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<nettime> INTERVIEW: This is an exciting time for people working with vi
Frederick Noronha [फ़रेदरिक नोरोनया] on Mon, 2 Feb 2009 17:46:32 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> INTERVIEW: This is an exciting time for people working with video -- Sam Gregory (Witness)


Sam Gregory <sam {AT} witness.org> is WITNESS's programme
director, a video producer, trainer, human rights advocate
and on the board of the Tactical Technology Collective, among
others. Extracts from an interview:

FN: Tell us about WITNESS?

WITNESS [http://www.witness.org] is a human rights
organization which uses video and related online technologies
to help people use video for change.

We work in a number of different ways: we partner with local
human rights group on campaigns that incorporate video in
many different forms (for evidence, for community
organizing, for decision-maker lobbying).

       We train hundreds of groups each year in short-term
       trainings including a Video Advocacy Institute
       [http://www.witness.org/vai]; we maintain an
       archive of human rights footage, and we have an
       initiative called the Hub [http://hub.witness.org]

This is an online platform for human rights media and action
where you can share video and propose actions. We're
highlighting there the use of video in the first ICC
(International Criminal Court, at the Hague) trial right now.

The blog on the Hub comments and points to innovative uses of
video for change.

FN: Would it be right to say that WITNESS is info-activism
driven? How important is info-activism in the work of WITNESS?

WITNESS is definitely a user of info-activism.

We specialize in thinking about how the unique properties of
video, testimony and visual story-telling work in our
contemporary information climate. Both in advocacy and
activism settings off-line as well as in online contexts; what
we call 'video advocacy'. So, the Tactical Tech conception of
info-activism is at the heart of what we do.

FN: What's your task as program director?

As Program Director I manage a team here of regional
coordinators. Each of these coordinators works within a
geographic region to support human rights groups and
concerned citizens to use video for change.

They do so by way of focused intensive campaign partnerships,
in short-term trainings and via online platforms like the Hub.

I get to play a key role in also developing our strategies
for training, and for integrating online and off-line advocacy.

FN: Is video more important to you compared to human-rights
activism, or vice versa? What started first in your life, or
did both come together? Why did you see video as a useful option?

Both video and activism co-existed in my life. For a period
of time I was making film and also involved in activism, and
I was frustrated at how the two didn't fit together.

       In the traditional TV documentary world, the
       advocacy purpose of film was under-utilized. The
       fact that you got 500,000 viewers for a TV
       broadcast told you nothing about whether that
       turned into action.

So I started looking for ways to really make the video fit as
a tool for real advocacy and change-making, and came upon

I love the story-telling side of video-making. Its ability to
convey human experience across borders in a way that a
written report (for example, a common format in human rights
work) cannot. But what really makes it powerful for me is
seeing it being used to express the agency of the people most
affected by violations, and secure real change.

FN: At a personal level, are you in touch with other
documentary film-makers in diverse parts of the globe? What
are the useful networks through which one can find such

I have a lot of contact with documentary film-makers around
the world. Our primary focus has tended to be on helping
human rights groups and concerned citizens use video
themselves as a tool, rather than necessarily helping
documentary makers make more films about human rights.

But we are always trying to build collaborations with peers
in our field at local and regional levels.

I'm a big admirer of networks like 'Shooting People'
[https://shootingpeople.org/], DFG [http://www.dfgdocs.com/],
and regional groups like Pusat Komas [http://www.komas.org/]
in Malaysia, Video Volunteers
[http://www.videovolunteers.org/] and Drishti
[http://www.drishtimedia.org/] in India.

Then, there's also BritDoc [http://britdoc.org] and groups in
the US like Bay Area Video Coalition [http://www.bavc.org/],
and Working Films [http://www.workingfilms.org].

       I also have been following some new tools that use
       web 2.0 ideas to link together filmmakers and NGOs,
       since I think this is really useful.

We're also hoping that the next step of evolution of the Hub
will be to include a facet that is about peer-to-peer
learning and sharing in the action-oriented social justice
media community. And I'm very glad to hear about Docuwallahs2!

FN: Tell us a little about Video for Change? Is it still
available? Any changes of new edition?

'Video for Change' is still available. It came out in 2005.

       It's available to purchase in online book stores
       etc, but it can also be downloaded for free at the
       WITNESS website at

There are also translations there into Spanish, French,
Russian and Arabic. Shortly we'll have an online translation
into Burmese, and there are published editions also in Bahasa
Indonesian and Turkish.

If anyone is interested in doing a translation into another
language, we'd be glad to hear from them! We've been thinking
about doing a new edition that might be compiled more on a
wiki-like basis to find the best case studies, and examples.

And we've been doing some slightly different curriculum
development of late -- developing short five-minute animation
guides to video advocacy, our 'Guide to Video Advocacy, which
is on the Hub at http://hub.witness.org/en/action/vastt

FN: Why is video curriculum-building different in the field
you work? Where does the emphasis go?

Our approach to curriculum-building is not so different from
other fields.

We're very focused on adult learning -- on making sure we
build and draw on the experiences of people in the workshops,
aim for immediately relevant knowledge and skills, and cater
to a range of potential users of video and online
technologies (different advocacy settings, different access
to technologies, different communities worked with).

In our Video Advocacy Institute curriculum, we really try to
focus on giving participants the right mix of strategies
(drawing heavily on case studies of success), technical
skills to be effective producers, and making sure that skills
are immediately applied to a specific project. So, a key part
of the process is developing a Video Action Plan for how
video will be part of an ongoing or upcoming campaign.

FN: Is video getting the role it deserves in our
media-over-saturated world?

It's an immensely exciting time for people working with
video. More and more people creating and using video, more
places to share it, more ways to place it in front of people
who can make a difference.

It raises challenges too: saturation of images and
compassion-fatigue, finding your place to be heard, and the
safety and security and consent issues that arise when many
more people are filming each other.

       But overall I think we're seeing a really powerful
       moment for individual expression but also
       collective accountability being supported via

FN: Lastly, please describe yourself in 30 words.

A Brit living in New York for the last eight years -- happily
married but waiting for it to be legal. Deeply involved with
using video for change, film, Burma and medieval history.

MORE INFO-ACTIVISM BLOG posts at http://www.informationactivism.org/blog

FN * http://fredericknoronha.wordpress.com
M: +91-9822122436 P: +91-832-2409490

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