Participatory Media Outlets

Participatory Media Outlets

Participatory media and public voice enourage civic engagement (Rheingold, 2008). With various sources of technology available, it there is an opportunity to pass knowledge of a trade to someone and have them operate equipment themselves. Enthusiasm that people have for using technology can be used to bring relevant issues to light to a group of people. It has already been determined that community involvement in redevelopment is needed. Participatory media is a good way to encourage involvement through interest while also being effective.

Participatory Video

Participatory Video (PV) is a set of techniques to involve a group or community in shaping and creating their own film. The idea behind this is that making a video is easy and accessible, and is a great way of bringing people together to explore issues, voice concerns or simply to be creative and tell stories. (Lunch, 2007). The use of participatory videos has been extensively used all around the world by organizations which aim to make changes in peoples’ lives. Organizations such as charity groups and research institutions have identified participatory videos as a method that values local knowledge and builds bridges between communities and decision-makers and enables people to develop greater control over their own sustainable development and the decisions affecting their lives. According to Insight, an orgnaization that develops participatory video in communities, the basics of  PV are:

  • Participants rapidly learn how to use video equipment through games & exercises.
  • Facilitators help groups identify & analyse important issues in their community by adapting a range of PLA-type tools with Participatory Video techniques.
  • Short videos & messages are directed & filmed by  participants.
  • Footage is shared with the wider community at daily screenings.
  • A dynamic process of community-led learning, sharing and exchange is set in motion.
  • Communities are involved to varying degrees in editing their films, but they always have full editorial control
  • Completed films can be used for horizontal and vertical communication

Irrespective of one’s literacy, experiences or origins, the use of participatory videos is very effective as it is capable of bringing a community together while providing documentation of the redevelopment efforts (Hadland et al.., 2006). The highlight of the use of participatory videos is that members of the community have a hand in the redevelopment effort from the very beginning. The community will play a part starting at the research stage, to the analysis stage and eventually to the stage when change is visible.

Case Studies

In order to better understand participatory video, specific implementations of it need to be explored. Insight conducted several field studies using participatory video. They took place in a variety of places that include Central Asia and the Himalayas. The full case studies are provided on their website. Here is the 2008 WPI Communications Team implementation of a PV prototype in Monwabisi Park.

2008 WPI Communications Team

The thoughts and views of the community are vital in any redevelopment effort. Upon the arrival of the  2008 Communications Team in Cape Town a realization was made about the advantage of conducting interviews rather than conducting surveys. The interview process began as a way to express the views of the community in a more personal fashion compared to the overarching view that the survey provided (Envisioning Endlovini, 2008). With an interview, more information could be attained from the community members. Questions centered on their daily lives that were not as thought provoking provided the most information as this was something the community had the most knowledge about. With the aid of photographs, more information was provided as they presented visual references to the lives of the community members. Questions regarding the redevelopment efforts in Monwabisi Park were often answered with silence as the there was very little knowledge about this from the community.

Once the team found these interviews informative, they thought of taking the idea a step further from photographing to introducing the use of a video camera to record the interviews. As this was a new idea, the community’s thoughts on the idea were imperative as this was their redevelopment effort. The co-researchers went out into the community and relayed this information to the residents. The residents showed a lot of excitement about the idea of being video recorded and this was good news for the team as “it was more effective to tape a conversation than to transcribe it in English while it was being told to the co-researchers in Xhosa” (Envisioning Endlovini, 2008). This provided more information than a photograph as it captured the body language and the heart of the residents.

As a trial, the team set up and filmed the first interviews. They then taught the co-researchers the skill so that they could conduct the interviews on their own with little help. This increased the co-researchers’ technical skills and made steps to making the idea sustainable. For the episodes, topics that were important to the community were identified. These were issues that the community identified as largely impacting them in a negative way. For every episode, the guests being interviewed had to be identified. These were people who had experience with the topics up for discussion. There was at least one co-researcher responsible for video taping each episode and another on camera conducting the interviews. Three episodes formulated in a talk show type manner were recorded that talked about Community Safety: Awareness and Needs, Crime in Monwabisi Park and the documentation of the fire that burned down the Indlovu Centre.

The idea of community TV came when they identified sharing the ideas with the community as an important aspect for the success of the redevelopment effort of Monwabisi Park. They achieved this by bringing the community together at the community centre and viewing the episodes. This sparked off communication among the community members and valuable information was attained. This was identified as having, “immediate research benefits in terms of data acquisition and gauging community feelings, but exponentially more in terms of community involvement” (Envisioning Endlovini, 2008). This will have a positive impact of the redevelopment efforts.

Participatory Photography

Participatory Photography is, “photography taken by groups who would traditionally be the subjects of other people’s pictures. It enables them to record and reflect their own strengths and concerns, and can provide training in photography and media skills. Used with Arts Therapy, it is an effective way of empowering disenfranchised and marginalized people,” (Tutubi, 2009). Participatory photography places the medium of the camera into the hands of learners to democratize the image-making dynamicand give them the power to show and speak their own realities (Clover, 2005).There are many advantages of using participatory photography such as, cameras are easy to use, only one person can use it at a time and therefore individuals’ views and opinions can be effectively captured without the influence of someone else, which is often the case when working in groups for participatory video. It would also be easier for the community members to take pictures of the more personal things in their lives as they would be able to take the cameras to places like their homes. The foundation of participatory photography is learning for empowerment, action, and agency (Welton, 2005).

Participatory photography and the photo interview has proven particularly useful for sustainability and environmental studies in which eliciting community points of view is crucial to the research effort (Kolb, 2008). Kolb describes the participatory photography and interview process in three steps. During step one, outside researchers use photos to involve community members the research process. In step two, the community members are encouraged to share thier opinions amongst themselves and to identify possible solutions to issues raised. In the final step, the outside researchers take feedback provided to them by community members and draw conclusions.