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Archive for February, 2011

A couple of months back, my PhD supervisor, Dr. Christopher High, invited me to be a part of a Participatory Video project in Hungary. It was a week-long training programme held in the Forest School near a village called Nagyvazsony. The participants were from LEADER groups from various parts of Hungary, working on rural development. The project was called Naturama KoVi (Community Video).

With some time in hand before my viva, I decided, I really had to go. After all, there’s nothing like a bunch of excited participants, tons of quirky ideas and cameras to train them with. The sheer energy in the air, of learning storytelling and video-making through lots of participatory exercises, the excitement of shooting, the rush in the final-minute editing before a presentation and all the madness to go with it, make PV trainings a great experience, and so was this one.

The group made around seven videos on the tourist trail in the village. These videos were then mapped on the Google Maps and are intended for use by tourists, through GIS. (See below)

I, as a facilitator, had a very different learning about participatory training through this project. On Day 1, Rupesh (co-facilitator) and I were told to have some activities lined up for the participants – from introductory exercises to those on filmmaking and storytelling.  We kept thinking of and creating new participatory exercises everyday, ones, not done before. And, this is what I found so exceptional about anything participatory – the flexibility and adaptive nature of what you want to do, how you want to do them. There are no rules (other than keeping them participatory, of course).

We also modified a lot of exercises to suit the need of this group, which was going to make films related to tourism. For instance, instead of the usual sitting in a circle to introduce the camera, we interviewed the first participant and asked her about the journey she took to reach the Forest School. We then introduced the camera to her and asked her to interview the next participant who came, introduce and hand over the camera, explain how it functions and so on. This went on, till the last person arrived. People, who had not held a camera ever before, got interviewed and had conducted an interview, even before the training actually started.

In one of the new activities, we had a group of three. We asked them to look at things around them from someone else’s perspective, in this case, a 5-year-old child. They, then, would direct another person in making a video of what they understood, without handling the camera themselves. During this exercise, most of the participants agreed that it was difficult to look at things with such a different point of view (even though it was just visual); it was even more difficult to explain to someone else, what s/he saw. As communicators, we often have to do that – understand someone else’s story and communicate it to others. Unless one gives up his/her own notions, it might be impossible to understand other alternative ways of looking at things – something that’s the basic to understand the meaning of participation and more importantly, here, participatory communication.

We too, as facilitators, looked at others’ ways of viewing situations and that lead us to engage with the participants (through these activities) in a manner that was relevant to them. It is about participants having control, and about them knowing, even other people can/may/should have control. This, as an ethos, when furthered from one person to another leads to more participatory environments.

Something of this nature was especially important for a project like this, as the participants, beyond just attending such a programme, were supposed to go back to their regional groups, conduct participatory video trainings and also make videos on tourism in their own regions.

I have seen this participatory ethos furthered in many ways, small and big. It is the same, whether, it was Rupesh asking a mother, whom his group interviewed, to record her daughter with the camera, or a girl from WAVE explaining the cab driver, how to record and then shooting herself for her profile video, or Apna TV modifying a Digital Storytelling module to start training college students in visual media.

I’d say, if you know video, then just go ahead and teach someone else how to – someone out there might want to tell their story, someone else, just might need to.

As I was told recently, ‘I can now talk about things, I couldn’t earlier.’

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