Remembering My Hat

24th June 2010

An amateur doing the job of a professional

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 18:27
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Here‘s a little video clip of me talking about the CABS book series. (Sorry, haven’t worked out yet how to paste it straight in here)

We’re using home made videos like this for some of the media assets for K319 as well. I have some hestitations about this strategy, although I also can see that it has great benefits for course teams (cheapness! Speed of production, meaning course testing can include AV material, rather than having to go ahead without. Ability to seize the serendipitous moment. Also, it’s quite fun and creative to do).

I worry that the shaky camera work, dodgy sound quality, relatively straightforward camera angles (no offence to colleague who shot it!) and evident self-consciousness of the interviewee read as amateurish and unprofessional. And that this amateurish-ness is distracting from the content of whatever we’re producing.

In the clip, I’m alluding, somewhat cryptically, to the way that research that involves ‘ordinary’ people – usually service users in health and social care research – has gone from being seen as something that is possibly a bit suspect to something that is a taken-for-granted good. Back in 1999 when the first CABS book on the topic was written, it was possible to frame the issue as ‘an amateur doing the job of a professional’. Nowadays, we just call it ‘participatory research’ and it’s hard to argue against it (although I think there is a case against it, but that’s for another post. Maybe. If I’m feeling brave).

Some of that change is due to an upskilling of ‘ordinary’ people. Service users have been trained in research methods, to the extent that some service user groups, like the Carlisle People First Research group, now function as independent research consultants. Maybe in 10 years time OU academics will be upskilled at filming.

Some of the change in relation to participatory research is due to political demands about perceived authenticity of voices and redressing power imbalances. I think it’s harder to make the case that professional film-makers are exploiting the people they film with their demands for nice camera work and good sound quality. But I wondered whether, in these days of YouTube, people increasingly read amateurish camera work as not only normal and to be expected but also as especially authentic and persuasive. Does it have more rhetorical power if it’s a bit naff?  I don’t think it does, yet, at least, but it’s an interesting idea.

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