Press play- the power of participatory video

Chris Lunch from the in his TEDx Talk asked the audience how many of them do have a video camera. Obviously the raised hands did only support the already guessed fact that nowadays the majority of people does. Many of us indeed have a video camera on our phones, maybe even daily with us in the bag or pocket, but do we actually use this technology to the fullest? Do we use the video tool in order to make a change in our surrounding environment? And are we actually aware of the potential of the video to contribute to our communities, whether its a local neighboring community, gay community, ethnic community or any other? Does a video camera give us the chance to be the video film makers we wanna see and shoot videos we wanna see about people we know with problems that are familiar to us?

The great power of a participatory video in comparison with video documentaries or video production aimed for the commercial and mainstream TV channels, is the power of freedom to speak about anything and anywhere. Participatory videos are not limited in terms of space they can give to certain people like officials or politicians, they give space to anyone in the community, especially ordinary people. Participatory videos are neither limited in terms of topics they cover. But one of the major point about participatory videos is that the people about whom the video is become itself the producers/directors of the video, they are the ones who unfold the script as they go along with the shooting. Thus the communities are a crucial part of the production process, they are not pasivated by the video camera, but rather activated in their roles as producers, but also as important features of the stories being told. I think this is also one of the reason why Mr.Lunch in his speech says when pointing to the camera: ´´This is not a video camera …. this is a torch hoping communities to research the issues they are facing, uncover the solutions…” The immediate personal experience of the communities directly in the video production process empowers them to brainstorm the problems together, because when we put it in simple words does a professional anthropologist living in for example an African tribe for three month know more about the issues of the community than the community itself? Participatory video thus I think also promotes the idea that communities can be trained to effectively use the video camera, that learning it should not be seen as an obstacle to raise the voice. Instead video trainings give local communities the know how to unfold the issues and problems they face more in depth than any other outside professional filmmaker. The comfort of being interviewed from peer to peer additionaly gives the interviewers the comfort of familiarity when being filmed.

Furthermore what I think participatory videos can bring to a community, but also to audiences is the message that anyone can be and is the teller of his own story and those who learn the ability to use the tool of video can make this stories part of what is called “citizen media”. As said by Clemencia Rodriguez participatory video productions can provoke: processes of identity construction, personal and group empowerment, demystification of mainstream media, reversal of power roles, and increasing collective strength. (Rodriguez, 2001:127). Similarly as the access television programming, participatory video can be seen as part of  larger group of radical media, and that these participatory video projects contribute to building up a participatory democracy that involves citizens in the core.


Lunch C. (2013) ´This is not a video camera´, at TEDxTalks

Rodriguez, C. (2001) ´Colombian women producing video stories´, in Fissures in Mediascape: An International Study of Citizen´s Media. Cresskil, New Jersey: Hampton Press

Stein, L. (1998) ´Democratic ´Talk´, Access Television and Participatory Political Communication´, in The Public/Javnost, vol. 5 (2), pp. 21-34