Video as a Tool for Activism
By Taya Govreen-Segal*
Have you ever invested yourself in an action? Planned, organized, coordinated, and then did the action, only to discover that hardly anyone heard of it? In this two-part article I will propose a possible solution for this problem: video activism.
Video activism is a way of expanding activism beyond the streets and into virtual spaces. In the first part I will try and explain why I find video a useful tool for activism, and in the second part, I will give a few more practical tips for creating your own videos.
Disclaimer: My knowledge and understanding of both activism and video are based on my experience in Israel-Palestine. Different cultural and legal situations in other places may make some of this not relevant in other regions.
Why do we do activism?
We do it because the reality is unjust or harmful. Because we find this reality wrong, immoral and unacceptable and decide to act to stop bad things that are going on. We try and effect politicians, people in power, we try and get to the media to raise awareness to effect the discourse. Often, one of our goals is to change public opinion.
When I think of activism the pictures that come to mind are of people with signs and megaphones. People handing out flyers, doing a die in or a blockade. These are all important, and have been part of many successful struggles and campaigns throughout history. But nowadays we have tools that are different than the ones that existed even 10 years ago. When I think about it, I spend more time on the internet than I do in the street - don't you? So why not expand activism to the virtual spaces?
For many of us, the internet, and specifically social media are a large part of our lives, as is the content we encounter. This is especially true for young people who are more likely to be using social media as a way of consuming news, so it only makes sense to use these platforms for activism. Whether it's an action we worked on, or something we happened to see and found important to get out there, or an action aimed to create a good video, by spreading the word through social media we can raise the amount of people who know about it.
While this is true for all online mediums, video, being the most unmediated medium, has some additional advantages. The combination of visual and sound creates the next best thing to actually being present. Therefore, when watching a video, the experience is of observing something that really happened, witnessing it first hand, and being able to develop their own view of what happened.
Alongside this, the creator of the video does have a lot of control over the message portrayed, since the viewer is removed from the situation and is only experiencing what we choose to show. As the creators of a video, we choose what context to give the viewers, and may effect their emotions on the subject using angles of videoing, sound, and editing. As activists, we can use these qualities of video to promote our ideas and actions, as well as keep them in mind when we watch videos created by others.
Making activism more accessible
Video may also be a useful way of making activism more accessible. Different people have different abilities, passions, skills and limitations, and the more formats there are for activism the more people can find the right way for them to get involved. Some may find videoing a demonstration easier than being part of the action. Others may find editing a way of contributing without needing to leave the house. Similarly, people who are interested in learning about what's going on may find they relate to some mediums more than others.
As activists, often one of the goals of an action is to raise awareness and create public discourse. More often then not, we try and get to the media. But this isn't always possible, whether it is because you are having had hard times attracting the attention of mainstream media, because you are keeping the action secret for security reasons, or because you are worried about the media bringing the wrong message across.
While this is often frustrating, it may also be looked upon as an opportunity. By creating your own video, you can control things such as the narrative portrayed, the exposure and privacy of individuals, and the use of correct gender pronouns and sensitive wording. The final video may be used both as an alternative to relying on conventional media by gaining popularity on social and alternative media, and as a way of attracting the attention of conventional media.
Beyond all these, you may find your videos handy in all sorts of unexpected places. Since videos are a relatively reliable documentation they may be useful in court, in parliament, or for research. But remember, once a video is online, it cannot be erased, and may be used by other people for other purposes, also against you.
Now go out and crush militarism. But first read Part 2** for practical tips for creating your own video ;)
*Taya Govreen-Segal is a conscientious objector and activist from Israel-Palestine, and a former video journalist in Israel Social TV, an independent media organization that sees video as a tool for social change and promoting human rights.
** The article will be published the coming week on antimili-youth.net.