[-empyre-] Viral Witnessing Part 7
Patricia R. Zimmermann
patty at ithaca.edu
Sun Dec 6 18:15:47 EST 2009
The seventh installment of speculations and unresolved questions on viral witnessing(oh no, we are starting to feel like screenwriters for a Web 2.0 version of Peter Greenaway's THE PILLLOW BOOK!) from Patricia Zimmermann and Sam Gregory. BEWARE: Slightly longer post.
What are the consequences of the morphing remix and the spreadable process rather than the fixed media object?
*Remix and re-use characterizes online circulating networks.
*WITNESS (http://www.witnes.org)has asked whether our organization should continue to re-share images in cases of human rights and under what constraints.
*What is the meaning when images of suffering find new contextualization in new spaces?
*What is the impact of moving certain images from a documentation status (for example, images filmed in a Mai-Ma camp in Uvira Region, Sud-Kivu province, eastern Congo as part of a documentation of conditions to persuade parents not to let their children be enlisted into the military there) to an image status free of original context and metadata? What are the challenges when we move out of fixed defined spaces where there is clarity on who is speaking to who and with what intent?
* An example: a viral video interview with a young child solder Byaombe, which derives its integrity - like those shot in the camp - from a being an image not just of a child soldier but a child named Byaombe in a specific, time and place and speaking with particular purpose.
*Now consider a contrast to this original image with clips from the same source material used in a YouTube competition that we participated in alongside the anti-genocide coalition ENOUGH, where online users remixed human rights media to create advocacy clips around the minerals used in our cell-phones and the linkage to violence in the Congo. This video is from YouTube user CheFoo10.
*Remix use particularly forces us to think about how to balance creativity and increased participation, effectiveness in a participatory environment and human rights concerns so that human beings in pain are not used and abused, their meaning, intention and voice diluted or re-directed.
Can aggregation of user generated content function as a form of advocacy with a political efficacy to clarify connections and highlight issues?
*Within these circulatory networks, a new skill set emerges for human rights workers and transnational activists and artists: that of deploying a variety of media technologies and of citizen-generated human rights work to make sense, to explain, to connect.
*For WITNESS, this poses a powerful conundrum between cultivating new producers and spreading access and aggregating disparate content.
*The question of how to cultivate and train others to film and to get into the multiple circulatory networks emerges as more pressing and urgent than being the image-maker oneself.
*In the circulatory networks, aggregation becomes a key tactic.
*When there is an explosion of media, how can aggregation shape it and curate it to enhance and highlight its advocacy value?
*What is the role of the aggregator in the human rights and documentary context?
Patricia R. Zimmermann, Ph.D.
Professor, Cinema, Photography and Media Arts
Roy H. Park School of Communications
Codirector, Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival
Division of Interdisciplinary and International Studies
953 Danby Road
Ithaca, New York 14850 USA
Office: +1 (607) 274 3431
FAX: +1 (607) 274 7078
patty at ithaca.edu
---- Original message ----
>Date: Sat, 5 Dec 2009 09:20:16 -0500 (EST)
>From: empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au (on behalf of "Patricia R. Zimmermann" <patty at ithaca.edu>)
>Subject: [Spam:****** ] [-empyre-] Viral Witnessing Part 2
>To: "soft_skinned_space" <empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
>Cc: sam at witness.org
>The second installment of speculations from Patricia Zimmermann and Sam Gregory:
>We have been asking ourselves and interrogating a series of questions related to the ethical, political and social issues of viral media.
>What is at stake in the changing and mutating visual, virtual and viral economies of representing and circulating other peoples’ suffering?
>• Professional human rights documentation – both textual and visual - has traditionally functioned as a largely closed space.
>• This closed space has included participants from the UN and inter-regional human rights bodies, people responsible for mechanisms at a national level in countries, and documentors, researchers, lawyers, campaigners and advocates in local and international NGOS.
>• This closed space has organized networks with rules and codification of practices, including patterns to discern the compromise between the individual and the collective when making decisions about strategy in the distribution of documentation.
>• In the last three decades, human rights workers have developed highly professionalized identities, towards a trend where only certain people with particular training gather evidence as “human rights professionals.” The visual evidence and testimonies gathered are designed to create documentation of abuses—and to circulate in defined evidentiary, awareness-raising, advocacy or fundraising spaces, or to be provided in packaged form to traditional mass media outlets.
