Overblown with nothing to say.

Last weekend, an interesting question was asked after my presentation during “Hacking the Classroom (with the amazing Virginia Kuhn) at Mobility Shifts: International Future of Learning Summit.

I’m paraphrasing here but the gist was:

“After all those lectures on remix and media literacy, my students made a video that didn’t say much of anything. What do I do?”

Two solutions:

1. Remix is like a thesis. You’re just writing with video instead of words. So encouraging students to start out with a clear statement and then find the images to prove it will be key to the remix’s success. The clearer the statement, the more likely you’ll be able to find pop-culture evidence to support it.

But a caution: if your thesis is, for example, that men are just as hurt by stereotypical Hollywood characters as women, then editing together a bunch of sexist one-liners from bro-mances that illustrate how crass and typically “male” these characters are would not be the way to do it. Remember, you don’t want to feed into and perpetuate the stereotype, you want to shed light on it and then show how how to fix it.

Instead, use those crass one-liners as a starting point and include clips of men responding with justified outrage. Maybe even add in the classic, “you just don’t get it, do you?”. Here are variety to choose from.


Suddenly you’ve created a situation where men are calling out other men on their misogyny and you’ve proved not only that men are oppressed by the stereotype but also how to break it.

2. If your students still aren’t saying much of anything, it’s kind of OK. They understand the importance of remix. They tried making one themselves. Most importantly, they overcame the highs and lows of the creative process. They’ve authored something. Whether it’s good or not is secondary.

So it sucks? Most videos/art works/movies/tv shows do. The important thing is that they’ve tried their hand at it and, hopefully, have a new appreciation for creators.

Bottom line: It’s easy to be a critic. It’s hard to create. Lesson learned.



4 thoughts on “Overblown with nothing to say.

  1. Your reminder about the difference between remix as a montage of stuff that bugs you and remix as a medium to shed light on an issue and suggest ways of fixing it is fantastic advice, and something that I’ll definitely share with my students next semester! I struggle with teaching remix as both a product and a process, however, which I think is at the root of some disappointing student work. My sense is that with remix as a process, much like writing, you can begin with a thesis, but that the cognitive work of creation introduces new ideas and connections to the author. When my students get lost in the middle of a video project, then, I often think it’s because they’ve remixed their content in ways that suggest new directions and relationships that their original thesis hadn’t taken into account. So where does the project go when the thesis itself is shifting and changing?

    Regardless, your second point above is the one to keep in mind, I suspect. I think I might take it up as a mantra for my next class. Thanks!

    • RE: “When my students get lost in the middle of a video project, then, I often think it’s because they’ve remixed their content in ways that suggest new directions and relationships that their original thesis hadn’t taken into account. So where does the project go when the thesis itself is shifting and changing?”

      For purposes of your class, could you make students choose a thesis only after they’ve mapped it out and/or found enough sources to make it happen?

      Or, do you prefer the more existential approach where they realize that nothing’s definitive and everything can be remixed, taken out of context and/or repositioned to argue another point?

      It’s a great question regardless, and one that, I suspect, is not easily answered in the short term of a semester. That’s the frustrating thing: you’re probably not around to see the metaphorical light bulb go off, idea click or seed sprout.

  2. DL says:

    Hi Elisa, You’ve outlined particularly good advice for a certain set goal (where one’s goal is offering solutions to problems). However, I don’t think ‘one size fits all’ approaches pan out as often as one might like in remix, and often students resist it on well argued grounds. As a lens, it is one dimensional regarding meaning, critique, and the different language games of remix (here I have Wittgenstein in mind). Particular tools achieve different objectives. We wouldn’t use a toothbrush to remove a tire, but we’d be up shit’s creek trying to brush our teeth with a wrench. We tend to know what it means when a person waves “hi” or flips us off, even though no linguistic exchange takes place, and no solution to a particular problem is offered. It’s a different type of language game. When I cut together 1700 years of a particular esoteric hand gesture (earlier this year in a remix), I wasn’t invested in offering a solution to a specific problem so much as I wanted just to “picture” the prevalence of a semiotic sign that many might not have been aware of. A remix can bring awareness, but has to be careful not to come across as re-enforcing something one finds to be detrimental, and that is the trick. What do you think? Am I off base here?

    As an aside, I think remix gets very tricky as well when entering without trepidation into in the problematics of what constitutes a “solution.” Offering solutions can come across as didactic, preachy, pushy, etc., and with no fundamental standard that binds all audiences, impasses often occur. How does one deal, for example, with the fundy Christian who thinks homosexuality is morally wrong, abortion is reprehensible, the death penalty is justifiable, and ”Just War” theory renders the killing of innocents as unfortunate “collateral damage” to a larger moral imperative where the good final result outweighs the negative within the process of war? The Bush admin and its base relied heavily on “Just War”, and from that paradigm the logic holds, but from another trajectory it falls apart. After heated debate, are we to write these off as “crazy” and as folks who just don’t get it? Such an attitude doesn’t get us too far in bringing someone into one’s worldview (in some sense remix wants to picture a better world, so proselytizing is fortunately or unfortunately a part of what many remixes do participate in). I’m scattering thoughts here, but would care to hear any feedback you might have on what I have sketched above.

    Hope the REmix Fest was a fun time with a good turnout. I am sorry to have missed it!

    • Thanks for your comment, DL.

      Your concerns re: preaching to the choir are ones that every creator faces, regardless of the medium. At this point in a students creative process, I would argue that participating, in anyway you can, regardless of whether your work is good or not, is the real goal. For women and girls and college students, especially, the power comes from being an author of something: talking back to a once one-way culture and learning how to rip, hack and manipulate technology to suite ones needs and negotiating applying theory into practice. This product strengthens all of our Fair Use rights as remixers, artists and creators, and contributes to a community of online content creators who maybe further along in their practices to take on the challenges you outlined below.


      [image: Twitter] [image: Facebook] [image: WordPress] [image: YouTube] [image: Vimeo] [image: Blog RSS] [image: Delicious] [image: LinkedIn]

      Talking backto pop-culture with better stories about women that don’t revolve around men (or babies).

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