Mashups seem to be ubiquitous today. They appear frequently as internet memes, t-shirts, social media postings and wry commentary on everything from politics to easily recognizable cultural phenomenon. But what exactly are mashups? What are their utility and purpose? And should you use them in your presentations?
Think of mashups as a sophisticated expression of creativity. The purpose may be humor, enlightenment, or something deadly serious. Originally rooted in the technical and musical professions, (but possibly having roots even further back into the 1800s,) they have exploded onto the cultural zeitgeist. Merriam-Webster defines a mashup as, “something created by combining elements from two or more sources.” Ben Murray on techcrunch.com notes, “The best examples of this kind of creative work are often marked by a reframing of the original narrative, and so produce a fresh perspective on both the source material and the context in which it first existed.” http://techcrunch.com/2015/03/22/from-artistic-to-technological-mash-up/
He further notes mashups often manifest themselves as parody and homages, and are transformative. And everyone who has puzzled over this phenomenon can’t help but notice the frequent retro and throwback elements often incorporated into them. There are many cases of two or more retro elements being combined to produce a witty mashup, and a seemingly equal number of examples involving a linkage from the past to the present.
I believe mashups have two main characteristics. 1) A successful mashup can be viewed as something clever that appeals to your intellect; often serving as the visual equivalent of a portmanteau (taking two independent words and creating a new word and meaning that still preserves the essence of the original blended words; think of “smog” using the words “smoke” and “fog”). 2) A successful mashup will allow your brain to bridge two or more already recognized cultural phenomenon quickly and simultaneously digest the artist's new message. If you didn't recognize the references in the mashup or get the point of the mashup almost immediately, then it probably didn't work.
Besides thinking of a mashup as a portmanteau, many other words could be used to describe or capture the flavor of this fascinating phenomenon. “Fusion,” “copying,” “re-packaging,” and "combining," might very well be used to describe a mashup. Mixtapes and sampling could be thought of as the musical world’s equivalents to a mashup. Mashups might exhibit elements of exaggeration, puns, or just a slight alteration in the wording, phrasing or visual appearance from whatever originals they are borrowing from or tracing their origins back to. Just remember, regardless of the format or origin, producing a visual mashup always involves combining two or more well-known references into something "new."
Should you use a mashup in a presentation? “It depends,” is the classic academic response. But I would consider how immensely useful a mashup may be in your presentation for communicating to your audience. A mashup could be a very effective visual as long as the audience “gets it.”
A mashup might be the ideal inroad for injecting subtle humor into your message. And perhaps a mashup could serve as a bold construct for your audience to approach something old with a fresh perspective? As always, I recommend experimenting to break free of the boundaries presentations and templates put us in. Consider mashups as part of your creative arsenal in keeping presentations original and engaging!
Three of these mashups featured here were all created in Powerpoint this past week using just the shapes tab with inspiration from multiple sources and artists from around the web. The Star Trek Monopoly mashup is actually for sale here: http://www.best-tshirts-ever.com/tag/star-trek/ The Trojan Horse Cyber Mashup has been laying around in a folder for months and I realized it belonged here. As always thanks for visiting!