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Anatomy of a Mashup

A case study of Negativland’s Gimme the Mermaid. Originally released in 1995 on the album Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2, it documents their legal battle with U2, as well as their own recording label SST, over copyright infringement. In 2002, Negativland collaborated with Tim Maloney to produce a video for the track, which was composed after hours using equipment owned by Maloney’s employer: Disney.

This project seeks to present mashups within the context of Gestalt theory, suggesting a framework to facilitate discussion and critique of complex ‘mashed’ digital media. Sampled media become constituent parts of compositions which are, as a whole, distinctly different from sampled parent sources. The additions of style and audience further push mashup into something that is more than merely a group of appropriated (“stolen”) parts.

Additionally, the delivery of this project as a web-based interface explores the visual and aural reconfiguring of information—the idea that the medium itself is very much part of the message. As the composer (designer and author) of the project, I’ve paired this text with sampled media (graphics, sound, and video) and built an interface for audience interaction. The audience member can then experience the visual and aural reconfiguration of the website content by putting on the hat of composer and exploring juxtapositions of various elements.