Live remixing the first debate
On Monday September 26th, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced off for the first of three general election debates. As part of Spin Time TV, we hosted a live debate-watching and remix party at the NYU Interactive Telecommunications Program.
Televised presidential debates are among the few moments when all of America is paying attention to politics. Nearly 100 million people tuned in to see Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off, setting a new record in the sixty year history of televised presidential debates. Thirteen TV channels carried the debate and many millions also watched via live streams on the web.
We invited everyone at NYU ITP and online at #spintimetv to join us in an experiment. Our partners at the Internet Archive made a video archive of the debate available on a two-minute delay, through its TV News Archive. That meant that two minutes after something was said over the air, we could isolate a clip, edit it, and share it on Twitter.
To facilitate this live remix, we used a new version of Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker, a free, web-based, open source video editor. You can try it here: https://archive.org/pop/editor.html
In their simplest use, these tools allow us to provide a live “instant replay” over social media. Our group pulled out some notable moments in real time:
- “That makes me smart.” Trump on not paying taxes
- Trump about hackers: “It could be somebody sitting on their bed and weighs 400 pounds.”
- Hillary’s Stamina Zinger
These tools also enabled us to take part in the journalistic trope of the year: fact-checking.
There were several notable exchanges and soundbites that we could “meme-ify”; for instance, when Donald Trump mentioned his 10-year-old son in response to a question about cybersecurity policy:
Or his recurrent theme of law and order, which becomes a humorous supercut put to the Law & Order TV theme:
Or his his insistence on “facts,” accompanied by the Kanye West track “Facts”:
Or to lampoon the lame exchange between Trump and Clinton, in which he calls her on re-using a soundbite and she replies “at least it was a good one!”
It is hard to create any deep commentary in realtime, given the challenges of using video. But some interesting morsels from ITP student Alex Zimmer:
Finally, because these tools enable us to treat video as a big data set, we can more easily pull out patterns and communicate them. Here’s Brandon Kader with a near real-time supercut of Trump interrupting Clinton:
This pattern was also analyzed and reported by many media outlets the following day.
Twitter’s at its best during live events. It becomes a second screen or a back-channel that makes television and sporting events more social. The debates are a perfect moment to experiment with new technologies. that give people the ability to converse and critique televised debates in their native medium — not to comment on video with text, but to comment on video with more video.
We’ve learned a lot about how we can improve and better leverage tools like this for live commentary, and are excited about frontiers for using video for political expression.
Any of these projects can be remixed by clicking the small green recycle button in the bottom right. Have a spin and let’s do this again for the next debate, when VP candidates face off tomorrow evening. If you’re interested in experimenting with any of these tools or modes of expression, check out #spintimetv and sign up at http://spintime.tv/join.