371.1 Representing the “voice”: A critical perspective on participatory video practice

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 2:30 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Arianna MENCARONI , Audiovisual Communication and Advertising, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, Spain, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Spain
The slogan “giving voice to those who often come unheard” has expanded largely in different fields of video production such as campaigns for social awareness, visual activism projects, as well as in ethnographic film research and documentary movies. An implicit assumption of this slogan is that video practices could be useful both for research or decision-making processes and for social change in itself. Its main aim is generally stated as “making visible the point of view of the other"; or at least, some aspects or interpretations of it. This perspective should be considered the core of many visual disciplines and concrete visual research projects; and, most certainly, of video participatory practices. Very often, all of the steps of a participatory video production -from its fieldwork to the end product- have as their main goal to allow the participants to express themselves, hence resulting in the overall goal of representing their “voice”. In these cases very often the camera is considered as a mere instrument to reach these goals. My contention here would be that some of such instrumental uses of the camera run the risk of reifying particular "models of representation", which are not generally discussed in the process of such participatory practices. But if it is true that "the medium is the message", the modes of representation are as important as content in order to subvert "the institutional way of seeing". The proposal of this paper would be to problematize and to reflect on the use of the camera in the "mise-en-scene" of participants' ”voice” by themselves, as well as the proposal of a possible categorization -deriving from film studies- ranging from participant camera, participatory camera, dialogic camera and reflexive camera. In order to illustrate my argument, I will present some examples from an ongoing participatory project with migrants in Tuscany.