Web 2.0: Multimedia Sharing Sites/Mash ups: The Sky's The Limit!

Note: This post was created for a graduate level class at the University of Alberta: EDES 501 Web 2.0 for Libraries.

Is the content on your website boring? Does it lack visual appeal and 'wow' factor? I've got just the thing for you...


What is a mashup?
A mashup is an online application that uses content from more than one source, medium or format, to create a new service or product. This is usually done through Application Program Interfaces (API's) and RSS and require open data, open services, and user input. Many mashups result in rich multimedia products that can be shared across networks and embedded in blogs or websites. Basically, multimedia sharing combines photos, video, images and/or music to create a new creative product.

Multimedia sharing and mashups are effective tools that could be used by educators and librarians to develop "multiple information literacies" as they are cost effective, engaging and intuitive learning technologies (McPherson, 2008). Competing with the rich content of the world wide web and the attention spans of users is a difficult task. Multimedia sharing and mashups will appeal to numerous users and may also "assist auditory and visual learners to easily communicate and express themselves" (McPherson, 2008).
Merrill (2006) describe the different types of mashups as mapping, video and photo combinations, searching and shopping tools, news aggregation. There are infinite possibilities for mashing up various types of media to produce new content that could be useful for libraries. Thankfully, the internet also provides various ways to share this multimedia content. Mash ups can be embedded in blogs and webpages, or added to homepages like iGoogle. There are just one more information tool that a library can offer its users.

Miller (2007) remarks that combining library data with other sources will add value to the library information, but also to the other sources used to combine the content. By making use of these new technologies, libraries can better serve their community and contribute to the knowledge base of the web.


Useful Tools For Libraries

Animoto is a tool that quickly creates MTV-style videos from photos and music. Videos can be downloaded in variety of formats and may be exported directly to YouTube. It can be used to create projects which normally could be represented as a collage, as it the gathers of multiple pieces to create a new product (Valenza, 2008). It can be used for free to create 30 second videos, but requires subscription for longer films and access to premium tools.

Thus its use for educators is immense, as it could be used to introduce instructional themes, units and concepts, showcase ideas and projects, or frame concepts with a musical element to grab attention and create excitement (Brisco, 2008). McPherson (2008) notes it is an easy and intuitive tool that "enables visual, aural, and textual learners to quickly create and communicate complex new and powerful stories and messages of a multimodal nature." It has the ability to engage users over a long period of time, and has the added benefit of reducing the user's need or reluctance to be an accomplished photographer or musician because it provides access to Creative Commons resources. There is an Animoto for Education section which provides resources for using this program successfully with students. See the delicious animoto tag for more resources and examples.

Animoto could be used by libraries to create videos for the:
Voice Thread provides a forum for collaborative discussion surrounding an image. Different users can contribute in a number or audio and textual ways to create an ongoing dialogue. Similar to Animoto, this tool has immense educational use. It is innovative and different, which would grab the attention of potential user and create excitement for collaboration. An education themed resourc, VoiceThread 4 Education Wiki, provides a wealth of examples of how this tool is being used in schools. See the delicious voicethread tag for more resources and examples.

VoiceThread could be used by libraries to produce:


Other multimedia sharingideas or tools:
My Exploration
I decided to use Animoto to create a short video. I looked at the SlideShare powerpoint presentation for Creating a Simple Library Video with Animoto, which was very helpful as it walked me through the entire process. It was easy to sign up and then the sleek interface took me through the process to create a short video. It told me how many photos to add, and I chose to use my own but could have used copyright free images provided. It took a LONG time to upload those photos though! I added an intitial 'slide' with text at beginning, and used 'Tips for this section' for help as I worked my way through. I added music from their Creative Commons collection since I have no self created music. It was hard to find relevant music from the limited options, but I found something that would be alright. I was able to have some say in song timing and speed, and then saved my video.

This also took a LONG time.

It was annoying that I was never able to preview my before the final save. Once completed, I could go back and edit or tweek my video, but had to redo entire process, minus the photo uploading, which was annoying and took a long time. This is a negative feature of the program. In the end though, I was easily able to acquire the code to embed my video, and exporting to YouTube only took a few clicks.
Here is my video, and you can also view it here (the animoto site allowed me to add a short explanation about my local community video, though this cannot be embedded in blogs).


In summary, Animoto turned out to be a relatively easy and intuitive to use. I was quite pleased with my end product, and can think of many uses a library or school could put this technology to. I also think that if a library used it a lot, the $30 per year subscription cost for unlimited videos would be a viable option.


Issues to Consider
As will most other web 2.0 technologies, using multimedia sharing sites and mashup presents issues of intellectual property rights, copyright and fair use (Schnell, 2007). Merrill (2006) discussed the "tradeoff between the protection of intellectual property and consumer privacy versus fair-use and the free flow of information." As multimedia sharing and mashups are relatively new technologies, often developers as well as content providers are not aware of the licensing restrictions, or the consequences of their creation's misuse by others. Animoto does provide easy access to Creative Commons audio and photographic images, which can be very helpful when creating projects. Librarians need to decide whether or not to license the content they produce, and how to communicate the terms of the license to their users and the online community in general (Schnell, 2007). Librarians also need inform patrons who may be using such tools about copyright considerations so that they too may respect intellectual property and fair use issues.

Others issues include data security, especially when data is useful for the online community in general. Also, as with regular photo and video sharing, McPherson (2008) suggests that users must be informed about the need to be careful about what they post for security issues, especially when the users are children or young people. Finally, Cho (2007) notes that sometimes multimedia content may be filtered or blocked by a library's parent institution, and thus librarians may have no control over the data used, or may have difficulties displaying such content on their websites.

Even though there are copyright issues, multimedia sharing and mashups are rich tools that have many uses in libraries. Using these tool will provide users with exciting and useful content. Have you noticed a similar tool being used by your library?

References
Brisco, S. (2008). ANIMOTO. School Library Journal, 54(7), 64-64.
Cho, Allan. (2007). An introduction to mashups for health librarians. Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association. 28: 19-22.
Fichter, Darlene. (2008). Mashups and libraries: Resources, articles and links. University of Saskatchewan http://library2.usask.ca/~fichter/mashups/.
McPherson, K. (2008). mashing literacy. Teacher Librarian, 35(5), 73-75.
Merrill, Duane. (2006). Mashups: The new breed of web apps. IBMhttp://www.ibm.com/developerworks/library/x-mashups.html.
Miller, Paul. (2007). What happens when we mash the library? Ariadne Issue 50http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue50/miller/.
Schnell, Eric. (2007) "Mashups and web services." In Nancy Courtney (Ed.), Library 2.0 and Beyond: Innovative Technologies and Tomorrow's User, (pp.63-74). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Valenza, Joyce. (2008). Announcing: Animoto for education. School Library Journalhttp://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/blog/1340000334/post/1560024356.html.
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