The Power of the Moving Image To Promote Justice and Social Good
Earthsayers TV, founded by Ruth Ann Barrett, a sustainability veteran with extensive experience in marketing and media, presents video programs showcasing experts, business leaders, teachers, wisdom keepers and citizens from all walks of life.
Recently, Barrett wrote about her experience covering a conference at the University of Oregon’s Portland campus called What Is Documentary: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow organized by the School of Journalism and Communication. Her text made me think about the concept of witnessing, which is the ethos driving many documentary makers and citizen journalists. Barrett, in her turn, was inspired by Kelly Matheson, Senior Program Manager at WITNESS, who was one of the main speakers at the event. WITNESS uses video to denounce human rights violations. A veteran with the organization who recently went back to it after pursuing other projects in various parts of the world, Kelly is, in Barrett’s words, “someone who is holding people accountable for human rights violations based largely on evidence provided by videographers.”
Part of inspiring work WITNESS carried out is developing processes and tools that ensure the videos provided by witnesses hold up in court. One of them is Camera's Everywhere, a program to ensure that people turning to video for human rights use it as effectively, safely and ethically as possible. The other one is Secure Smart Cam Project, whose aim is to protect the identity of citizen witnesses when they get into trouble with security agents. They learn how to deal with attacks, imprisonment, confiscation of equipment and other types of serious incidents that witnessing may lead to.
There are also two apps being developed: InformaCam is being developed to improve the authentication for digital media and boost its value as courtroom evidence. The other is an app called ObscuraCam, a mobile app that allows users to blur or obfuscate faces in photos and videos. It can be used on media taken directly with the app itself, as well as imported media to mobile phones.
The post reinforced to me the power of visual narrative to promote social change, protect the planet and give visibility to those who need it most. With cameras on every mobile phone and the internet as a global distribution channel, the potential is endless, as long as it is explored to maximum effect, with intelligence and ethics in mind. People like Barrett and Kelly inspire citizens to keep their eyes open to the facts of the world.
Image credit: Earthsayers.tv