>• WITNESS (http://www.witness.org), where Sam works, has specialized in a particular form of this – developing the capacity of human rights defenders to use video in lobbying, evidence and advocacy towards defined audiences from the International Criminal Court, the US Congress, and the UN to grassroots communities in the Congo and Burma.
>• Witness’ focus has been on supporting grassroots voices to identify audiences who can be shamed, persuaded, motivated to engage in social change via the power of visual media, and then placing that media in front of people at the right time and place, and within a campaign strategy.
>• In the current environment of the user-generated, imagined virality, and circulatory vortex of Web 2.0 media, the capacity to produce and share media, testimony, and visual evidence is more widely dispersed.
>• Amateurism has been redefined and reconfigured not as an adjunct to other forms of media but as an infiltration of other forms of media. Media practice, therefore, is no longer solely and exclusively about visibility: circulation and aggregation have acquired equal if not greater importance.
>• This new human rights media is not produced with the same rigor as professional human rights documentation, but is nonetheless functioning as an expansion of human rights advocacy into open space, and with the potential to expand the potency and efficacy of this rights promotion. Now, we must begin to understand who creates it and how it circulates in these more open spaces.
>• We offer these interrogations in the context of an epistemological challenge for both human rights activists and for documentary and new media scholars.
>• We see alliances between these sectors, with human rights victims and advocates on the ground, as an essential, urgent nexus.
>• What is the meaning of “documentation” (‘x did y to z’) and/or “documentary” in an age of a thousand, a million, a billion documentors/documentarians, where monopolies of power/categorization are lost, erased, confused, obscured?
>• And we do it all against a backdrop,( and Sam says this primarily from his perspective in WITNESS) of significant ethical questions of safety, security, dignity, consent and re-victimization that we will return to later in more postings on Empyre.
>Patricia R. Zimmermann, Ph.D.
>Professor, Cinema, Photography and Media Arts
>Roy H. Park School of Communications
>Codirector, Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival
>Division of Interdisciplinary and International Studies
>953 Danby Road
>Ithaca, New York 14850 USA
>Office: +1 (607) 274 3431
>FAX: +1 (607) 274 7078
>patty at ithaca.edu
>---- Original message ----
>>Date: Thu, 3 Dec 2009 11:14:09 -0500 (EST)
>>From: empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au (on behalf of "Patricia R. Zimmermann" <patty at ithaca.edu>)
>>Subject: [Spam:****** ] [-empyre-] Viral Witnessing
>>To: "soft_skinned_space" <empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
>>Cc: sam at witness.rog
>>We (Patty and Sam) want to raise the issue of the ethical questions of the shifting landscapes of international human rights work and the circulation of imagery in the new viral Web 2.0 world.
>>It might be useful to check out Witness at http://www.witness.org, where Sam works, and a leader in human rights advocacy in both analog and digital forms that is "user generated" Also, check out Witness' THE HUB, a user generated human rights portal.
>>Corporate entitities have inscribed viral into their DNA, moving from marketing to engagement cross multiple platforms to increase shelf life of media products through what Axel Bruns has called "produsage". A product is no longer a product but a process of consumer engagement, whether with a movie or with Mentos candy. As many studies have shown, viral is more of a myth than a reality: not many campaigns, whether corporate or political, go viral, because it is unpredictable and uncontrollable. Viral is perhaps more myth than fact, more fantasy than embodied reality, more vaudeville than intervention.
>> Yet counter movements have emerged to interrogate the user-centric, the viral, the multiplatformed. Ricardo's important transborder projects discusssed last week point to new ways of thinking and practicing the viral.
>>We want to raise questions and contradictions about the viral, the virtual, and the spreadable in the world of human rights, a node where issues on the ground meet circulatory culture. This area is unresolved, emerging, problematic and hopeful.
>>This week, then, we offer our speculations and unresolved Questions as an opening for discussion about the manners in which new circulatory networks of media, new participants in documentation and documentary and ubiquitous tools for film-making impact on the possibilities for creating human rights action through media, and also impact the traditions of established analog social issue documentary.
>> Where do issues of circulation, aggregation and remix intersect with human rights values, documentary tradition and real-life social change?
