wrt fall 2012 video mashup assignment

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)


Christen Otter, Little Beauties (2012)


Steph C., Mix, Mash, and Stir Food Remix (2010)


Tarrah M., Life in a Day (2012)


meghan o’donnell, the disposable nature of culture (2012)

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, and still image texts 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 mashups you create must draw from two 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)

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. The goals of this assignment are:

  • to challenge students to think about large and important issues in new and exciting ways
  • to gain a felt understanding of what it is like to compose using audio and visual texts
  • to compose rhetorically sophisticated videos mashups
  • to put into practice theories on remix, mashup, and semiotics
  • to learn to use video editing software

On Possible Topics Issues
The topic issue you choose for this assignment should challenge you in new ways; it should force you to take risks; it should take you out of your comfort zone. All topics issues must be approved by BW. Over-used topics issues that have become tired and are prone to cliche, such as abortion and legalizing marijuana, will not be approved. Nor will interesting topics issues tackled in uninteresting ways be approved.

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 have an interest in the upcoming national elections and want to decry the media of the kinds of ads being run in various media as debasing the values inherent in democracy. Or, maybe you’re fed up with all the waste that contemporary cultures create. Or concerned about the use of drones or the increase in surveillance by our government. Or displeased about the state of race relations, the state of the education system, and so on—and the inability for people to actually talk about what is happening. Or, 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 mashup 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, are curious about, and will force you to take risks—risks not in terms of how you are composing but the kinds of subjects you will be considering.

Update 10/4/12: One way to determine if BW will accept your topic issue is to ask yourself: is the issue black and white? Is there too clear a right or wrong answer. For example, consider the topic “drinking and driving.” There is only one approach: don’t drink and drive. It’ll take 2 seconds to get that through in your video and then you just repeat the same thing over and again. That won’t work. So, search for issues that have shades of gray. They gray is what you’ll explore. Toward that end, try not to think of this project as “taking a stance.” Rather, your goal will be to present the complexities of the issue in a nuanced way. Your stance will come through, but the stance itself should not be the driving force. The complexity will be.

Additional Requirements
In addition to the video production, you will also be required to complete a 400-500 word proposal, a storyboard, and 2 shorter critical reflection papers.

For 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. All the mashups 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 risks you’ll be taking by exploring it. 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.

The Reflections:

  • 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 (500 – 750 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 semiotics, remix, and mashup and discuss several of the specific instances in which you deliberately employed those theories

Mashup Specifics and Resources

The nuts and bolts:

  • must incorporate at least 3 visual communication modes (moving, audio, oral discourse, still images, etc.)
  • must include credits and sources using APA format for all texts, including the soundtrack; in the credits list title; author, artist, username, or news corporation; and URL (you can use shortened URLs from bit.ly)
  • must employ intertextuality, juxtaposition, and montage
  • must employ at least 5 specific semiotics theories
  • must contain a Creative Commons license
  • must be 3 – 5 minutes long

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. For information on how to create an effective file and folder structure to help prevent errors when using video editors, see Creating an Effective Folder Structure for [Editing] Movies. 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)
    • in the credits list title; author, artist, username, or news corporation; and URL (you can use shortened URLs from bit.ly)
    • 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 word “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 Writing, Research, and Technology, Rowan University, Fall 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/wrt-fall-2012/) and assignment (http://j.mp/P7mIUr). Also mention the software you used to complete the mashup.
    • include a complete list of credits and sources here as well as in the video itself
    • Please use paragraphs and complete sentences
  • Add at least the following tags: mashup, wrtf12, 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

(These are subject to change based on class progress.)

10/9 10/16: 250 – 500 project proposal due by class time on course blog
10/16 10/23: video summary and storyboard due by class time on the blog
10/18 10/25: first rough draft due on course YouTube channel by class time (length: 1/3rd of final length); add your video to the Rough Draft 1 playlist.
10/29 11/5 (Monday): second rough draft due on course YouTube channel by 11:00pm 9:00am (length: 2/3rd of final draft) (due time changed to accommodate conferences)
11/9 11/16 11/18 (Friday Sunday): Remix Final Draft due on course YouTube channel and embedded in a blog post along with two reflective essays by 11:00pm; create ONE post for all of this

For Windows Users

(Note: This is reprinted from the course syllabus.)
All versions of Windows since XP have come with a version of a basic video editing software, Movie Maker. 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

Though we are going to be doing basic-to-moderately-complex video editing in this class, none of the versions of Movie Maker are sophisticated enough to handle what we are doing. Students in the past have experienced the following dramatic, maddening, time consuming, and sometimes utterly devastating problems:

  • All versions of Windows Movie Maker are known to crash often and without warning resulting in having to start the project over from scratch.
  • Windows Movie Maker gives odd and often mysterious errors that can result in you having to recreate your movie from scratch.

These are not one-off errors. These have happens to multiple students each time I’ve taught video editing. As a result, students who have Windows-based computers are required to purchase a low-cost alternative that is less than the cost of most class textbooks. Your two options are (in order of quality):

I suggest contacting Pinnacle and the Movie Edit folks to see if they have education discounts available for students. Find their contact information on their web sites.

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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