August 7, 2006
Washington Post Mash-Ups?!?

Two of my major research interests this summer have been fan communities and journalism...never thought I would see the two collide in quite this way!

The Washington Post is providing video content from its political reporter Dana Milbank. In it, he is asking various questions for candidates running for office and providing responses to the types of things these say. Readers are encouraged to download these clips of Milbank and then create their own video content for the responses and send the mash-up videos back to the Post at no more than three minutes in length.

All of the videos that do not violate copyrights, that include at least some of the questions from Milbank, and that meet any othe rules laid out by the paper will be included in an online site wheer other readers can sign on and rate the various videos made by the fan community.

This really caught me off-guard, not that it's a bad idea. It does help to make people feel more involved in the potlical process, to understand the importance of the newspaper's role in that political process, and to increase civic education, as in how politicans are interviewed and how stock a lot of the questions and answers can really be.

And this could provide the tool for som realy fascinating commentary, including some pretty political commentary if the Post is pretty open as to what people are allowed to say and do during these three-minute clips. The newspaper provides all most three-minutes' worth of questions from Dana that can be employed in the mash-ups.

Although Danger Mouse's Grey Album provided quite a bit of discussion about the artistry of mash-ups and the nature of copyright, most mash-ups have been done for fun and some degree of sarcasm. This type of mash-up can also be fun, but it opens up the question--how much can this form of participatory culture allow for legitimate and meaningful political and social commentary? How much freedom does it put in the hands of the fans to express themselves in meaningful ways?

Sure, you're dealing with some stock questions here, but they are open to a wide range of answers. It will be interesting to see what Post readers come up with in response to this call-to-action for mash-ups.

Thanks to Margaret Wiegel for sending this along.