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10 avril 2008

Human Rights Video in a Participatory Culture

One of our goals at the Center for Future Civic Media is to identify best practices from existing projects which might inform those initiatives which will emerge from the Center. We want to understand how people out there are using the tools available to them right now to enhance civic awareness, to play informal watchdog functions within the culture, to call attention to problems and force governments and other institutions to respond, to skirt around censorship and other kinds of regulation over communication, and so forth. (...)

Last week, on my personal blog and on the Future Civic Media Blog we've been featuring an interview with Sam Gregory, Program Director at Witness, a human rights organization founded by Peter Gabriel in the late 1980s, designed to put cameras into the hands of everyday people around the world so that they can document abuses by authorities. The organization emerged in the aftermath of the Rodney King video, which had sparked much greater public awareness of police brutality in the United States, and the hope was to create what Gregory refers to as a "participatory panopticon," as the wide spread availability of media production tools and the expansion of a distribution network for digital video makes it possible for people to record and transmit their own experiences of abuse. (...)

From Rodney King to Burma: An Interview with Witness's Sam Gregory (Part One)

(...) an you tell us something about the thinking which led to the creation of WITNESS? How has your organization's vision shifted over time in response to shifts in the nature of participatory culture?
In the late 1980's, our founder, Peter Gabriel had been participating in the Amnesty Human Rights Now Tour, travelling the world and meeting human rights activists at each concert stop. And in many cases, it struck him that their stories were not being heard, and that new tools like the consumer video-camera could perhaps change that. Fast-forward a couple of years, and the Rodney King incident brought the possibilities home. From the window of his apartment George Holliday filmed a sequence of graphic human rights violations that generated massive media attention. That provided the impetus for the creation of WITNESS - founded in the assumption that if you could place cameras in the hands of the people who chose to be "in the wrong place at the right time", i.e. human rights advocates and activists around the world living and working with communities affected by violations, then you would enable a new way to mobilize action for real change. (...)

Our founder, Peter Gabriel talks sometimes about "little brothers" and "little sisters" watching Big Brother, and this world of the 'participatory panopticon' as Jamais Cascio calls it - is one filled with emancipatory potential as long as we can make sure that the footage that circulates helps facilitate voice and change, rather than enable repression.(...)
Blog Entries by Henry Jenkins

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