My large lecture courses (BTMM) are all based in “critical theory” designed to provide students with new models and methods for evaluating and critiquing the surrounding media environments. Though my courses are not “production” courses, I had long wanted to include a video component to complement exams and papers, but it was impossible to find sufficient cameras for 150-200 students. Now, with the ubiquity of inexpensive video cameras, it has become possible to create a video assignment in which students combine their production interests with ideas from my courses to put critical thinking and media analysis into the art on the screen (and not only on paper).
THE CRITICAL VIDEO ASSIGNMENT
Students work in teams of two or three to create 3-5 minute videos which critique something about the media environments of their everyday life, using the models and themes in my text anthology, Media Environments (San Diego: Cognella Academic Publishing 2010). The four media models are:
1) Meme: any idea, belief, or behavior that can be copied, replicated, or passed along like a virus. Ex: Lady Gaga, tattoos, body piercings, wearing jerseys of favorite teams, Quentin Tarantino films, Occupy Wall Street, political propaganda, and virtually all forms of fandom and mass belief. The list is endless.
2) Network: everyone is connected to everyone via electronic media technologies operating on local and global scales. Ex: Facebook, Twitter, Google, and the internet.
3) Spectacle: the image is more important the reality it represents. Ex: American Idol, reality TV shows, celebrity culture, and most of the images that appear electronic screens, be it television, computers, or mobile phones.
4) Hyperreal: substituting the signs of the real for the real to create a new “reality.” Ex: Disneyland, Las Vegas, Coke Zero, Facebook, the NFL and NCAA football, and so on.
Themes could include: the medium is the message, media technologies are not neutral, we are not the center of the universe, the maps are overtaking the territories, the celebrity and sports systems, surveillance and privacy, hive mind, counterculture, catastrophe culture, globalization, science, dumbed down, Spaceship Earth, media and ecology, Plato’s cave, and many others.
For the students, this was their chance to be creative and enlightening by taking what they have learned and putting it into a multimedia format involving visual imagery, written/spoken narrative, and/or music and effects. Their video could take the form of a news story, documentary, short film, video artwork, music video, or parody. We know BTMM and SCT students get excellent training for producing television shows in studios and films on locations. But, since this is not a production course and not everyone had access to the same quality of camera or software, the videos were evaluated on their artistic and intellectual concepts (media models and themes), content, and style and less on production qualities such as lighting or special effects, though surely the videos must be coherent and well-edited. Some of these videos were made with cell phone cameras.
Below are some of the best videos from Spring 2011 and Fall 2011. I hope you appreciate the creativity, imagination, and effort that went into making these zero budget videos.
STREET ART: CULTURE JAMMING OUR SURROUNDINGS
THE AUTHENTIC FAKE
THE MAP IS NOT THE TERRITORY
WHAT SHOULD I DO?
IT’S A MEME
I’M A MEME
I’M LIVIN’ IN THE HYPERREAL
OCCUPY WALL STREET
TOM CRUISE IS DEAD
BRON BRON’S LEAVING CLEVELAND?
WHAT DOES BEYONCE HAVE TO DO WITH IT?
ANOTHER MEME BITES THE DUST
FACEBOOK: TAKING OVER OUR LIVES … AND REALITY
THE SOUNDS OF HYPERREALITY
TRUE LIFE: I’M A HIPPIE
LIVING THE iLIFE
MEMES Rebecca Black Parody
JERSEY SHORE PSA
THE REALITY OF THE JERSEY SHORE