assignment 3: oral history video composition

Assignment Overview

In their Introduction to the second edition of The Oral History Reader Perks and Thompson (2006) note that when one engages in the practice of oral history she is also challenging traditional notions of the construction of history. Correspondingly, by challenging history she is also challenging traditional conceptions that reliable research is the investigation of written texts found in libraries, databases, and archives. Later, in their opening words to Part I, they announce that human beings are now “in the middle of a fourth, dizzying digital revolution in oral history and its outcomes are impossible to predict” (p. 8). They describe this revolution as being a result of the proliferation of information technologies-email, the Internet, digital recording devices-and the potential for ubiquitous access to interviews. In short, “the future of oral history . . . has never been so exciting, or so uncertain” (p. 8).

With Flip Video Cameras in hand (or on tripod) we are going engage that exciting uncertainty by composing video oral histories of individuals whose voices on important social issues might never have been recorded, preserved, and broadcast to a world eager to watch, listen, learn about what others think and do. Our videos will not be about people, though we will learn about them through their interviews. Rather, the videos will explore a particular issue as understood by the people you interview. The distinction is subtle, but important. When conceiving of your issue, think in broad strokes at first but then narrow down to local specifics. We discuss this in great detail in class.

This eight-week assignment will challenge our critical thinking, reading, writing, and composing skills. It will test our patience and bring us thrills. It will ask us to think visually and aurally. We will explore in depth questions writers of written texts often take for granted (or never have to think about), especially those relating to time, transition effects, sound, silence, blanks, color, among many others.

Subjects and Research

The preferred subjects are family members, but depending on subject matter, subjects could also be colleagues, community members, strangers, and/or experts in a field relating to your issue (the only subjects off limit are fellow students and significant others [unless absolutely necessary due to the issue being considered]; both groups have proven to be incredibly unreliable in past efforts). Due to the time constraints of the semester, it will be better if you have a relationship of some sort with your interview subjects prior to beginning the project. That relationship can be as close as a family member or as minor as belonging to the same church. The key will be finding subjects who have lived experiences directly relating to the issue you wish to explore.

The fact that we are conducting interviews does not preclude us from engaging in more traditional modes of research. Indeed, oral history presentations depend on it for evidence to support and enhance statements uttered by interview subjects. Interviews also require a substantial amount of traditional research about the particular issue you are investigating, the organizations your subjects might be a part of, and so on. The more prepared we are the better listeners and questioners we will be, and the more effective we will be at helping the subject articulate their memories.

Assignment Due Dates

Our final product will be an 8 – 10 minute idea-driven mashup of video, audio, and still images that makes a point(s) about an important social issue. Due to the complexity of the project we will be going through three overlapping stages:

  • Conducting the Interviews (10/26 – 12/9): this stage includes completing the following:
    • all interviews
    • follow-up interviews
    • signed consent forms
    • detailed notebook in paper/on wiki that records the subject name, number of the interview with the subject, date, time started, time completed. location of interview, type of interview (formal or informal), questions asked, topics covered, questions for follow-up interview, file name of the digital file
  • Composing the Video (10/19 – 12/9): this stage includes completing the following:
    • Nov 18: first video draft due (2 – 3 minutes) on YouTube and embed in wiki
    • Nov 19 & 20: 30 minute conferences with Dr. Wolff
    • 11/23: digitized primary documents and screen shots
    • 11/23: music selections
    • 11/23: second video (5 – 6 minutes) draft due on YouTube and embed in wiki
    • 12/9: final video due (8 – 10 minutes) on YouTube and embed in wiki

Final Video Requirements

With the final oral history video composition we want to maximize viewers’ understanding of the context of the video, ensure that they know the video is an oral history, and increase the possibility that the videos will appear in any search for an oral history. As a result, please complete the following:

Creating the Final Video(s)

  • Compose and add a title that has the phrase “Video Oral History” or “Oral History Video” in it. For example, “The Immigrant Experience: An Oral History Video.” Please see me if you have questions about a title
  • If your video runs longer than 10 minutes, you will need to split the video in two or more parts. If you are breaking your video in half, add a title page to the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half that states that the URL for the First Part or Second Part is located in “this video’s description or by going to
    • If you are not uploading your video to YouTube, do not split your video
  • Choose and upload an image for an appropriate Creative Commons License
  • Add credits that include the following:
    • “title” (if known), photographer (if known) and URL for all images found online
    • artist, “song title,” and album title for all music used (note that all music must hold a Creative Commons license)
    • “title,” show, air date, and URL for any video you have embedded in your video
    • special thanks message to your narrators (do not refer to them by name)
    • Written and Directed by username
    • Link to all oral history videos from the class:

Uploading the final video(s)
For those of you who have permission to upload the video to YouTube, please complete the following when uploading. Those who do not have permission, please complete all but the uploading portion in a Word doc that you will turn in electronically when you turn in your final video(s).

  • Upload the video to the course YouTube channel, the Oral History Video Archive, and embed it in the video page on your wiki
  • Place the complete title of your video in the form field when uploading the video
  • In the Description form field, add the following text:
    • start the first sentence with the title followed by “presents” (or similar word). For example, “‘The Immigrant Experience: An Oral History Video’ presents the story of one woman’s journey from a childhood in Ukraine. . . .” Follow that sentence with a brief description of what the viewer can expect to see in the video.
      • if this is the first part, say so and add a link to the second part. If it is the second part, say so and add a link to the first part of the video. These links should be added after you have uploaded both videos. To do so, go to the video and edit the description by adding the link URL.
    • state that the project was completed for “Writing, Research, and Technology, Fall 2009, taught by Dr. Bill Wolff, and received IRB approval. The video is [specify how you have copyrighted the video (see above for details)]. Information about the course and assignment can be found at: https://williamwolff.orgcourses/wrt-fall-2009/. A complete archive of this and former class’s oral histories is located at”
    • state that the video was shot using the Flip Ultra video camera and edited using Windows Movie Maker and Photo Story 3, iMovie HD, 08, or 09, whichever you used.
    • state the artist and song title for any music you have used (you do not have to do the same with images)
    • Give yourself credit by using your full name or first name and last initial
    • Please use paragraphs and complete sentences
  • Add at least the following tags: “rowan” “rowan university” “oral history” “oral history video” and multiple tags relating to your topic, such as “pets” “animal shelter” “economy” (these tags will increase the likelihood that the video will be found when searching that subject matter.
  • For the category, select Education.
  • Make the video public and allow embedding and comments

Now sit back and appreciate the great work you have done this semester!

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