Once again, our students did fantastically well this year through generating their own content – this time, making short films shot entirely on mobile phones 🙂
Audio and Video Technology students worked in groups to produce short practice-based films using the devices in their pockets, developing imaginative and innovative filming techniques through exploring the creative affordances and constraints of the technology. Groups were responsible for managing their own projects through wikis, which were also used to document the overall research and production processes and present the final project report, alongside online ‘making of’ photo-diaries which linked to the wikis, offering a rich insight into their creative and technical processes. The films were presented in a mini ‘film festival’; full assignments submitted as QR codes which linked to their work online. Through using multiple media across a range of online platforms the students immersed themselves in the technologies as mobile and networked learners and content producers.
To give you some background, this module (Advanced Multimedia – soon to be Social Technologies) encourages students to engage critically with mobile and web-based technologies, developing their online presence and digital identity alongside experimentation with participatory media with a view to identifying how these social technologies can be used professionally. The emphasis is on developing a broad range of media literacies across a variety of Web 2.0 platforms, encouraging the learners to consider issues and techniques in relation to multi-channel content production. I wanted to get the students to think about user-generated content in a different way. They had a tendency to equate high end equipment with quality, and ubiquitous technologies with frivolity, so the idea was to encourage them to develop an appreciation for high quality participatory media production and to ‘think outside the box’, developing skills in the production of UGC and editorial thinking (as opposed to traditional narrative).
At first, the students were resistant to the idea of creating mobile phone films as many of the techniques (both technical and narrative) ran counter-cultural to the predominant disciplinary culture. However, once the students began to work on the films, they discovered a whole range of innovative and imaginative techniques that could be used with small handheld devices that they wouldn’t be able to do with normal video cameras. Some of the students took a critical look at mobile technologies, e.g. exploring the dark side of mobile recording devices/addiction to technology; others used their mobile phones to capture truly engaging, authentic footage; while others used the phones in unexpected, alternative ways.
The response was overwhelmingly positive; after initial scepticism at the project brief – which moved the focus away from high production values – the students appreciated the extended scope for creativity and imagination as they developed their work beyond the constraints of conventional practice, learning through discontinuity.They also welcomed the ‘new way of working’, which transformed their practice through connecting, collaborating and presenting across multiple platforms. Most importantly, by challenging their assumptions about film-making by creating engaging content using the devices in their pockets, the learners accepted alternative approaches and developed an openness to rethinking their practice as a result of technological shifts – and also began to see themselves differently as media consumers/producers on the mobile web.
Special thanks go to Hugh Garry, who came and delivered a fantastic workshop to the group at the beginning of the project. He also praised the breadth and range of the films, giving them a special mention at a recent TEDx conference (see http://bit.ly/ac1fWT – go to 21:40), which is a real boost for the students.
Institutionally, this project has raised awareness of the creative potential of consumer technologies and the benefits of UGC creation as way for students to create open content which can be repurposed for others. There’s now a groundswell of interest in transferring this approach across disciplines and faculties in a university-wide drive to establish innovative digital curricula, so I’m really looking forward to the next academic year and hopefully, some cross-disciplinary excursions into the mobile phone as a production device.