Various political remix videos have climbed their way up the YouTube charts, including many forcing soon-to-be-former President Bush to sing various songs. But is interest in the activity enough to warrant an entire online community dedicated to the topic? The creators of the new site RemixAmerica.org, launching in beta today, think so.
With YouTube already a popular hub for bizarre political remixes, RemixAmerica tries to bring some extra features to the table. They upload content to use, from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (really) to “I Have a Dream” to current figures. Seen John McCain’s "summer of love" ad? Click "remix," and it’s yours, for editing via an online tool in basic or advanced versions or in your own editor of choice. The site also hosts discussions, enabling video remixers and vloggers to communicate with one another. There’s even a feature that allows you to “talk back” with your webcam – so if you don’t want to bother remixing that McCain ad to the song “Age of Aquarius,” you can just shout at your screen instead.
The site has quite a founder behind it — none other than progressive activist and TV legend Norman Lear. Lear, creator of The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, and All in the Family was also a political activist. He filmed a celebrity-laden dramatic reading of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, founded People for the American Way, and frequently used TV as a political weapon for advocacy. (Photo: mrfilms1)
Here’s Lear himself introducing the new site:
The remix tool itself is very cool – you can import videos straight from YouTube. Actual editing is tough, though, so I suspect people will stick to their trusted editors. But the community could be the thing that lets American visualists stay sane through the oncoming Presidential campaign.
You can certainly expect more of this sort of thing — Blair and Bush’s "love that dare not speak its name" was something many had observed, but perhaps it was more meaningful when it became musical.
For their part, RemixAmerica claims to be non-partisan and non-profit. It’s a project of Declare Yourself, a project working to get young people to vote. I do wonder about the promises of an “informed and engaged community” – it seems to be that, like so much political material these days, this is mainly about reinforcing people’s existing perspective. On the other hand, video remixing can ask questions, too, aside from just creating alternative propaganda. And, whether it changes anyone’s mind or not, there’s something empowering about the ability to subvert someone else’s intended message. How interesting the results are, as always, is dependent on who gets involved and what they have to say.
VJs, of course, have been causing mayhem with video footage for some time – live and in person, not just on video sharing sites. I called RemixAmerica and YouTube remixes the “Emergency Broadcast Network” effect. See, previously:
Brian Kane, co-founder of EBN, responds via IM that it’s the “Norman Lear effect.”
And maybe political video’s ability to be eye candy can raise questions of its own. I’m especially fond of this video by Brian Kane, with music by David Last:
This tribute to our country’s 200th birthday was funded by a Bicentennial Project Grant and animated by Vincent Collins who made other psychedelic cartoons. This film was produced by the United States Information Agency.
Thanks to my friend Noel Hidalgo, who’s onboard on this. So, RemixAmerica – live VJ party with Create Digital Motion? What do you say? Remember, it’s more fun when it’s live.
PS – Brian sends this bonus video, his first up on the site:
Updated: Not specifically political, but reader Mark points to this community of video remixers via comments: