assignment 2: memes and remixes

Assignment Overview

In six words, Lawrence Lessig encapsulates the differences between the older and younger generations: “We watched TV; they make TV.” Contemporary culture is participatory; people create their own entertainment and distribute it online for others to enjoy, critique, or ignore. Much of this entertainment takes older media and represents it in a new way, often adding a new layer of social commentary. This is called remixing. Along with remixes, Internet memes—“a catchphrase or concept that spreads rapidly from person to person via the Internet”—have become important parts of contemporary culture. Complementing the viral spread of memes are imitations of the memes. These imitations can also go viral, and when enough imitations are made a community emerges. In this unit, we will create our own remixes that make some kind of comment about popular culture and/or contemporary society. A 3 – 5 minute interpretive video essay will accompany each video. Unit I is called “The Hitler Downfall Meme” and Unit II, “Mashing an Argument.”

Unit I: The Hitler Downfall Meme

On 16 September 2004 Oliver Hirschbiegel released Der Untergang, which takes place in Hitler’s bunker and tells the story of the final twelve days leading up to Hitler’s suicide. It was released in the United States as Downfall. It was a critical hit, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, and garnered numerous international awards for both the movie and the actor playing Hitler, Bruno Ganz. Here is the scene in the original German:

And with English subtitles:

On June 07, 2007, MOTURK49, uploaded “Hitler gets banned from Xbox Live” to YouTube (I believe this is the first parody, but if I am wrong please correct me). This video parodies one of the final (and best) scenes of the movie by changing the subtitles to reflect Hitler’s severe displeasure with getting banned from Xbox Live. As of this writing it has been viewed 2,534,127 times, and has spawned hundreds of other parodies. The Hitler Downfall Meme, as it is so called, has been covered by Wired, The New York Times Magazine, The Times Online, among other leading publications. Other scenes have been added to the mix, broadening the impact of the meme and diversifying the locations for Hitler’s displeasure.  A YouTube channel and a YouTube group have emerged to organize the videos (warning: many of the parodies are, for lack of a better word, vulgar, containing foul language and explicit sexual references). YouTomb has stills from videos that Constantin Film AG requested YouTube remove from the site, citing copyright infringement. Despite the parodies obviously falling under Fair Use, YouTube has complied by removing many of the videos. The parodies have taken the scene and the depiction of Hitler in new directions, while simultaneously locating themselves within a rich tradition of parodies of Hitler, such as Mel Brooks’ “Springtime for Hitler” (1968, 2005) and “Hitler Rap” (2006).

In this unit, each student will engage and help expand this meme by remixing the Hitler Downfall scene with their own subtitles. The topic of the video is up to you, though it will be approved. The video should, through Hitler’s displeasure, comment in some way on popular culture and/or contemporary society. Below are some of the more tasteful samples:

“Hitler gets banned from Xbox Live”

“Hitler Reacts to Detroit Lions – 2009 Week 2”

“Hitler Wants a Cheeseburger”

“Hitler Finds Out Sarah Palin Resigns”

Steps to Complete the Project

  1. Download a copy of the original video without subtitles. To download, right click and Save Link As on one of the following links: original video without subtitles for iMovie 6 or HD (.mov); original video without subtitles for iMovie 08 or 09 (.m4p); original video without subtitles for Windows Movie Maker (.avi).
  2. Come up with a topic of your movie.
  3. Write the script, mirroring the lines with the scenes in the movie where the characters speak.
  4. Import the original movie into iMovie or Windows Movie Maker and split the movie into multiple clips so that each clip contains a section of dialogue.
  5. Add your lines as subtitles. See how to add subtitles to iMovie 08 and how to add subtitles to Windows Movie Maker.
  6. Export your movie and upload it to YouTube.

