Since this is my first public post to this particular blog (and I’ll come back to other efforts in this direction at a later date) it deserves a bit of introduction before I get started.
I’m an academic scholar who got hooked on video and media work when I began my research for my dissertation. if you’re not a social sciences person, or an anthropologist by training, this may not mean much, but for someone who comes from a similar background this means I’ve been doing video work now for years, but I’ll come back to that a little later. I will talk endlessly about mediation and filmmaking in this forum. One of the many projects I’m currently involved with is developing, with a colleague, a vocabulary to use documentary and ethnographic filmmaking as an analytical tool much the way scholars have used the analytical essay forever. I would enjoy thoughts and comments on this as well as questions as we evolve this process.
I will try to make this blog entertaining and engaging because I want you, my prospective audience, to enjoy reading this as much as I enjoy talking about it. I will also include links to various projects in their stages of development as this blog evolves – at least that’s my big plan right now. Stay tuned.
We’re starting to work on this project that’s been in the genesis state for something like six years and is hopefully finally getting off the ground. That dissertation thing kind of got in the way but I’m done and now I’ve got a film-making partner and he’s done with his degree too. Yay us.
The idea here is, I think, pretty simple. When you point a video camera you have to make choices. When you plan out a film, whatever format you choose, you are making choices. When you take your footage into the editing room (or station depending on where you keep your computer and software!) – again, you make choices.
How different is this from participant observation? How different is it from choosing questions for a survey? Your methodology, you are taught in your first research methods class, determines your results. Ask good questions, get good answers. Use good equipment, get good recordings. Film under good lighting, get usable footage. It’s all the same thing.
And that was the Eureka moment for me. I’m not sure what it was for Michael. It’s really all the same thing.
My first moment with a video camera was that Eureka moment. September 7, 2002. It’s not quite like that – I’ve been aware of that nagging problem of aiming a camera since I was a little kid – what do I take a picture of? what fits in the frame and what doesn’t? I knew my mom takes a lot of bad pictures (sorry Mom) because she’s fairly short and doesn’t think to compensate for this when taking family snapshots. The consequence? Many years of in-family jokes that we know Mom’s pictures because she chops people’s heads off (in the photos – not in real life).
I started thinking about it when I did my first day of fieldwork. Fortunately I had, by this time, read Gregory Bateson, and was familiar with the idea that we shape our own realities by shaping what we allow ourselves to see in the world. Why not with a video camera? Why not shape a representation of 3-D movement with 3-D representation? All of us who do fieldwork of any kind understand how hard it can be to translate – as that’s really what we’re doing – from one language to another. We’re translating from visual communication – non-verbals – to written communication. That’s two steps removed. Quite a challenge when you think about it.
This blog entry is designed to spark you, the reader, to think about how we ourselves mediate – through interpretations, through technology, through communication – from one mode to another. I look forward to hearing your response.