Dr. Mashup; or, Why Educators Should Learn to Stop Worrying and Love the Remix

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The voracious demands of my rampaging ego compel me to point towards an article just published in the latest issue of EDUCAUSE Review on mashups in higher education (HTML and PDF).

This wasn’t an easy article to write, in part because I decided to consider mashups in the sense of both content creation and online applications. As I got deeper into the writing of it, it also became near-impossible to separate the topic of content reuse in higher education from the basic principles of open education (the influence of David Wiley’s recent talk in Vancouver is evident in this regard).

There’s also an audio companion to this piece, though if I was honest I might admit I wrote the article as a companion to the audio mashup. (Download 13.8 MB MP3, 15:00) Sources for the audio file are here. I’m especially fond of the last four minutes or so of the track, a remix of audio recorded at the inaugural EduGlu Symposium last February during Northern Voice — thanks to Draggin for snagging and sharing it.

There are bunch of people I should thank, actually, but I’ll narrow it down. First, a huge shout-out to ER Publisher/Editor Teddy Diggs for agreeing to run the article in the first place, and then demonstrating astonishing patience and an awe-inspiring openness to weirdness. I hope she doesn’t come to regret it. From a writer’s perspective, Teddy is everything you could want in an editor, every change she made to the text was perfect, her editorial touch always very light and subtle. And she’s an absolute blast to work with, always fun even when prodding on deadlines…

Keira tolerated me thinking out loud and brooding for weeks on end, was an excellent sounding board, and also took on a lot of extra household stuff to give me the time to write. This was a slower writing process than normal for me, and every extra bit of time I got was needed.

I proposed this article not because I was an expert on mashups, but because I was interested and wanted a reason to learn and think more about them. As a result I talked through a lot of things with a lot of peers, and thanks to all of them. A special shout-out to Scott Leslie, who spent a couple hours walking me through the implications of mashups on institutional IT strategy when frankly I had no idea what they might be. He also sent me a lot of resources along the way, making sure I was following Raymond Yee’s excellent work on the subject.

My goal of learning more and having some fun met with roaring success. Onward to the next freakout.

12 thoughts on “Dr. Mashup; or, Why Educators Should Learn to Stop Worrying and Love the Remix

  1. I think you’ve written a great article, and more to the point, the audio mashup (which I listened to this afternoon and greatly enjoyed) is something that won’t be soon forgotten by EDUCAUSE readers.

  2. Dude, a truly worthy follow up to the wiki article, good stuff.

    Not that I agree with you so much with you, or the … ‘gleefully sharing their materials’ etc. but that’s another bucket o’ fun for later 🙂

  3. Stephen, many thanks for the plug and your contribution to the audio clip.

    James, I’m sure you’ll have little difficulty carving me up, but my fears aside I look forward to hearing your critique.

  4. Hey, Brian, you can write for me anytime — your intelligence and imagination always provide a rockin’ and enlightening experience for me. Looking forward to the next “freakout.”

  5. Brian,

    This is an awesome article. And brings so many ideas to my mind. I’ll focus in on the possibilities that emerges when you frame the mashup/re-mix as a moment wherein the ability to re-combine and re-imagine works in new and unique ways. This has a direct analogue to the potential for using the mashup/re-mix to re-imagine genres and disciplines throughout the academy more generally.

    I can’t help but think of the ways in which the re-mix has fueled and framed one of the most important contemporary musical explosions, i.e. Hip Hop. It seldom gets mentioned in regards to edtech -at least I have come across very little mention of it- but isn’t this the space where rock, punk and rap start to have some really interesting and creative inter-relationships for blurring these distinctions. A sampling of Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express can be argued to have marked an important moment in the genesis of rap as a more coherent movement (Afrika Bambaataa’s sampling “Trans-EuropeExpress” on his seminal “Planet Rock” single), and the two musical genres have been dialoguing extensively ever since. I have found it impossible to be a fan of punk rock and not also be a fan of rap and/or Hip Hop -particularly The Beastie Boys (Paul’s Boutique almost exclusively), Public Enemy, Cop Shoot Cop, N.W.A., The Roots, Dead Prez, a lot of Jay-Z, The Fugees, the inimitable Notorious B.I.G, Tupac, and vanilla Ice (Ok, I’m only half kidding with this last one). I think the relationship between rap and punk is relevant because they are both framing a deeply inter-related ethos in answer to both cultural assumptions and musical genres with an often in your face challenging of the status quo through a radical challenge to ownership, originality, and the myth of creation in isolation.

    The culture of re-use, re-imagining and re-framing genres, disciplines and the space of creative ownership is a moment that you frame beautifully in this article, and that speaks to the very mission of education in relationship to this not so new approach to culture. As you suggest, why the technology become relevant is it is easier than ever to re-mix the entrenched lines within which we frame our ideas and mark our disciplinary exclusivity. Mashups and remixes can challenge our assumptions on some deep and profound levels, and your article taps into that anarchic force brilliantly. Bravo, bravo, and bravo!

  6. Genius work!

    Especially for framing a sprawling topic so elegantly. And the mp3 mashup is pure Lamb- “mashups are boring…”! It should give a taste, though it might be an odd aftertaste, to ER readers (kudos to them for supporting it!).

    My own lingering doubt is to edus embracing the maship/remix beyond a few pioneers. It certainly points to the widening gap between how/what people are doing with tech tools *outside* of school with what they do inside.

    “I WANNA KNOW!” 😉

  7. Hey, congrats! I loved the line “Lethem’s ideas noted in the paragraph above were appropriated from Siva Vaidhyanathan, Craig Baldwin, Richard Posner, and George L. Dillon.” Too cute by half 😉

    So it’s a sprawling topic and you covered it well. I only wish you had had more time to dig into the “mashups and plagiarism” issue from the perspective of student work and assessment. But that, I fear, would require an entire book! Anyways good job. Cheers, Scott

  8. Teddy — thanks again, and I’m so pleased that you are evidently such a glutton for punishment. I should add that my shout-out didn’t give you enough credit for your excellent suggestions on the content and themes themselves.

    Jim — you’re right, hip-hop culture has embraced these dyamics in a lot of interesting ways — I agree, there’s something like what punk calls DIY at work there. I probably should have mentioned that, though I’ll admit I’m pretty ignorant of that genre.

    Bryan and Elaine — thanks!

    Alan — I did try to point out that remix can be as simple as cutting/pasting some text (presumably easily found and openly licensed) and making edits. But as we’ve discussed in the past, there are a raft of cultural and technical complications… but the tools keep getting easier, and one has to wonder why the smart folks in education are lagging behind users in so many fields.

    Scott – I have to admit, I don’t have any concise answers on those questions concerning student work and evaluation of derivative works. I’d be thrilled if we could just get a discussion going, preferably a discussion situated in part by the context of the cultural markers I tried to identify. Thank you again for your tremendous assistance through the whole process. You must be as relieved as anyone that this thing finally got published!

  9. Hi Brian — I enjoyed reading your article, which is a clear and concise summary of mashups. Like many others, I really enjoyed your audio mashup. Your article is a great service to the educational community. Thanks also for pointing to my work on mashups….

  10. I probably could have submitted a three word manuscript: “Read Raymond Yee.” Your work was so useful to me as I struggled to get my head round it, so your compliment means a lot. I’m looking forward to your book.

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