The Power of Activist Videos (Video Activism 2.0)


“If most of the people think in opposition to the rules, the rules will fall down.”  Concha Mateos, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid

As usual the ICI Berlin were host to a thought provoking conference. This time on ‘Activist Videos.’ Contributors from all over the world took part over the two-day conference to interrogate, engage and learn from each other’s experience. The question at the core of the day that I attended was “do these ephemeral films really have power? And how do we define power?”

The role of social media became a red thread that ran through it all, with Nather Henafe Allali, Syrian Journalist and video activist talking about how the social media networks were the only way for activists on the ground in Syria to be able to get images of the events that were taking place out of the country, allowing an international audience to access them. The networks of social media became the sourcing for international news agencies, some of whom through these networks were able to communicate with the activists and use or license the uploaded footage. Sirin Erensoy, from Kültür University Istanbul, echoed the necessity of social media platforms as a tool of dissemination especially in a country where there is no longer any independent broadcasters other than those who use the internet. In both her presentation and Robin Celikates, professor of Political and Social Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam spoke about the need to archive activist videos, and sited Bak.ma.  an activist video archive which is being used as critical source in Turkish resistance.

The inclusion of Bak.ma raised an important question, that of self-protection. When challenging regimes where freedom of expression and freedom of the press do not exist. How do video activists operate in this climate without fear of reprisal? Bak.ma offers a solution by being able to anonymously upload content and the site acts as a central hub from which to disseminate footage without the risk to the individual activist. Other sites were mentioned throughout the day where this intent to protect at the same time as expose atrocities and injustice such as Witness.org, but the list is long and so I’ll put the rest at the end of the page. The other actor in this conversation was the smartphone, mobile, light and with networked capability it is this device which is the tool used by many if not most to record videos that has shaped the narrative and the accessibility of being able to both produce and to engage with activist videos. The speed at which it is now possible to send an image across multiple networks means that even momentarily these images make it past the censorship firewall, making ripples across the web before they are taken down by government sources or for breaching content guidelines for Facebook and Twitter.

The day showed not only how much activity is taking place in the field of video activism globally, but that the web is providing a way to create structures of support across geographic boundaries. It showed that small acts of resistance when multiplied can be a force to be reckoned with. To finish I’ll return to the inspiring talk from Concha Mateos, who introduced at least me to the concept of the ‘Doxa’ from Pierre Bourdieu. That “which keeps invisible the arbitrary and artificial nature of one particular conceptual order, which is prescribed as the (only) natural one.” And what I take away from this day of enquiry is that “we have to make the Doxa fall DOWN!”

Conference webpage 

Links to activist and video activist sites and organisations

The Disobedience Project

Bak.Ma

Networks of dispossession

Witness.org 

Links to videos presented at conference

I Am Not Moving

How To Film A Revolution

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