In this course we will continue to challenge the idea of contemporary modes of composition first discussed in Technologies and the Future of Writing. Specifically, we are going to be extending traditional conceptions of composition by applying it to the medium of video. Kevin Kelly (2008) recently described the emerging video movement as a cultural shift “from book fluency to screen fluency, from literacy to visuality.”As a means of engaging visuality our primary assignment will create an oral history video composition that will ask us to think critically about how writing, research, and technology are in evolving in digital age. We are going to learn oral history research methodologies, construct interview questions informed by documentaries and Studs Turkel interviews, interview community members, and create short, idea-driven videos that mash together interview footage with still images, primary documents, sound, and other video footage. It will be a fun, exciting, and demanding course that is going to challenge us all-including Dr. Wolff-in new ways.
The primary video technology we will be using in the course is a Flip Video camera, which we are fortunate enough to have as a result of a Rowan University-provided Innovations in Teaching with Technology grant Dr. Wolff received in June 2008 entitled, “Reconceiving ‘Writing, Research, Technology’ by INtroducing Multimodal Video Composition, Oral History, and Educational Outreach” (.pdf).
We will have three primary assignments-one short and one long video composition as well as a semester-long video blog (vlog) complete with individual YouTube channels. Although the course is about video composition there will be a substantial reading component.
Many of the still and video images we will be looking and you will come in contact with as a part of your research at will be disturbing and often intensely personal-because of their subject matter and because of the way certain technologies have been used in print and online media to exploit, reveal, categorize, and define. Yet, those very same technologies-especially in our internet-mediated environment-allow individuals access to information previously locked away. As a result, it will be especially important for us to realize that different people respond to images in different ways, to respect the various reactions, and try to understand why they happen. We will spend quite a bit of time in class talking about the acts of listening, empathizing, and giving people space to explore personal ideas in an environment that welcomes such intense reflection. And, perhaps coolly, we will also talk about how to effectively present such images when composing our video essays. In short, the course is also about trust: trust in each other as students, in your subjects, and in you as researchers.
Unit I. What is YouTube? (3 – 5 minute video)
This unit will introduce us to basic short interview techniques, how to use the Flip Video Camera, and video editing software. It will also very nicely lead us in to Units II and III. Students will traverse the YouTube community and interview 3 – 5 Rowan community members (students, faculty, staff, and so forth) based on pre-set questions that try to answer the question, “What is YouTube?” The result will be an idea-driven video that presents a snapshot of the Rowan community’s and the student’s impressions of YouTube, how it is shaping culture, communication, and the Internet.
Unit II. Video Blog (Vlog) on YouTube
Vlogging is the video equivalent of blogging-users compose video entries that discuss a variety of different topics. Like blogging, vlogs are updated repeatedly with the goal of both distributing information and gaining viewership. One of the primary goals of our vlogging will be to gain a felt understanding of what it means to participate in the YouTube community. Student vlogs will build on Unit I by engaging in a topic(s) or idea(s) that they found interesting, curious, maddening, and so forth in Unit I.
Unit III. Video Oral History Project on an Important Contemporary Social Topic (8 – 10 minute video)
In this 12-week unit we will engage in a large-scale oral history project. Pairs of students will choose a previously approved contemporary social topic (war, poverty, the fate of NJ state parks, the implications of Obama’s election, and so forth) and will interview a group of people (ideally unknown to the interviewer prior to the beginning of the semester) using the latest oral history methodologies and techniques. From the resulting video interview texts students will identity a narrative, and compose an idea-driven video composition that mashes together video footage, still images, primary and secondary texts, and sound. The project will be completed in stages: proposal, initial contact, interview, storyboard, draft, and final product. All drafts and work-product will be made available for public comment on YouTube (and perhaps other social communication sites), socially distributing the construction of the oral history video. The goal is to have a final public screening for those who were interviewed and the public at large.