This blog is part of the courses on film, art, literature, and media
given by Dr.
Hudson Moura, Toronto, Canada.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Strive for Social Change

Review of Chapter 8: “Reel News in the Digital Age: Framing Britain’s Radical Video-Activists," Steve Presence

By Jessica Rondeau

Throughout history, there have been various controversial and political issues around the world that have been broadcasted via social media.  The purpose of broadcasting has always been to update civilians with significant events around the world ‑ to allow people to have a better understanding of various issues and conflicts.  These political issues are usually protests or other forms of aggressive campaigns where individuals attempt to get their voices heard by a higher power, typically the government.  The purpose of these protests is the result of unsatisfied people based on the overall social structure and culture they currently live in.  Therefore, the main goal is social change ‑ a revolution in society.  Activists are essential to progress and evolve within a societal framework.  Without it, society would be ignorant to anything outside our own set perspective, thus resisting any form of free speech.  Video-activism is a significant source of news within our society, and one that shows the true radicalism that takes place around the world.  “Reel News in the Digital Age: Framing Britain’s Radical Video-Activists” by Steve Presence focuses on Reel News, a video-activist broadcast based in London, and how it is the most unique source of video-activism to-date.  Presence reveals to the reader how anti-activism struggles throughout the advancements in technology, the history of Reel News and its inspiration, as well as why it is a key component within our society today. 

The article begins by discussing British video-activism and how the Internet along with thriving advancements in technologies have had a major impact on the distribution of news, both in a positive and negative way.  Video-activism is a left-wing collective with the objective to document radical and controversial issues mainly revolving around protest and identity, all with the broader aim to reach greater social change.  Presence discusses how video-activism’s place in the world has been radically altered by the widespread technological revolution, thus resulting in new forms of giving and receiving information. Essentially, these technological advances within our culture have changed our social structure, inevitably leaving video-activists to struggle in the economy.  Presence further provides examples of how people have access to any information at the touch of their fingertips without any cost.  A major example of accessing information is Wikipedia. (Presence, 2016, p.2) This well-known sight for navigating information is not yet completely exhausted, and still gives people insight to relevant, up-to-date news around the world without any barrier of paying expenses. Also, he states that “online platforms such as Youtube and Vimeo have vastly increased the potential audiences for oppositional filmmaking and created an immense archive of potential footage” (Presence, 2016, p.2).  Despite the upside of being able to further display videos and educate others through arising social media platforms, all information can be discovered for free by individuals just from searching on the Internet and this, therefore makes it harder for video-activists to earn money and make a living. (Presence, 2016, p.2) By including this, the reader sympathizes and has a better understanding of the benefits of the accessibility on the Internet versus the need for money.  Furthermore, considering video-activism covers radical and largely controversial issues, no one is willing to sponsor these videos because they would rather stay more conventional.  As a result, video activists do not receive any income while becoming invisible in the world of film. Presence finalizes this paragraph by stating Reel News is rather unique and rare as a video-activist collective because they could fund their own radical film productions.

In continuation, Presence further expresses how video-activism slowly began to make a statement in the world of film during the 1990s.  This is because during this time many people began to get themselves involved in protests for the anti-globalisation movement.  Presence states that in Britain during 1999, the global Carnival Against Capitalism “marked the beginning of this new wave of anti-capitalist protest.” (Presence, 2016, p.3) This heightened political awareness meant that most opinionated people wanted to be involved while others wanted to be up to date with the latest news regarding the protests; thus, the demand for radical news began to rise and so did British video-activism.  Presence further explains that during events like the “Battle in Seattle” - where there were various instances of police brutality ‑ people became intrigued and eager to find sources via social media to know what exactly happening in the real world. (Presence, 2016, p.3) Events like these ended up being quite revolutionary, and the main purpose or importance of British video activism in this case is that it captured the desire for social change and the power of the people during that timeframe through what is known as “Indymedia”.  What was so significant about these protests was that they became seriously vicious and violent.  The dramatization of these broadcasts was essential for British video-activists because they thought it would enable them to fully use the internet as an alternative source to get their footage out in the open.  Although the internet was considered an alternative source, it was not necessarily a popular way of receiving news at this time and did not become a prominent way of viewing things until years later.  (Presence, 2016, p.4) 

