Week 2: Eckerson Reading Response –Witness vs. Precious Places

Witness is an international human rights organization that uses the power of video and storytelling to open the eyes of the world to human rights abuses. Their tagline is “see it, film it, change it,” and they define video advocacy as “setting specific objectives, identifying target audiences, and developing a strategic plan for production and distribution to ensure the video has impact as a specific tactic within a broader strategy.”

I would argue that Witness uses video as an effective tool, but I would disagree with their attempt to frame video as a “democratic tool.” While they have a series of “how to videos” and guidelines for organizations to make video for social advocacy, the thrust of their work is top down, through policy change through video.  They are not as reflective as I would hope about the ethic nuance of working in solidarity with people experiencing human rights abuses to be truly “democratic” in their approach.  It is one thing to document atrocities, but it is another thing to understand the privilege and position of one who is able to do such a thing.

While their work is important, it is not fundamentally empowering and shifting the power dynamic of the people experiencing the abuse, but rather advocating on their behalf.  What do folks think about the difference in scope and effect between the Precious Places project versus Witness? Which is a more “powerful” and “democratic” use of video?

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2 comments to Week 2: Eckerson Reading Response –Witness vs. Precious Places

  • kblack7@uoregon.edu

    I think you bring a crucial issue to the table, and one that many of us did not address. The issue of Witness’s approach to political advocacy is that they do not invest themselves (the storyteller) into the actual issue. Do you think that this might be for their safety? If they are willing to put the subject in harms way but not themselves, are they hindering the subject as much as they think they are helping them?

  • kgaboury@uoregon.edu

    Precious Places and Witness both use video as a means to an end, but for me, the comparisons end there. Although some of the videos are powerful in their own way, Precious Places feels more like a historical preservation project, which I think it was partially meant to be. I think the Witness videos are extremely powerful mainly due to their subject matter.

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