue that you feel strongly about and/or are curious about and have been waiting for a moment when you have the time and space to make your point known and/or explore the issue in some depth. This is that moment. And, ironically, you’ll be doing so by mashing together and remixing work created by others.

(Qualification: Please avoid over-used topics that have become tired and are prone to cliche, such as abortion and legalizing marijuana. This is not a research paper, per se, though we will doing research in the sense of searching for videos and other texts. The issues that are chosen will be explored and thought about in nuanced, detailed, and sophisticated ways. The more complex your approach and the more nuanced your proposed issue/topic the more effective your remix will be. As such, I’ll have to approve any issue/topic your propose.)

In addition to the video production, you will also be required to complete a 250-500 word proposal, a storyboard, and 2 shorter critical reflection papers:

  • The first (500 – 750 words in length), should focus on the medium, on the experience of working in/with/across digital video and how that experience relates to traditional writing.
  • The second (750 – 1000 words in length), should focus on the message, on the attempted rhetorical moves, on the editing techniques themselves and why various edits, cuts, mashups, etc. were done (what was their intended effect). This discussion should be grounded in the readings and theories on remix and mashup.

About the Proposal:

When thinking about your projects, think in terms of the visual and not the alphabetic. That is, starting thinking about the kinds of images that are often associated with a topic rather than what has been written about such topics. Then, start thinking about degrees of separation from that image to something that is related. For example, when thinking about nuclear war we often think of the image of the mushroom cloud. In the Crazy Train video, that was turned in to a clip of a cartoon mushroom growing. Or, when thinking about the subjugation of women in society, that is often conceived of the brutal husband, which in Rebecca’s video was translated into the puppeteer supposedly controlling the woman’s movements. Most topics have visual associations, though some don’t.

Also, begin thinking about a narrative for your video, even if you are going to be proposing option 1. All the remixes in our examples are narrative-based though they have non-linear components, like quick cuts, repeated images, and so on. Do not just think that you’ll be able to show various images of a topic and be done with it. That doesn’t work well (and perhaps we’ll look at some less successful examples in class and think about how they might have been re-conceived).

In your proposals, write about why the topic is one of historic and/or contemporary importance and the overall vision you have for the piece. Discuss the kinds of images you expect to find, the kind of music you are thinking about using, and so on. Also discuss what kinds of images or things you can do to take the video to the area of the unexpected, such as a rare version of a song or incorporating Muppets or cartoons in a highly sophisticated subject.

Remix Specifics and Resources

The nuts and bolts:

  • must incorporate at least 4 visual communication modes (moving, audio, oral discourse, still images, etc.)
  • must include credits and sources using APA format
  • must employ intertextuality, juxtaposition, and montage
  • contain a Creative Commons license

You have two options for the composition:

  1. Mashup without original voice-over (3 – 5 minutes), which is like the first 3 videos in the Assignment Overview. Though the shorter of the two videos, the complexity of this option comes with relying solely on the visuals and their ordering to make your overall point clear. The structure here is less linear.
  2. Mashup with original voice-over (5 – 7 minutes), which is like Crisis of Significance. Though the voice-over can be used to help the viewer through the video, the challenge here will be to compose a narrative that is sustainable over that length of and employs the visuals in such a way that enhances and furthers what is stated in the voice-over. The structure here is more linear.

Instructional, educational, or ephemeral film footage from the 1940s, 50s, 60s, or 70s can be found most readily in the Moving Image Section of the Internet Archives. Some useful places to start are: productions/collections by Coronet Instructional Films, the A/V Geeks, or the Prelinger Archives. It may help you to find a subject area by exploring the massive tag clouds associated with the collections, but I encourage you to look across subject areas to hep complicate your projects. Contemporary footage can come from anywhere.

Other archives that have great material (most of which is easily downloadable) are:

For information how to download and convert online video that can be used with Windows Movie Maker and iMovie, see How to Download and Convert Online Video and/or How to Capture and Convert Video. For information on how to use footage from DVDs, see How to Rip DVD Clips by Jason Mitchell (make sure you read the comments, too, for excellent suggestions on top of those offered in the article).

