These are a few of my favourite (Mix and Mash) things

I’ve recently emerged from 7 months immersed in the second Mix and Mash – the great New Zealand remix and mashup competition.  Mix and Mash challenges people to build something completely new by reusing existing NZ digital content and data. This year over 100 entrants, including an entire primary school class, vied for $50,000 in cash and prizes.  

DigitalNZ runs Mix and Mash because we want to:

  • see more New Zealand content and data used in innovative and surprising ways, 
  • get tangible examples of the great things that can happen when people and organisations license their content for people to be creative with, and
  • show New Zealanders the amazing open data and content that is already out there for them to use. 

That's quite a lot we want to achieve. I’m going to need a series of posts to cover everything I want to say about Mix and Mash. 

This first post is about some of the Mix and Mash things that made me really happy. In future posts I’ll talk much more about the winners, give detail about the categories and cover some of the lessons we’ve learned over the last couple of years.

Data are stories that haven’t been told yet

When Archives New Zealand got in touch to say that they had Excel spreadsheets of all of the signatories of the Women’s Franchise petitions (1892 & 1893) I was pretty excited. On face value it is a big old list of names and addresses. But, of course, each one of those names has a story and, really, data are just stories that haven’t been told yet.

I was really hoping that someone would do something great with this dataset. I was thinking people could do something clever by linking it with metadata using the DigitalNZ API or mapping the addresses in some clever way. What I wasn’t expecting was that this dataset would spark a truly beautiful digital story that would win the Supreme Creative Remix (sponsored by Creative Commons NZ). I’m so very pleased that Candy Elsmore stumbled upon that big old list and discovered Mary Edith’s name. It meant she could turn this dataset into a story that made me, and others, shed tears. You can read more about Candy’s entry A Grand Mother in Chelsea’s Anatomy of a Remix post and if you haven’t watched this digital story then you really, really, should.

Re-imagining beautiful works

One of my favourite Mix and Mash categories was Literature Remix, sponsored by New Zealand Post. I plan to dedicate an entire future post to this category, so this really is just an introduction. With the help of the very clever Pip Adam we gathered gorgeous works of literature from 17 outstanding New Zealand writers. Each author took the plunge and licensed their work for reuse so that we could make them available for mixing and mashing. 

The quality of entries was superb and wide ranging in style.  It was Allan Xia’s Crossed Cultures that all three of our judges (Pip Adam, Fergus Barrowman & Paul Diamond) fell in love with.

Winner Literature Allan Xia 550x300 

Allan remixed a stunning work by comic artist Dylan Horrocks, a beautiful poem by Renee Liang, with his own illustrations. He created a captivating illustrated work in a very original vertical scrolling style.  As judge Paul Diamond commented,”…[the scrolling style] aided the narrative, creating a sense of uncertainty and a compulsion to see how things turned out". Crossed Cultures sends shivers down my spine every time I experience it. 

Unexpected delights

Two remix entries in our open category really lit my fire. The New Zealand’s Great Walks application used existing mobile tour software and carefully curated a huge amount of fantastic content from Department of Conservation (DOC), Te Ara, Flickr, and Wikimedia. They even got permission from the DOC Spokesbird Sirocco the Kakapo to use birdcalls from the Department of Conservation's audio collection.  

What I love about this entry is that it shows the value of organisations allowing the reuse of  textual content as well as images and data. Because DOC and Te Ara have allowed reuse of their website text it could be re-crafted into an excellent, free tool that promotes New Zealand as a destination. Mix and Mash Judge Lawrence Lessig was quite taken with the entry and commented that he is looking forward to using it when he comes back to New Zealand. 

Probably my favourite entry of all was the Oakura font designed by Andrew McMillan. Andrew took a photo of the Oakura Hall while on holiday. He was taken with hall's typeface and decided to make a rather gorgeous new font based on it. I would never have guessed that someone would enter a font into Mix and Mash. It is such an original and practical idea. I’ve downloaded and used the font myself. 

Oakura Hall, by Andrew McMillan (_Karora)
Oakura Font

Helping people learn new skills

Mix and Mash isn’t just about the entries (as much as we love, love, love all the entries!). We want people to learn new things about using digital content and data. This year we developed two great new tools to do just that. I'm super proud of them.

The first of these tools was Freedom to Mix: An educators' guide to reusing digital content which aims to improve awareness about copyright, licensing and using content and data respectfully. We worked closely with Esther Casey and the team at  National Library Services to Schools to develop this.

Freedom to Mix provides information, activities and ideas to confidently create a remix from material you know you have the rights to reuse. Even though it was written for teachers, it's suitable for anyone wanting to learn more about remixing digital content. The guide has a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 New Zealand License, so if you like the cut of its gib then feel free to tailor it for your own needs. 

The second tool we developed was the Beginners' guide to data mashups which was sponsored by the fabulous Charities Commission. The guide is designed for absolute beginners, like me, to work through and understand the nuts and bolts of taking open data and turning it into something useful. It even walks you through the development of an application that uses the Charities Commission's Charities Register. If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about mashing up data then here’s your chance to learn more about it. If I can do it anyone can!  

So there you have it, those were just a few of my favourite Mix and Mash things. In my next post I’ll talk in more detail about the winners of both the 2010 and 2011 competition.


Comments have been closed for this post

Correction to the Charities Commission's Charites Register link above

--Paul Stone • 2011-11-15 00:00:00 UTC

Thanks Paul, we've corrected the link. Chelsea Hughes DigitalNZ Community Manager

--Chelsea • 2011-11-15 00:00:00 UTC