With a single phone or camera, individual citizens have the power to shape the course of history. In 1991, George Holliday videotaped the beating of criminal suspect Rodney King by LAPD officers from his apartment balcony and sent the tape to a local television station. Several days of riots ensued after a local jury acquitted all four officers involved. Two officers were found guilty of federal civil rights violations against King in 1993.
In 1991, the recording of violent events like King’s beating was a relative novelty. Today, they are commonplace—so much so that “social news” agencies such as Storyful (www.storyful.com) have been able to make a living by verifying the authenticity of videos recorded by citizen journalists and human rights activists and charging larger news agencies for their services. In addition, human rights organizations such as Witness (www.witness.org) are training average citizens in the technical, journalistic and ethical practices of human rights videography. In this MediaLit Moment, your upper elementary and middle school students will learn how to think more deeply about the purpose and social significance of such videos, and they’ll consider some of the choices citizen journalists make as they record and publish them.
Ask students to consider the purposes and techniques of videos which document conflicts or abuses of human rights.
AHA!: People who make these videos can have a lot of power to change things!
Grade Level: 5-7
Key Question #5: Why is this message being sent?
Core Concept #5: Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power.
Key Question #2: What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?
Core Concept #2: Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.
Materials: Computer with high speed internet access, LCD projector and screen.
Activity: Ask students about any videos they’ve seen which documented civil disturbances or human rights abuses. You can screen an age-appropriate video if you wish (You may find appropriate material from The Square, a Netflix documentary about the 2011 Egyptian revolution and events which followed). Ask, how do they feel after watching videos like these? Why do they think that people make videos of these kinds of events? What’s the purpose of uploading them so that a lot of people can see them? Who is likely to pay attention to them? What are these people likely to do?
Screen the Witness Tool Kit video “How to Film Protests”
Why do students think that the narrator tells the people who want to record these videos to make sure that audiences see and hear what they want them to? Why are they told to select specific images when they’re getting ready to publish them? You may also want to ask, why does the narrator warn people who want to record these videos that adversaries might use their videos if they’re made public?
Why do they tell the people who want to make these videos to avoid giving away the identity of the people they film or interview?
Extended Activity: Screen the Witness “welcome” video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlYRTtNrWZk
Why would it be important to verify that the videos are real? What do they think “curating” means? Why is that something important to do?
The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework. Used with permission, ©2002-2014, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com