>>We focus here on nodal points that are unresolved conundrums, knots that need unknotting, questions that need collaborative thinking and action… These are questions that are very real and concrete for human rights practitioners, filmmakers and people facing human rights violations in diverse communities around the world.
>>What is at stake, we ask, for documentary media in this new human rights advocacy landscape?
>>Let me (Sam Gregory, from Witness)start with an anecdote.
>>Recently I was driving down a remote country road in Syria in a shared taxi. A man turned back to me and offered me his cellphone, saying ‘Change’. His Spider-man themed phone was far more modern than my old Nokia so I was puzzled.
>>But as he showed me the phone what he wanted to do became clear: he wanted to change clips. And what he wanted to exchange were not just silly pet tricks, the money shots from porn videos, and young girls dancing, but violent videos of people being hit and beaten-up, so-called ‘happy-slapping videos’.
>>I realized he wanted to swap what I would consider abuse videos. Filmed by perpetrators, professionals and amateurs, circulated by bystanders and ordinary citizens human rights videos are entering new spaces. For us this is a starting point to consider the new issues and questions that arise around circulation, exhibition and action in human rights media in a world of radically increased, pervasive and transformed production, distribution and usage.
>>Patricia R. Zimmermann, Ph.D.
>>Professor, Cinema, Photography and Media Arts
>>Roy H. Park School of Communications
>>Codirector, Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival
>>Division of Interdisciplinary and International Studies
>>953 Danby Road
>>Ithaca, New York 14850 USA
>>Office: +1 (607) 274 3431
>>FAX: +1 (607) 274 7078
>>patty at ithaca.edu
>>---- Original message ----
>>>Date: Wed, 2 Dec 2009 12:28:48 -0500 (EST)
>>>From: empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au (on behalf of "Renate Ferro" <rtf9 at cornell.edu>)
>>>Subject: [-empyre-] Two new guests.....
>>>To: "soft_skinned_space" <empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
>>>Thanks Ricardo for the update. I'd like to introduce you to two other
>>>guests who will taking our discussion threads into the first week of
>>>November. Welcome to Patty Zimmermann and Sam Gregory. Here are their
>>>bios and they will be making introductory posts to you soon.
>>>Sam Gregory and Patricia Zimmermann are collaborators working on an on-going
>>>research and presentation project, Speculations on the Virtual and Viral
>>>The project explores and opens up the contradictions, ethical and political
>>>implications of circulatory culture for transnational and international
>>>as it moves from fixed analog representations by professionals to more
>>>changeable user generated modes designed to move across cultures for
>>>Sam Gregory is the Program Director at WITNESS (www.witness.org,
>>>which uses video and online technologies to support human rights advocacy
>>>He is a video producer, trainer, and human rights advocate. In 2005 he was
>>>editor on Video for Change: A Guide for Advocacy and Activism (Pluto
>>>Press), and in
>>>2007 he lead the development of the curriculum for WITNESS' first ever Video
>>>Advocacy Institute, an intensive two-week training program. He has worked
>>>extensively with grassroots human rights activists - particularly in Latin
>>>and Asia, including the Philippines, Burma and Indonesia, integrating
>>>campaigns on a range of civil, political, social, economic and cultural
>>>issues.Videos he has co-produced have been screened to decision-makers at
>>>Congress,the UK Houses of Parliament, the United Nations, and at film
>>>worldwide. He has been interviewed on using video in advocacy for the
>>>Science Monitor, the National Journal, Videomaker Magazine, Reason, PBS
>>>of America and many other media outlets. In 2004 he was a jury member for
>>>Amnesty International/Doen Award. He has also worked as a television
>>>researcher/producer in both the UK and USA, and for development
>>>Nepal and Vietnam. He is on the Board of the US Campaign for Burma, and
>>>Patricia Zimmermann is professor of cinema, photography and media arts at
>>>College in Ithaca New York and codirector of the Finger Lakes
>>>Festival (http://www.ithaca.edu/fleff) This year’s festival explores the
>>>Open Space in an online, web 2.0 environment. She is the author and/or
>>>Reel Families: A Social History of Amateur Film (Indiana), States of
>>>Documentaries, Wars, Democracies (Minnesota), Mining the Home Movie:
>>>Histories and Memories (California), and The Flaherty: Four Decades in the
>>>Independent Cinema (Wide Angle). She has published extensively and
>>>in the areas of film history, documentary, new media, political economy of
>>>technological history, critical historiography, and film/new media theory. In
>>>addition to her scholarly work, for the last six years, she has written,
>>>and directed many collaborative projects in the area of live music and
>>>projection that combines archival material with new technologies, in
>>>with major archives in the United States and internationally. In 2010,
>>>she will be
>>>the Shaw Foundation Professor Endowed Chair of New Media Technology in the
>>>Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological
>>>Singapore. She blogs at http://www.ithaca.edu/fleff10/blogs/open_spaces/
>>>> Hola all soft_skinned_Trans(i)s,
>>>> We the Chicana Coyotek Gangs (CCG)
>>>> are really happy to bring today's
>>>> Transborder Immigrant Tool Weather Report.
