Anatomy of a Mashup

Anatomy of a MashupYou may have heard the word “mashup” in the news or in your house, especially if your teen is into music or spends a lot of time on YouTube. Mashups really started with music when DJs or hip hop artists would sample different tracks within a song (think P. Diddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You,” which sampled “Every Breath You Take” from The Police) and evolved into DJs combining existing tracks from different songs and overlaying them (Danger Mouse: The Grey Album). The concept then extended into video where people would mashup different movie or TV clips together (see this Snakes on a Plane mashup). Even web applications are being mashed up. According to an article on Factiva, Google Maps has been mashed up with elements like celebrity sightings, warfare in the Middle East, fast food restaurant locations and much more.

To me mashups are like digital collages – mixing and matching different sources of media to create something completely new. I interviewed Dave Yanofsky, head of programming at Uth TV, a website where teens can upload video, artwork and photography, writing, and music for the final chapter of Totally Wired, which focuses on teens using new technology to create their own media. Yanofsky called mashups “the holy grail” in that “they speak to youth where their culture is — mixing and mashing making it their own.” He admitted that the challenge is “reaching teens who have a sense of entitlement that everything is in the public domain.”

The reality is that most mashups are made with music, images or video that the creator doesn’t have the right to use. Organizations like Creative Commons are actively encouraging musicians and videographers to put their work under a special license that allows people to legally play with it, remix it and mash it up on their site CCMixter. Some bigger artists like The Beastie Boys, Trent Reznor and Pearl Jam have also allowed their work to be remixed by fans. Even television networks like The N are now offering tools for teens to remix video clips from their favorite shows.

For teens mashups are an easy way to creatively express themselves with this new set of digital tools they have grown up using (the Internet and video or audio editing programs). It’s a way to experiment with making music without having to play an instrument. It’s also a way to pay tribute to their favorites artists. Instead of teens covering their notebook with pictures of their favorite bands, they can create a mashup of all their videos.

Check out the following programs and websites that are empowering teens to mash stuff up:

The N Video Masher

Update: The Washington Post, reg. required, just published an article about mashups happening with Google Maps.

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