Participatory Video and Media Literacy

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“What we should not loose. PV is not about documentary making, but about people who know each other and have relationships with each other and who want to share their own stories”. This sentence, said by one of the participants on the second Better PV Practice online Web Gathering last May was very inspiring. Oftently, I find it difficult to define the boundaries between documentary making and Participatory Video, and the key is on the hierarchy when building the discourse, who defines the contents and the point of view, as easy as that.

The web gathering, co-organised by the Open University (UK) and “<a href=;”>The web gathering, co-organised by the UK Open University and Insightshare, joined 90 people from all-over the world, we discussed around three big questions

– What is PV today?

– What is PV for?

– Where is PV going?

Discussion lasted two hours (you can read the conclusions following this link). In my opinion there are two big challenges: defining a framework (one of the goals of this webminar) and to measure the impact of PV, a constant demand of founders and grants. It also “seemed to be a consensus that PV is a tool for social change: a tool for democratisation, emancipation, challenging power relationships”, at the same time “PV was described as is also a tool for skills building, awareness raising and increasing people’s media literacy, confidence and their ability to think critically”.

Let’s put hand on work. In July, it took place the second web gathering, where we did a field trip to India to know different experiences with PV. For example, we met the people from Digital Green, an organization that promotes sustainable agriculture by sharing knowledge and experiences. The VP trained farmers to film and edit their own video, some of them have thousands of playings. Excluded Voices , another project, works for food sovereignty and uses PV to influence in agricultural policy making, giving voice and camera to communities in India, Perú, Bolivia, Mali or Iran. Through VP, the farmers realized that the problems of every hamlet were the same and that the local struggle is a global struggle. At last, we met Vasuki Belavadi, a teacher that, in addition to his work as trainer of trainers, runs the CAMP project with 20 high school boys and girls from traditionally marginalised sections of Medak district in Andhra Pradesh.

This CAMP project, reminded me that education and development always walk hand in hand. In that respect, it is interesting to think about the concept “multilliteracies”  as the ability to read and understand multimodal messages coming from different sources of information. And, what is more important: the capacity to produce new contents from what is learned. We are talking about the abilities of communicating, learning to learn, information processing, digital literacy, interacting with the natural environment and participating (notice that we are quoting some of the educational official competences and abilities). This is nothing new, it was long time ago stated by Freinet  and his school journalism as an active learning tool (learning by doing and cooperating).  Indeed, it’s all about turning the learning process into a participatory activity, in order to grow up “active and critical thinking” students, according to the pedagogy of Paulo Freire.

VP has a long way to go, but nowadays, it is being widely practised all over the world. The questions that were raised in the gathering could be a starting point for an opened experience constantly evolving where learning by doing, creating and participating. We’ll keep you up to date in future posts and, of course, you are invited to the next gathering.

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