Specifics for the Final Video

Your final video must contain at the end the following:

  • a complete list of sources, including URLs and where the material was found (these will also appear in the video description)
    • these can be listed in the general order they appear or in alphabetic order
  • a creative commons license still image that lasts 5 seconds, which you can download at Creative Commons Licenses
    • the license should be the last thing in your video
  • this end material should appear after the remix is complete; that is, the time used here is in addition to assignment requirements

Specifics when Uploading the Final Video to YouTube

  • Upload the video to the course YouTube channel
  • Place the complete title of your video in the form field when uploading the video. The title you choose should be meaningful and should include some version of the work “remix” or “mashup.”
  • In the Description form field, add the following text:
    • start with a one-two sentence description of the the video, and describing its purpose
    • state that the project was completed by you for Visual Rhetoric and Multimodal Composition, Rowan University, Spring 2012,  taught by Dr. Bill Wolff. If you don’t want to include your full name, use your first name and last initial. Include a statement that discusses how the work is created for a class and as a result falls under Fair Use Guidelines and within the exemptions to DMCA Section 1201 rules announced by the Library of Congress on July 26, 2010. Include a statement with URLs that point the viewer to information about the course (http://williamwolff.org/courses/vrmc-spring-2012/) and assignment (http://j.mp/Ik7dEp). Also mention the software you used to complete the remix.
    • include credits and sources here as well as in the video itself
    • Please use paragraphs and complete sentences
  • Add at least the following tags: remix, mashup, vrmcs12, rowan, rowan university, as well as multiple tags relating to your topic (these tags will increase the likelihood that the video will be found when searching that subject matter).
  • For the category, select Education (it could fall under “Entertainment” but Education suits our purposes).
  • Make the video public and allow embedding and comments
  • After upload, please add the video to the Final Remix Assignment playlist

Due Dates

4/5: 250 – 500 project proposal due by classtime on blog
4/12: storyboard due by classtime on the blog
4/15 (Sunday): first rough draft due on course YouTube channel by 11:00pm (length: 1/3rd of final length)
4/26: second rough draft due on course YouTube channel by classtime (length: 2/3rd of final draft)
5/3: Remix Final Draft due on course YouTube channel and embedded in a blog post along with two reflective essays by 11:00pm

For Windows Users

Updated 9/1/10 4:50pm: All versions of Windows since XP have come with a version of a basic video editing software, Movie Maker, which is more than enough for what we are going to be doing in class. Here is a breakdown of the versions:

  • XP comes with Windows Movie Maker 2.1
  • Vista comes with Windows Movie Maker 2.6
  • Windows 7 comes with Windows Live Movie Maker
  • It is possible to install Windows Movie Maker 2.6 on a Windows 7 machine (and I recommend you do so)

Versions 2.1 and 2.6 are virtually identical in all ways except one: they are not compatible. That is, if you start a movie project on Vista you will not be able to edit it on a computer with XP. Neither is compatible with Windows Live Movie Maker, which has significantly fewer features than 2.1 and 2.6. This is important because of what is installed on Ed Hall computers:

  • The PCs in our classroom have Windows XP and as a result Movie Maker 2.1.
  • The PCs in the Ed Hall open lab have Windows 7 and as a result Windows Live Movie Maker.
  • Windows Movie Maker 2.6 has also been installed on Ed Hall open lab computers.
  • (I’m not sure about the PCs in other parts of the campus.)

This is all to say: if you own a PC desktop with Vista: do not expect to be able to edit movie projects on class computers (whether you will be able to edit them on open lab PCs is still up in the air). If you own a PC laptop, bring it to class with you so you can work on your movie and not have to worry about versions.

While having Windows Movie Maker is quite nice because it is free, there are important things for you to take into consideration and be aware of:

  • All versions of Windows Movie Maker are known to crash often and without warning (students have had trouble with this)
  • Windows Movie Maker gives odd and often mysterious errors that can result in you having to recreate your movie from scratch (students have had problems with this)
  • The incompatibility from version to version can be a pain if you are trying to work on a project both at home and at school.

If you find that it is crashing or freezing, then I strongly suggest that you purchase an excellent, robust, and cheap video editor. Two options are (in order or quality)

Though the software is quite similar to Movie Maker (though more robust), I am not familiar with either Pinnacle Studio or Movie Edit Pro and as a result will only be able to offer limited help if you have trouble.

Mac users: iMovie HD, ’08, and ’09 have their own special quirks and glitches, but overall they are much more robust and stable than Windows Movie Maker.

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