Real World Mashups and Remixes

I’ve been collecting links this week and noticing a trend towards what could be called a reality mashup, or what in the dark ages of the 1960s would have been called a Happening. It’s more subtle that that and involves technology in a way that was simply not possible in the 1960s. The goal is a witty blurring of the boundary between technology and reality, always an interesting thing to think about. There are two more photos for those who click “read more.”

Case one, as reported by Shiny Shiny, the odd fellow in the striped red-and-white sweater and hat with round wire-rims waving to the Google street-view car as it passes by. Sure looks like Waldo from Where’s Waldo?, the fascinating and challenging find-it books from gen-x’s childhood. For them, a complete mapping of the Earth’s surface must include Waldo, so this staging seems like a purposeful alteration of reality in order to make it more accurate, much like directed dreaming in Jungian therapy. We dream the world into being and Waldo appears.

The next instance, as described by Gizmodo, is a thin overlay that can be used with your iPhone, that funnel for reality that journals lives through multiple communications –phone calls (of course), texting, photos, music, Twitter, to do list, calendar, iPod, movies/TV, games, restaurant picker, mapping, or almost any

customization you may think of, all available through the iPhone Store at little to no cost. The iPhone more than any other communications device is the built-in extension of self held in the hand. No two will be set up the same or have exactly the same combination of apps once the owner begins the customization process. For those not comfortable with such an accurate measure of their lives, there is now a screen overlay that makes your texting life far more interesting and positive, either for self-affirmation or for prying eyes on the boardroom or seminar table. I know this is a gag gift, but the need is not, and the execution crosses the border again from “reality” to a remixed world.

FInally, back to Google Street View again and its quest to cover the world, photo by photo. According to Gizmodo, faces are blurred out and not all views or details are included (old Gizmodo story: man with a rifle, now

gone in street view. They alter or do reshoots). For a project that aims to show reality, this too is manipulated by a cultural need for anonymity and and a need to sanitize the world by manipulating, remixing what is into what should be. The result will be shiny and physically accurate, but will be once again, a technology-enabled blurring of the real/nature mechanical/ not nature line.

What I find most interesting about all this is how everyday people are taking the physical world and shaping  others’ perceptions and by doing so, remix interrogatories. They are remixing reality and it is art.

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Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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