Monday, September 24, 2007

Master Mashup: Viral Marketing from Bob Dylan

Someone should give Bob Dylan's publicist a raise. He or she has created one of the most innovative, enjoyable mashups out of a cultural icon. Click the red box above once the video has loaded to see what I'm talking about (thanks to Jim Spadaccini for sharing).

What's a mashup?
In 2.0 speak, it's a web application that combines data from more than one source to create a new tool. One fun example is overplot, a mashup that takes quotes overheard in New York City (the data) and places them on a Google map (the tool), so you can browse the quotations by address. For example, you can click on "Midtown" on the map, go to Columbus between 89th and 90th, and find a gem like this:
Chick: I have to run in here and get more ChapStick.
Guy: You just bought chapstick yesterday.
Chick: My dog steals them and eats them.
Guy: That must be why his lips are so soft.
This mashup turns a simple list of quotes into a geographically browsable conversation. And if you know New York, it's so much more delicious to "see" the quote location rather than just reading the intersection listing. (warning: many overplot quotes are decidedly less PC than the example above.)

Map-based mashups are popular because they provide a well-understood visual representation of data. They're used to chart everything from crime statistics to Craigslist postings. Other more ambitious mashups, such as We Feel Fine, pull in data passively from blogs all over the world to create stunning visual datasets.

Whether simple or complex, mashups are most successful when they create new value out of the combined content. At their worst, they feel like hack jobs--a toaster spliced to a television. At their best, they are elegant combinations whose sum is more interesting, or at least differentiated, from the parts.

The Bob Dylan video at the top of this post is an example of a mashup of particular interest to museums because it overlays user data (personal messages) onto a cultural artifact (the Subterranean Homesick Blues video). This seems like a brilliant way to advertise museum shows--to find ways to allow visitors to embed their personal messages, opinions, or content into the museum content, thus fusing the interests of the visitors with the offering of the museum.

Of course, there are potential rights issues to be ironed out, but as in most museum/2.0 tensions, it's mostly a question of control. In this case, ceding control/use of the museum content to visitors can create a powerful message that the museum content truly is "for them." In the Dylan example, a video that was push technology (giving content TO the user) transforms into pull technology (eliciting and becoming a platform for content FROM the user).

How do we convey that the exhibition is truly FOR the visitor? By allowing them to put themselves into it.

3 comments, add yours!:

Eric Siegel said...

That is so awesome. I am sending it to many many people. Thanks...I'm not getting the email versions of your blog.


Nina Simon said...

Eric (and others),

If you are not receiving the blog via email (and signed up to do so), drop me a line at with the email address you subscribed with in the body and I'll check it out. Email versions come out every Saturday night.

And I'm glad you love the dylan message! Best e-card ever!

Anonymous said...

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