Mashups: Cultural Bricolage, Creative Consumption and ‘Information Play’

I love Mashups. The re-contextualization, the mismatching of genres, the way in which the sounds and the symbols are simultaneously both at odds and harmonic… it does something to me.

I also find them interesting as a representation of information play. Mashups deconstruct reified cultural objects. They break them down to demonstrate the underlying similarities but also to play with the cultural symbols attached to their genres and the messages in the songs. Through digitization these cultural objects can be easily manipulated, deconstructed and creatively rebuilt, creating both a new song and a new set of meanings (meanings which often will poke fun at the original symbolism).

I feel that a major part of the pleasure in Mashups is in the recognition of their component parts and seeing how they have been subverted. Recognizing the songs within the mix is fun, but seeing how they’ve been messed with is the real pleasure. This requires you to already understand the symbolism and meanings behind the songs, even if its just in a broad knowledge of the genre. Knowing that a gangster rap song is sending out signals of machismo and danger makes it all the more fun when its mixed with a cutesy tween pop song: the machismo is neutralized and the tween pop suddenly gets very very odd.

I made this video to demonstrate just how many songs can be fit into one Mashup


Whenever a Mashup ends up on my iPod I get this feeling that there’s more to say about them as representative of our symbol and information saturated world. They represent an attitude of irreverence for the reified products of the music industry whilst demonstrating a sophisticated intrinsic understanding of messages and symbols and how they can be manipulated. Perhaps this is the result of generations saturated by crafted branding and symbolism. They are such experts in the world of symbols that with the right tools they can claim them and reshape them as their own.

There is so much more to this topic, but I do have a day job… and unfortunately it’s not this. Back when it was my day job (PhD is a job right?) I made the Prezi (above) for a presentation to SATSU at the University of York. The ideas are a bit rough and ready, but it’s got lots of Mashup videos embedded in it and plays with some ideas if you’d like to go further.