The other day, I was catching up on some of my news podcasts which are always a day or two late for me (hey, how'd that election in Massachusetts turn out)?
One of my favorite podcasts is NPR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook, but my one big beef with his show is that in the interest of being 'fair and balanced' (now there's a loaded phrase), he often lets some pretty nutty folks say some pretty nutty things without too much challenge. I often wonder if they do this simply to prove that they don't have a liberal bias*.
The show I was listening to recently was one of those shows. In an episode titled "Where the Web Went Wrong", author Jaron Lanier was on the show promoting his book "You Art Not A Gadget**", the central thesis of this is that participatory communities online create a 'hive mind' in which we are sacrificing our creative energies in the service of companies to which we owe nothing.
In this discussion, he lambasts 'Web 2.0 proponents' as religious cultists who contribute their time and energy, not for their own personal gain, but in the interest of creating a god-like singularity of utopian participation. To me, this argument reeks of the conservative fear of the commons. I like to share my thoughts about art education with the greater community for my own personal interest, and all of a sudden I'm handing out flowers at airports and promoting a socialist agenda.
Well, I do live in China, after all. I can see how that could be confusing to some.
While some of the points that Lanier makes are just plain wrong and some just plain silly (and quite often both), some fall into the realm of the "wha...?" One of his most awkward points is that people feel free to "mash up" the creative efforts of others, but that the ads that regularly appear on the sides of the webpages that these mashups appear are somehow sacrosanct, and 'above' being modified for creative use. This idea is based on two false premises: (1) That ads are not mashed because we hold them with some sort of respect, and (b) there is anything useful in these ads to 'mash'. Sidebar ads aren't seen as 'holy', they aren't even seen as 'useful' for a creative endeavor. At most, I'd say they were seen as a minor inconvenience or annoyance. In fact, I'd argue that they aren't even seen at all. I don't have ads on this site and if you think back to the last site you were on, what were the ads for? Do you remember? I don't either.
Further, it shows a fundimental misunderstanding about the purpose of a mashup, which is to celebrate or satirize the derivative work in a way that creates something that we haven't seen before.
With a nod to the serendipity gods, I happened to find this wonderful Mashup of the movie UP over on the always fascinating Learning IT on the same day that I listened to this podcast.
I could just listen to that song all day.
If there is any doubt in your mind that mash-ups are somehow by definition 'less creative' than their derivative works, this video should dispel that notion. It also should dispel the notion that the creation of projects like this one are in service to some corporate monolith that feeds off of our creative juices. Pogo, the 21 year old creator of this mash up is now being wooed by corporations to make Mashup videos for them... the one above was commissioned by Pixar itself.
And that was just what we all needed, wasn't it? More shopping, less exercise.