The Dude Meets OTTO: Annotating The Big Lebowski Mashups

  "We can't claim any assurance that Lebowski is a work of art. Or even a text, really. Certainly, it looks like a systematic grouping of sign-units. It seems to present itself, more or less, as something to be 'read' by the eager filmgoer, and it seems to refer—artfully—to the existence of a recognizable set of humans in real time and space. An incoherent jumble‌ Not quite. Still, Lebowski defies the unities of production, distribution, and use that we associate with textsÉItem: it is the focus of multiple dormitory games and accessory diversions, and its footage has been used in literally hundreds of parodies and loving re-creations in digital format."
-- Edward P. Comentale and Aaron Jaffe, The Year's Work in Lebowski Studies (4-5)

Project Overview
Since its release in 1998, The Big Lebowski has garnered a cult following, seen the rise of weekend fan events called Lebowskifests, and been on the receiving end of a growing critical reception among film scholars.
The film itself has been notoriously difficult to pin down. In an article entitled "How Many Lebowskis Are There: Genre, Spectatorial Authorship, and The Big Lebowski," Allen Redmon remarks: "[a] multi-narrative structure creates a film that appears fractional rather than finished, and to some extent, it is. The film awaits an astute audience willing and able to disentangle the competing elements to consider one side of complex film. The surprise of the viewing process is the way in which even loose understandings of the elements or interests of the genres the Coens use reconstitutes the seemingly unrelated elements." (55). As Comentale, Jaffe, and Redmon all suggest, The Big Lebowski is a film of "sign-units" or "elements" that probably require an "eager filmgoer" or "astute audience" in order to make sense of it as a coherent text. Put another way, the text of The Big Lebowski is a complex tapestry made of many different kinds of threads (the word 'text' comes from the latin root texere meaning 'to weave')
In "The Dude Meets OTTO," we are interested in finding eager filmgoers, astute audience members, scholars, and fans of the film who want to explore how the many mashups, digital re-creations, web spoofs, or remix videos help us disentangle, decode, or simply understand the many threads, genres, characters, and attitudes of The Big Lebowski. In other words, if we begin to systematically and critically dig into the many works that are inspired by The Big Lebowski, what does this derivative digital media work tell us about the original 1998 Coen Brothers' movie‌ Why is this film so ripe for parody and remix‌ Why does The Big Lebowski continue to resonate as a major source text for digital media producers creating mashups‌
"The Dude Meets OTTO" is a remix project and video annotation tool created by Ball State University' iLearn Research. OTTO is an acronym standing for "Open Text Tool for Online video." OTTO allows for the specific and precise annotation and analysis of key shots and scenes in an online video. All of the videos in OTTO are located on YouTube, but it is worth noting, that any annotations you create will exist in OTTO and only accessible by logging into OTTO.
Ultimately, "The Dude Meets OTTO" explores how a crowd-sourced project may deepen our understanding of the remixes, parodies, recreations, and mashups that have been inspired by The Big Lebowksi, and conversely, how these derivative videos help us better understand the original film. Or if you are into the whole brevity thing, an OTTO annotation is a quick way to share your thoughts on a Lebowski-inspired video.
Adding Annotations in OTTO
If you wish to participate in this project, it is helpful if you are familiar with the film The Big Lebowski. All of the videos in this project refer back to that film in one way or another. If you haven't seen The Big Lebowski, consider this project as your chance to rent or buy this 1998 film directed by the Coen Brothers.
If you are familiar with The Big Lebowski, please watch as many of the videos as you can in our Lebowski mashup collection (and please feel free to email us suggestions for other videos to include in our collection).
Most of these videos in our OTTO collection are short (five minutes or less). After viewing the videos in the OTTO collection, please annotate key moments in each video that provide you a better understanding of The Big Lebowski phenomenon, or helps you better understand a sign-unit or element from the original film, or gives you an insight into how the derivative video extends the film's value as a cultural object.
In each case, while you are watching the video, and you come across a key moment, click the "annotate" button right below the viewing window.
(1) When you click the "annotate" button, the video will freeze at that point and give you a time of annotation. This field is automatically generated by OTTO, you do not have to enter it yourself. FYI, the "time of annotation" field will itself become a button once you enter your annotation, so when somebody reads your annotation they can click on that time and jump to that exact moment in the video.
(2) After you click "annotate," please use the text box that appears to describe why this moment you selected is critical to your understanding of The Big Lebowski or its role as a cultural signifier. For those of you who are very familiar with The Big Lebowski: Try to write your annotations and descriptions for a popular audience, and don't assume that everyone has the same knowledge of The Big Lebowski as you do. It will probably help most users of OTTO if you provide the following information in your description of the annotation:
  • what characters are involved,
  • what scene from the film is being referenced,
  • what basic theme or idea from the film is being used in a new or unique way.

All of the annotations in OTTO reside in a database. So as more annotations enter into the database, you will see other people's annotations are you watch these videos in OTTO. This hopefully will create a sense of an ongoing conversation as more and more users watch and comment on these videos. Moreover, as the time signatures of the annotations are reached in the video timeline, completed annotations will automatically appear underneath the viewing window, to let you see what others have written and what parts of the video they have been annotating.
Thanks for being an OTTO achiever!
The Dude Meets OTTO Project Co-Directors: Richard Edwards and Ben Ranfeld
Lead Project Developer: Chris Turvey
Works Cited:
Edward P. Comentale and Aaron Jaffee, The Year's Work in Lebowski Studies. Indiana University Press, 2009.
Allen H. Redmon, "How Many Lebowskis Are There‌ Genre, Spectatorial Authorship, and The Big Lebowski," Journal of Popular Film and Television, 2012.