Throughout the next section of this chapter, Presence focuses more on how Reel News is funded, and what makes this particular video-activism collective truly one of a kind.  He clarifies that Reel News is “funded solely by donations” (Presence, 2016, p.4) He provides factual evidence of founder, Shaun Dey admitting that he has roots in the labour movement.  Because of this experience in trade-unions, his ideological framework is solely based on the idea that whatever money is earned is not taken away by a higher power from him or anyone else that works for Reel News.  Therefore, Reel News is dependent on donations so that it can function. (Presence, 2016, p.5) 

Shaun Dey eventually went on to continue his education by doing research on radicalism in the mid-1990s, which further opened his mind and influenced him to continue expanding his video-activism with Reel News later on. Presence further explains Dey’s story to help the reader understand the true inspiration and quality of Reel News itself.  In doing so, he explains that Dey was influenced to visit Latin America to see what a real “fight against neoliberalism” was. (Presence, 2016, p.5) He explains that Latin American countries had “non-Eurocentric perspectives, which both celebrated and was shaped by various movements and campaigns.” (Presence, 2016, p.4).  Argentina was the major influence for Dey, where he met Rick Rowley and Jackie Soohen from “Big Noise Films.” Presence articulates the connection and the inspiration aroused from Dey through this experience where he learned to make relevant and powerful films.  This influenced him to continue to produce various films for the public when he returned to Britain to create some sort of social change.  To the reader, it is evident that Presence really wanted to emphasize that Shaun Dey’s main goal in founding Reel News was to strive towards a certain sense of social change by exposing what is thought as controversial news.  This strive towards social change is important and revolutionary, and it is something that inspires others to act.  Presence emphasizes this point by quoting Dey when he talks about his experience seeing Bruckmen’s women, and how they struggle throughout their day-to-day lives to make a living.  (Presence, 2016, p.7) This essentially inspires him, showing him that it is possible to make Reel News an exceptional video-activist broadcasting. 

Near the end of this chapter, Presence includes a statement Dey expresses about training new filmmakers.  He feels as though in video-activism, it is more about the quantity than the quality ‑ the amount of political content is more important than the actual production value. (Presence, 2016, p.7) he further describes Reel News as “throwaway” filmmaking, because it is only useful for conventional media if it has a lot of political violence.  The author includes this for the reader to understand that popular media only wanted information that will capture the attention of their targeted audience within a short span of time.  This is significant because the majority of people today give off a certain reaction when they witness political violence on the news, and in turn it acts like a chain reaction where everyone else feeds off from one another without doing their own research or truly understanding the full story based on facts.  Stating this was essential for this article because it intensifies how people don’t take the time to do their own research or educate themselves to truly understand what is going on in the world around them.  Moreover, Dey states that “’without 100% editorial control I wouldn’t trust what they were going to do with [the footage,]’” like from the Reel News footage used by BBC in 2013 that ended up being misleading and out of context. (Presence, 2016, p.8)
In conclusion, Presence ends the chapter by wrapping up the idea on how Britain’s video-activism is falling behind in the digital age despite how far it has come.  Rogue Reels: Oppositional Film in Britain by Margaret Dickinson (1999) is a novel that discusses the issues on activism in Britain, and is one of the most current pieces of work based on this issue to date.  In saying this, there is a lot that has changed within the years in terms of advancement in technology.   This is because the work that is being produced today is very similar to the successful work that has already been done in the 1990s.  (Presence, 2016, p.8) Therefore, there is no evolution in the world of British video-activism.

Presence’s article is intriguing and was somewhat interesting to read.  However, in the beginning of the chapter where he talked about the rapid change during the digital age, it was challenging to keep up with what the main point he was trying to convey was.  It took a while to fully understand what his main point was while reading each paragraph, and I had to annotate each one as thoroughly as I could.  Furthermore, it was also slightly misleading throughout the chapter because he mainly talked about the how British video-activism has evolved throughout the years, and how Reel News made a name for itself throughout the digital age in the 1990s, but then decided to conclude with the idea that British video-activism has not evolved enough in the world of technology and broadcasting today.  I felt as though the author should have explained how video-activism has somehow fallen behind in the digital age and needs an update, rather than rushing the conclusion and only briefly touching up on the fact that it is not as relevant today.  However, Presence was able to thoroughly explain the importance of video-activism to the reader, and how it has evolved throughout the technological revolution. 

Presence, S. (2016). Reel News in the Digital Age: Framing Britain’s Radical Video-Activists.  The Routledge Companion to Cinema and Politics (pp. 103-111).

No comments:

Post a Comment