>>>> We are well liked in the Netherlands,
>>>> but just down the road from our
>>>> super lab we are not:
>>>> On Nov 29, 2009, at 5:32 AM, whtguy916 at yahoo.com wrote:
>>>> "Give the illegals a map to your house ASSHOLE
>>>> DON'T GIVE THEM A MAP TO MINE
>>>> YOU SON OF A BITCH YOU SHOULD BE ARRESTED AND BEATEN
>>>> FOR HELPING ILLEGAL CRIMES BE COMMITTED."
>>>> A VERY LOUD NOTE que no? CCG is getting lots these
>>>> very LOUD notes.
>>>> WE hope that the LUNAR BRACEROS from 2125-2148
>>>> can send some amor sin borders
>>>> now rather than tomorrow.
>>>> Also, we are happy to report
>>>> that one of our lead chica del trans
>>>> dr. cardenas did some radio time:
>>>> by the way she connected sonically with her new little chipped-in toe
>>>> Other side of el code dr. stalbaum has been doing double duty as
>>>> mistress of the universe and tireless dislocative tester. Her
>>>> new magik tool will be ready to make a scene next week!
>>>> Over in OC land our poll number are down!
>>>> Do we not give you enough LUV?!
>>>> December 01, 2009 7:44 AM
>>>> Poll: 56% say border-crossing tool threatens national security
>>>> CCG is now going to have to give up our Vegas Dreams of
>>>> becoming Las Gagas ricas y famous and just be one more poll dancing
>>>> trans-national threat.
>>>> Meanwhile here in New Aztlán, otherwise known as North County Times
>>>> we have entered into a temporal cold war:
>>>> Here's help crossing the border illegally but safely
>>>> This vato say SI!
>>>> But, just click away it all become Fear of the nanocommunist Planet!
>>>> What can we say CCG likes their nanonuts con un poco de programable
>>>> Which by the way is playing at the Kid's Museum of Art in SD!
>>>> No one is safe now! Ha..Ha..Ha!!!
>>>> Bueno much mas to tell but we have to go hit the dance flores
>>>> they are playing our song.
>>>> Abrazos grandes,
>>>> P.S. The pome of the day just for you chic at as:
>>>> “La isla que
>>>> se repite”:
>>>> dub liners,
>>>> el Caribe.
>>>> Joycean as
>>>> a “Yes,” resounding.
>>>> por la doctor carroll
>>>> Ricardo Dominguez
>>>> Associate Professor
>>>> Hellman Fellow
>>>> Visual Arts Department, UCSD
>>>> Principal Investigator, CALIT2
>>>> Co-Chair gallery at calit2
>>>> CRCA Researcher
>>>> Ethnic Studies Affiliate
>>>> Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies Affiliate
>>>> Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics,
>>>> Board Member
>>>> University of California, San Diego,
>>>> 9500 Gilman Drive Drive,
>>>> La Jolla, CA 92093-0436
>>>> Phone: (619) 322-7571
>>>> e-mail: rrdominguez at ucsd.edu
>>>> Project sites:
>>>> site: http://gallery.calit2.net
>>>> site: http://pitmm.net
>>>> site: http://bang.calit2.net
>>>> site: http://www.thing.net/~rdom
>>>> empyre forum
>>>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>>>Visiting Assistant Professor
>>>Department of Art
>>>Cornell University, Tjaden Hall
>>>Ithaca, NY 14853
>>>Email: <rtf9 at cornell.edu>
>>>Co-moderator of _empyre soft skinned space
>>>Art Editor, diacritics
>>>empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>>empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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