“The Truth about Educators: A Remix” Reviewed

My final remix project is finally up on YouTube.

This remix comprises clips from various genres that, together, portray a side of education often abhorred, but more often ignored. There are educators, kindergarten through university, who use their positions of authority in the classroom to “soapbox;” to present their own heavily biased views on the subject matter; and to require students to regurgitate those views. While it is only a portion of educators guilty of these tactics, the results are frustrated students who have only been taught to repeat, not to think for themselves. I hope this video conveys a little of that.

Text vs. Video Editing:

This project was different from most typical writing assignments in that, in place of paper and pen or Microsoft Word, I was composing with video and sound. For my mashup, “The Truth about Educators: A Remix,” I used Final Cut Pro video editing software. In a way, it was exactly like my usual writing, but, of course, it wasn’t. I realize that makes little to no sense, so allow me to explain.

When I grabbed video clips from YouTube and historical film reservoirs, it was very much like exploring ideas and researching for a paper. I needed to sift through all the blubber to find the images that would best fit with the overall composition. The main difference here was that, instead of maintaining the original author’s meaning for that snippet of video, as I would in quoting or paraphrasing another author’s work in a paper, my goal was to use its original meaning and twist it by means of its new context, the clips surrounding it. Of course, even in this, there are similarities to textual composition, particularly of the creative sort. As professors have told me again and again, “Nothing is original.” Thus, it is for writers to take an existing idea and present it in a new and original way.

Arranging the video clips, once gathered, was also surprisingly similar to my process for composing with text. I was walking a tightrope between creating new meanings through building different sets of context through the arrangements of clips and matching the clips to the audio background, a song called “I’m So Sick” by Flyleaf. How is this, using video and audio, similar to writing with words and sentences? For me, textual composition is a process of constant choice. Within sentences, I deliberate over which word or phrase fits best; for each section of the remix, I deliberated over which image best fit, or did not fit, the song and the set of videos in that section of the remix. In texts, I tend to write everything at once and then rearrange the chunks of information to better flow in sequence. For the remix, each giant video clip from YouTube or wherever was a chunk. I then had to break the chunks into smaller, keep-able clips and then rearrange them until they had a decent sequence that flowed with the music and the message of the remix.

On the other hand, there are plenty of complete differences between working with text and video/audio—most of them in the frustrating department. First, instead of easily copying and pasting a video, as I might with a quote for a text, I had to download the videos clips, which took time. Then, I realized Apple support had lied to me and I had to convert all my files, which took more time. Then, once in Final Cut Pro, I had to render. “Render” is evil. Finally, I had to export/compress the final file and upload it—which, you guessed it, took even more time. So yes, in the time and frustration departments, text trumps video/audio, as I re-learn on every video project.

It’s a good thing I’m mildly interested in video editing or this might be a rather torturous process.

Remix Rhetoric:

The intended purpose of this remix was to deliver a message: there are some educators who focus too much on doing things their way and too little on thinking. I attempted to use certain rhetorical moves, editing techniques, and various mashups to that effect. Each viewer’s perception of the remix is bound to be subjective and, thus, different from everyone else’s in some way, but I will here explain my thoughts on the remix’s rhetoric.

Throughout the semester, the class has read about the rhetorical qualities of maps, photographs, and remixes. At semester and project’s end, I find the best way to explain my rhetorical approach on the remix is to go back to the beginning to one of the first texts the class read—This Means This, This Means That: A User’s Guide to Semiotics by Sean Hall.

This remix assignment has been more than a little confusing for me from the beginning. These ideas of extra non-literal, remotely associative, vaguely metaphorical, and non-linear narratives were completely different from the way I usually operated. I am a sequential nut, and this remix took me so far out of my comfort zone as to feel like an ignorant child. Perhaps that is why I find Hall’s book the perfect way to explain my rhetorical decisions; Hall purposely made This Means This, This Means That as clear and easily understood as possible, and three of the ideas I read about in this book figure prominently in the rhetoric of my remix.

First, the idea of representation is a major component in “The Truth about Educators: A Remix.” While some clips are very literal representations of teachers and professors—usually actors playing educator roles—others are “literal” in another sense. Hall’s book shows a representative picture of boa constrictor digesting an elephant and explains that while this seems perfectly logical to a kid, adults need to have things explained to them; adults see an oddly shaped hat, but a snake digesting a large mammal? In a way, I think this remix has been a rhetorical exercise in training myself to see representative images as a child would, to make connections without clear “logical” reason. For example, why does this video have so much meat? It could be the metaphorical treatment of students as dead meat, or it could be this idea of pig or cow carcasses looking like children or pre-packaged meat looking like mushy brains. Yay for mushy brains! It feels kind of good to be a kid again.

Speaking of students as dead, mushed meat, symbols and meanings are also major rhetorical components of this remix. Hall talks about symbols having pre-associated meanings, but, as I have seen in this remix project, that meaning can change depending on the surrounding context. For example, when you first think of the symbol of a zipped suitcase, what does it mean? Usually, you think of moving or travel or vacation. However, when it is placed in the remix next to a teacher shaking her head at the students and Disney’s villain Ursula motioning with her hands to zip it while the music shouts “Shut up,” the meaning of the symbol changes. Now, instead of vacation, the zipping of the suitcase builds upon the idea of students being made to keep their mouths shut. Another example is the eating of the apple by a little girl. Eating an apple by itself usually means health or hunger, but this clip of a little girl eating her apple is sandwiched between snooty teachers and Obi-Wan Kenobi using his Jedi mind tricks. The meaning changes to reflect the surrounding images of educational authority and mind control. Now, the apple symbol means knowledge (or someone’s particular version of it) is being shoved down your throat. Symbols can have many meanings, and context leads your thoughts in different directions of context that affect that perceived meaning.

Finally, the last rhetorical element of the remix I will discuss here is the one that gave me the most trouble—the non-linear narrative. Hall talks about how people in every culture and era tell stories and, more importantly for this project, how people try to find the story in images. For each image in the remix, a viewer can imagine a story, but in a remix, with the images flying by in such quick succession, the story cannot focus on one image alone. The story is of all the images; not in order, they move too quickly to make sense of it that way, but as a whole. All the different images of teachers and meat and apples and Disney villains and suppression come together to create one narrative of domineering educational authority.

At least, I hope that’s what happened.

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This entry was written by Kel and published on May 7, 2012 at 11:00 pm. It’s filed under Kelly's Posts, Remix, rproj, Semiotics, Video and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on ““The Truth about Educators: A Remix” Reviewed

  1. Excellent work, Kelly, on a remix I know you struggled with at a first. Thank you, too, for the incredibly thorough and nuanced (and funny) discussion of your composing process. It is quite revealing and I may just ask students in the future to read it. Excellent discussion, too, about the malleability of meaning in video depending on the context in which they clips appear. Though an apple for me is about knowledge first and fruit second (unless it’s a Mac computer, then it means something else—successful marketing and great product? I don’t know, but I digress). . . . The pigs being de-skinned is utter revolting and I love it! Also a great addition is “RSA Animate Changing Education Paradigms,” especially the few bits you took with the students boxed up. Nice find. Overall, a wonderful job.

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