Video for Change Approaches (Part 2)

By Tanya Notley and Julie Fisher VIDEO: Burma VJ tells the story of independent Burmese reporters who used pocket-sized video cameras and a networked approach to expose the repressive regime controlling their country, following a people's uprising. In our last post we looked at three (historical) approaches to ‘doing’ video for change: guerilla video, participatory video and social documentary video. In this post we examine the final three approaches we have documented in our literature review. Again, we focus here on the most critical characteristics of these different approaches in order to consider how they may shape the way impact is understood and measured. Video advocacy: By the time we start to find the term ‘video advocacy’ being adopted in the 1980s camera ownership had become far more common among everyday citizens. In 1991 footage of African-American Rodney King being beaten by Los Angeles police officers for a traffic violation, was played on networked news channels around the world. This footage had been recorded by a man watching the incident from his apartment window and this is considered to be one of the first citizen eyewitness video recordings of human rights violations. The footage, and its dissemination around the world, inspired the development of the organization, WITNESS, the following year. By the end of the 1990s ‘video advocacy’ was a term they used to describe the use of video to address clearly defined aspirations for social change. Video advocacy remains a popular approach to video-making and it often has a focus on changing laws and policies (corporate and government) as well as contributing to legal justice. But as can be seen with the work of organsiations like Video Volunteers, the focus can be on legal and policy change while also equally emphasising elements considered critical to participatory video (see our last post) or community media such as empowerment processes, media diversity and media representation.

Video for Change Approaches (Part 1)

"Video: The Videofreex were a pioneering video collective who used the Sony Portapak for countercultural video projects from 1969 to 1978." After defining Video for Change (see this post) we came up with a list of different approaches to ‘doing it’ based on a review of the literature. Below is a brief overview of approaches we’ve identified found so far:Guerilla video: This approach emerged when video become more accessible in 1965 following the release of the first domestic and portable video camera.[1] Since this was the first time non-television industry actors had access to video this was a time marked by experimentation and rebellion as people tried to figure out what video might be used for. Writing about the early says of Guerrilla video in the United States, Deirdre Boyle says there was a “utopian goal of using video to challenge the information infrastructure in America” through the making of “people's television” and, initially at least, a preference for ethnographic-like and experimental recordings of counter-culture and marginalized groups.[2] The above guerrilla video highlights some of the ways small guerrilla video collectives operated in terms of production and distribution and how innovators imagined the role of video in society.  We would say that guerrilla video-making today is an approach made distinct because of its focus on independence, small budgets and creative autonomy. However, we would also say that it’s an approach no longer focused on marginalised voices and perspectives (for example, it is sometimes used to describe low-budget Zombie films!). Because of this, we’re not sure how important guerrilla video may be to understanding curret and emerging video for change practices.

Video for Change: What is It and Who does It?

A few months ago we started our research for the video4change network. The aim of this research is to learn from the different ways that individuals, groups or organisations are measuring the impact of video for change projects. To get to this we felt we had to start by asking: what is ‘video for change’?


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