By Deiren Masterson
Is it more appropriate to ask "what is a mashup" or "why is a mashup?" The "whats" are as diverse in content as they are in quality. Be it a disturbingly sentimental duet of Endless Love sung by George Bush and Tony Blair, a so-wrong-it's-right union of Rick Astley and Nirvana, a cleverly executed Silent Star Wars, the aural odyssey of Madeon's 39 songs or the sublime beauty of Picasso's Guernica, defining what is a mashup may be best kept to the digital tools that have enabled their proliferation. The ever-advancing charge of digital technologies and the enabling powers of the web have made the act of cutting-and-pasting across all media an effortless exercise. And the mashup has grown with it.
Perhaps it's in the "why" of the mashup that we can dig a little deeper. A little over 40 years ago, chatting in a CBC Television studio, Marshall McLuhan delivered his perspective on the cultural changes we faced as we rode the electrical charge away from our print-based culture.
"We're re-tribalizing," he said. "Involuntarily we are getting rid of individualism...For just as books and their private point of view are being replaced by the new media, so the concepts that underlie our actions, our social life, are changing. We are no longer so concerned with self-definition. We're more concerned with what the group knows, of feeling as it does, of acting with it, not apart from it."
It was a prophetic statement echoed recently in Nicholas Carr's Pulitzer Prize-nominated book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains where he describes the shift of reading "from the private page to the communal screen" where people read "'for the sake of a feeling of belonging' rather than for personal enlightenment or amusement."
The mashup, and the remix culture at its core, responds to this concept of social, communal and public involvement in the creation, distribution and potential recreation of our works of art and cultural entertainments. It brings to the fore issues of copyright and intellectual property in the digital age. It forces us to re-examine our accepted laws of authorship and ownership and it equally asks us to examine our utopian views of digital life with our evolving lived realities.
On that note, continuing on from the digital buzz of last week's Demystifying McLuhan HTML5 Audio Puzzle Contest
, CBC Radio is excited to be running the new Marshall McLuhan Mashup Challenge
. From October 31 to November 12, remix, rework and recreate Marshall McLuhan's message by creating your own McLuhan Mashup. Amazing prizes are up for grabs and there are tons of incredible rights-cleared exclusive vintage CBC footage of Marshall McLuhan for download. You'll also have the chance to have your work viewed by our amazing panel of judges: Nora Young, host and creator of CBC Radio's Spark, Paul Kennedy host of CBC Radio's Ideas and Brett Gaylor of Mozilla's Web Made Movies project and director of the open source documentary RiP! A Remix Manifesto