Module 7: Video Workshop
From TikTok to YouTube, from high-end video equipment to the camera on the cell phone in your pocket, videos are everywhere. The appeal of video is wide-reaching. Portability, affordability, and wide-ranging possibilities in terms of style and content are clearly speaking to makers, perhaps even inspiring once-hesitant makers to take the plunge. In this module we expand on our description of these affordances and offer some cautionary words, move to a platform analysis, Maker Spotlight, and finally a workshop where we can try some video creation for ourselves.
In the prior two modules, we have discussed some of the ways makers interact with images and audio and interrogated some of the and of both methods. As we move to think about video, we can think about the ways it brings the visual and the auditory into conversation with one another. While video can be understood as offering many of the same affordances and constraints of both images and audio, video is not merely the sum of the constraints of audio and image and instead can be something richer.
Alex Bulmer, a blind maker and activist, has utilized the visual and vocal elements of video in different ways in different projects. As quoted in Johnson and King (2020), Bulmer says,
“I was leaning toward visual mediums in my practice as a way of giving the opportunity to disrupt them because I had been disrupted–visually.” (p. 63)
She also calls voice and sound a “more intimate way of knowing people” (Johnson and King, 2020, p. 63). In this, Bulmer is able to replicate and explore her lived experiences of blindness through careful attention to the ways her art calls on the senses. Bulmer continues to think about the ways that sound fills an entire environment and is experienced through the sides of the head, whereas vision directs one’s attention forward (Johnson and King, 2020). Here Bulmer plays with not only the senses video evokes, but the spaces these sensory inputs occupy.
Three Qualities of Video Making
After considering what video is, we can think more about why makers are drawn to video as a method of interest. Portability, affordability, and variability of form are three qualities of video making that may be a potential draw for creators. Click the name of each quality in the accordion below to read how they contribute to the interest in and uptake of video as a digital method. We hope you will think of other unique qualities of videos and video making as you work your way through this module.
You do not have to be a video maker to benefit from the prevalence of video making as a digital method. Discussions about the importance of disability representation are prevalent, but often they do not lead to meaningful change. In seeking out content created by disabled makers, people can find types of representation that are not found in more mainstream, corporate media. Sophia Stewart (2021) gives an example, explaining that when stuttering is brought into mainstream media it is often the punchline of a joke. Stewart notes that seeking out the vlogs of stuttering creators and seeing fellow stutterers navigating their lives and experiences of stuttering was empowering and has allowed her to take up space. Watching the videos of fellow stutterers became a tool she actively uses in embracing her pattern of speech. When mainstream media fills the social world with representations of disability filled with troublesome tropes like and (tropes we revisit below), the ability to consume media made by and largely for disabled people can be refreshing and a way of claiming voice and space.
The variety of voices and representations found in video can be empowering, such as the ways Stewart describes finding connection and validation in the videos of other stutters. However, some videos are crafted by people who are not familiar with basic principles of inclusion or aspects of disability rights and justice movements. While you do not need to be an ‘expert’ in disability to talk about disability, failing to reflect on the messages about disability that one consumes or distributes can reinforce ableism. It’s crucial to reflect on the messages we absorb and reproduce about disability, madness, and Deafhood, if only to avoid further harm.
Jan Grue (2016) defines as “the representation of disability as a form of disadvantage that can be overcome for the titillation of other people/observers” (p. 838). Typically these ‘people/observers’ are non-disabled and videos of disabled people are sometimes captured and distributed without consent. While these representations may be well-intentioned, they are uncritical inclusions of disabled people in film and can interfere with the agency and capacity of disabled people, who have their own feelings and desires related to appearing in videos. The term has been popularized by Stella Young, whose work like her 2014 TED Talk “I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much”, has become a staple in disability studies and disability activism. You can watch the video below:
What can be tricky about inspiration porn and non-consensual filming is that oftentimes these video narratives are presented to us as ‘wholesome’, even claiming to break down some of the ableist barriers that disability rights movements have worked so hard to deconstruct. It is likely you have encountered many of these videos yourself. Alaina Leary (2019) uses common examples to illustrate the familiar forms inspiration porn can take, such as an abled person asking a disabled person to prom and the ‘promposal’ going viral, or someone working to find a solution for an emergent access need. Leary points to the way this robs disabled people of agency, with some non-disabled others feeling compelled to ‘document and defend’ disabled people simply living their lives. Frances Ryan (2018) writes about some of these instances, ultimately arguing that these videos center the actions and needs of non-disabled people or even . These types of videos are worrisome in part because “disabled people are turned into secondary characters in their own lives” (Ryan, 2018). Further, these videos may create an impression that the path to disability rights is through the actions of individual ‘heroic’ non-disabled people instead of more systemic changes in fields like policy and law.
Given these concerns, it is vital that we learn to create videos about disability and disabled people with our critical media lens. To prepare yourself for the video workshop to come, take a moment to reflect on what ethical video making might look like, recording your thoughts in the box below. Clicking to the second page will show you sample answers. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and you may find that some things are context and content-dependent. When you are done, you may save your thoughts. Review the list of goals for the module and navigate through the rest of the video workshop.
In this module, we will:
- Perform a platform analysis of YouTube, interrogating the affordances, constraints, and accessibility of digital videos and video-sharing online.
- Explore and analyze the culture around online video production and circulation in the context of North American settler colonialism, capitalist, white supremacy, patriarchy, and ableism.
- Practice using new platforms and technologies by creating and editing our own disability-focused videos.
What a digital platform, technology, or site allows us to do
The limitations that a digital site and/or medium impose on us
The portrayal of people with disabilities as being inspirational to able-bodied people, on the basis of existing with their disability (Wikipedia)
‘Heroic’ non-disabled people who want to 'help' disabled people without necessarily taking guidance from disabled people themselves