“What does remix have to do with writing a letter to the next president?”
This was one of the early questions posed in a webinar for Letters to the Next President 2.0, an initiative from the National Writing Project and KQED. I was presenting during the webinar with my colleague Alan Berry; we both work for The LAMP, a New York-based nonprofit media literacy education organization. We were talking about using The LAMP’s MediaBreaker/Studios free, online video editing platform to remix and speak back to media. I think, write and talk about remix virtually every day of my life, and realized in this moment that I had taken its relevance for granted. But, it was a fair question. What does remix have to do with writing letters to a future world leader?
In a word, everything. Remix is a language which, depending on your medium of choice, can be rooted in pictures (moving or still), text or sound. Sometimes, as in remix video, it’s a combination of all three. Often we think of a letter as a fairly old-fashioned thing written using words on paper, but that limitation stifles the possibilities of what a letter can be and do. (Consider: How many times have you heard a movie referred to as a love letter to New York City?)
A letter to the next president, then, can consist of just about anything. But a letter made of a multimedia remix seems especially appropriate for a young person learning about the world through social media networks, instant news alerts, streaming video and computers the size of her hand. Media shape virtually everything we know, or think we know, about the world. More to the point, they shape what we think of and expect from our leaders, and can change how we understand the entire democratic process. Tune in to one candidate, and the system is completely rigged. Pay attention to another, and you’ll hear that the system is what it is for a reason. The truth depends entirely on where you turn your head.
Remix allows us to utilize media messages about a candidate, instead of allowing the candidate’s media to utilize us. For example, take a look at this video breaking down how an ad for then-candidate Ted Cruz attempts to manipulate us through fear:
By inserting critical statements and revealing the mechanics, this remix effectively disarms the original campaign ad. It’s one way of telling a future president that we want substance, not fear-mongering.
Another way remix can function is to show, and not tell, why we believe what we believe. Polls have indicated that large numbers of voters find Hillary Clinton dishonest and untrustworthy. Such statements are easily made, but can be more challenging to back up. Here, one remixer uses Clinton’s own statements against her to demonstrate why the Democratic candidate comes off as insincere:
Video may not be your medium of choice for composing a (remix) letter to the next president, but even so, you’ve still got plenty of choices. Also on the webinar with The LAMP was Jeremy Dean of Hypothes.is, who talked about remixing articles and transcripts, and Robert Friedman of Mozilla, who talked about remixing with tools like Thimble and X-Ray Goggles. Like MediaBreaker/Studios, these tools are free.
All summer, Letters to the Next President 2.0 is running a series of Make Cycles to connect educators with tools and resources for classroom making in response to the current election. We at The LAMP are thrilled to be part Make Cycle #1, which you can catch up on here on Huffington Post.