Week 2: Kevin Gaboury

Unanticipated advances in technology over the past decade have been huge advantages to non-profit organizations like Witness and Engage Media. In 20 years, Witness has gone from the archaic Sony HandyCam to top-of-the line video and audio equipment and the unlimited potential of the Internet.
For a laugh, check out this ad for the Sony HandyCam from 1986.
Cheesy and hilarious, for sure, but a camera that could fit in your hand opened up a world of possibilities in those days. But I’m wondering: How did they distribute the videos before the advent of the internet? Is that how seriously internet-reliant I’ve become that I can’t think of how you would distribute a video without it?
While browsing both of the sites, I thought about the power of video and how it is unrivaled in bringing about actual social change. I’ve always subscribed to the view that words are among the most powerful weapons, but I’m starting to see how the power of video can change hearts and minds. What do you think is the most powerful medium for social change?
The raw, amateur quality of the videos is especially impactful because it makes it seem like you are there, experience it as it unfolds. It’s incredibly authentic and real. For me, the lack of editing is a major strength of Witness.
Now, it’s difficult to find a cell phone without a video camera. This makes citizen journalists out of us all. Essentially, anyone can be a witness to anything at any time. Soon after the Boston Marathon bombing, cell phone videos started popping up online that led to the capture of one of the suspects.
The Engage Media website took some searching to find videos in English or with subtitles, but my favorites were “Hardcore Poor,” a glimpse into extreme poverty in Kuala Lumpur; “Please Help Us We are 16 and 14,” about two Malaysian boys suffering from a horrible skin disease; and “We Don’t Want the Coal Mine,” about a mining project in Bangladesh that would displace 500,000 people. The coal mine video illustrates what seems to be a common plight in third-world countries: big industry versus indigenous populations. The videos also opened my eyes to many issues I had no idea existed. Did anyone else have a similar experience?

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1 comment to Week 2: Kevin Gaboury

  • banders3@uoregon.edu

    The distribution aspect is one thing that I had a hard time figuring out, too. When I was a kid, the only place we could go to get videos was the actual video store and I can assure you that the documentary sections on social justice or social change were relatively limited back then. So maybe with lack of internet and YouTube, you were maybe on some mailing list or was a part of some group that would meet somewhat regularly.

    Now we have so much information with the internet and YouTube that it presents the opportunity for people to get involved. It also could give the public a new problem — giving people too many social change or social justice problems/opportunities that it will overload people so much that they will not get involved. Regardless of whether all of the opportunities are overwhelming, the crucial aspect is that the information is readily available.

    I also think that video is the most powerful medium for change. I say this because I point to the Kony 2012 video. I just checked YouTube and it currently has 98.4 million views because it combined two key aspects — compelling video and the idea of saving children. It obviously went viral, which is something everyone who makes a video wants to do because it means millions of people are exposed to a particular situation and that awareness can help solve or eliminate the problem.

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