Specifics when Uploading the Video to YouTube

  • Upload the video to 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 start with the word, “Hitler.”
  • In the Description form field, add the following text:
    • start with a one sentence description of the the video
    • state: “This video is a parody of Downfall (2004), directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, and because it is a parody it falls under the FAIR USE guidelines of United State copyright laws. This statement functions as attribution. The original, un-subtitled footage that was used can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72HsKDmo1tw.”
    • state that the project was completed by you for Writing, Research, and Technology, Fall 2009, Rowan University, taught by Dr. Bill Wolff. If you don’t want to include your full name, use your first name and last initial (this will also ensure that I know who completed the video). The video is [specify how you have copyrighted the video (see above for details)]. Include a statement with URLs that points the viewer to information about the course (http://williamwolff.org/courses/wrt-fall-2009/) and assignment (http://j.mp/NOymS). Also mention the software you used to complete the remix.
    • Please use paragraphs and complete sentences
  • Add at least the following tags: “downfall” “hitler” “hitler downfall” “parody” “wrtf09″ “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 and provides better argument for Fir Use).
  • Make the video public and allow embedding and comments

Due Dates

10/7: Topic and draft of script due (bring two copies of script to class)
10/12: Rough Draft Due on course YouTube channel by classtime
10/14: Final Draft Due on course YouTube channel by 11:59 pm

Please note: If you are uncomfortable in any way working on Unit 1 using the footage from Downfall, you may use footage I have prepared from the movie Persepolis. Please contact me to discuss.

Unit 2: Mashing an Argument

The goal of this assignment is to create a video argument that makes the case for why the theme/subject of your oral history video is important for society to learn more about. Think of the video as a kind of public service announcement in that the video will be making the case for why the public should pay attention to your issue or theme. And, at the end of the video, if your theme warrants, before the creative commons license slide, please add contact information where people who see the video can go for help, to volunteer, or for further information.

To complete the project, your video will remix and mash together the following texts: still images, video, audio, and alphabetic text. Each of the above must be used at least once in the video. Here are two examples:

“Clean Up New York”

“Imagine This”

There are three non-negotiable stipulations. First, your voice cannot appear on the video at all.  Second, your own alphabetic text (in the form of subtitles or titles) cannot make the argument or push the point to make it obvious, as in Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 campaign commercial “Peace Little Girl (Daisy)”:

The images, video, and sounds must make the argument. Third, the video cannot be merely an interview with someone (say, an expert in the field) discussing why the issue is important. While this is certainly a useful way to get a point across, the goal here is to try to accomplish something similar with remix and mash-up.

Helpful Resources

Even though our use of video and images will fall under Fair Use, please use the following resources to find Creative Commons-licensed work. Note that if you use Creative Commons share-alike work you video will need to use the same share-alike license:

For New York Times Newspaper headlines, see the New York Times PDF Archive (Rowan students only). For historic photographs with no licensing restrictions, see The Commons on Flickr. Also see the LIFE Magazine Archive hosted by Google and The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.

To find videos, I suggest Truveo Video Search or Google Video Search.

Specifics when Uploading the 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.”
  • 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 Writing, Research, and Technology, Fall 2009, Rowan University, taught by Dr. Bill Wolff. If you don’t want to include your full name, use your first name and last initial (this will also ensure that I know who completed the video). The video is [specify how you have copyrighted the video (choose a Creative Commons license that is consistent with any Creative Commons texts you have chosen)]. Include a statement with URLs that points the viewer to information about the course (http://williamwolff.org/courses/wrt-fall-2009/) and assignment (http://j.mp/1WE8E7). Also mention the software you used to complete the remix.
    • All texts that are used in the video must be attributed. In the Description only (that is, NOT in credits in the video) list the title, author/creator, date, and URL for each text. List them under the header: “Texts Used (in order of appearance”). If you do not know, for example, the date, just don’t include that info.
    • Please use paragraphs and complete sentences
  • Add at least the following tags: “remix” “mashup” “wrtf09″ “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

Due Dates

W 11/4: 0.45 – 1.30 minute rough draft due online by class-time
W 11/11: 1.00 – 3:00 minute final draft due online by class-time
W 11/13: 1.00 – 3:00 minute final draft due on YouTube and embedded in new wiki page by 11:59pm.

One Response to assignment 2: memes and remixes

  1. Pingback: Remix Culture Assignments » Core 2: Interactive Technology and the University

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