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Looking Back…

9 Jun

The semester is finally over and I am about to submit both my blogs and Transient Spaces documentary. So it seems appropriate to reflect on the journey I have taken throughout the semester, and the process that has evolved through the making of my documentary.

When first given the task of creating a documentary on the topic of “community”, I was overwhelmed by the options available to me. However, due to the fact that the course was also investigating the topic of “social media” throughout the semester, I thought it would be appropriate to merge these two together, and create a documentary about the community of Facebook. This topic immediately intrigued me, because at first I was unsure of whether Facebook WAS a community at all, or whether it was simply a tool used to generate a “sense of community”. After much contemplation, I soon realised that Facebook COULD be described as a community, however in saying so it was important to mention that is is a virtual or online commmunity, and is inherently different to offline or real-life communities.

It was based on these discoveries, that I decided to create a documentary that would explore the characteristic differences of the online Facebook community, while also exploring community theory as a whole. To do this, I decided to create four mini documentaries that each had a different theme, and each related to a different concept evident within the community theory I had researched.

These four concepts (which are discussed previously in individual blogs) are:
– Community as a network or social system (Video 1)
– Community and boundaries (Video 2)
– Community and identity (Video 3)
– Community and social norms/habits (Video 4)

To make this concept a reality, I decided to interview a group of my own “Facebook Friends” who know the medium inside and out, and all have varying uses of the social medium. In an effort to make my documentary as engaging as possible, I specifically chose friends who I knew would enjoy being interviewed about the subject, and would have interesting opinions to share. I think this was one of the best decisions I made during pre-production, as I ended up being extremely pleased with the standard of content I was able to “extract” from my interview subjects. It was because of this that I encountered one of my biggest challenges – having way more content that I had first envisaged. While I stated in my learning contract that I would produce 4 videos that were 3-4 minutes each in length, after filming, I decided not to hinder the quality of the project by cutting everything down into tiny quotes. The result is four much longer videos (the first is 10 minutes, the second and third are around 7 minutes, and the final video is 5 minutes). While they vary in length I am quite happy with them, because the first one needed to be longer in order to introduce the topic.

Throughout semester, the ‘style’ or way in which my documentary was filmed has changed numerous times. Throughout my undergraduate degree, I have become accustomed to producing videos in groups and therefore having several crew members to assist with filming, interviewing and lighting. My first idea for filming the documentary subjects on a starkly lit, white backdrop (almost like an advertisement), proved to simply not be feasible. After much deliberation, I came to the decision to film the interviewees from the shoulders up, in their own “personal environments”. The intention behind this was to see the subjects in the area that they would normally use Facebook on a daily basis, and to create a sense of intimacy whilst giving the audience an idea of each individual’s personality. While I tried my best to establish spaces for filming that were relatively well-lit, all in all the lighting is not tampered with, and aims to give a realistic sense of each location.

Overall, the filming of my documentary went extremely smoothly. I believe this was most likely a result of my intensive planning of subjects, locations, camera techniques/shots and interview questions prior to the event. The only thing that really went diffently from what I expected, was the quantity of footage that was filmed. In each interview, I found myself getting carried away with asking questions, and momentarily forgot that everything I captured would need to be edited down for the final product. In saying that, the editing process was extremely lengthy. I may as well have moved into my friend Kara’s house, whose Final Cut program I was using to edit the film. All in all, the videos required 7 editing sessions to complete – each editing session being several hours long.

The addition of quotes, titles and music to my documentary made the final product far more polished. At first I was unsure if I wanted to use music within my documentary, but at the last minute I decided to source some Royalty-Free music and am thrilled at the result it has had. The two songs which are featured in my documentary were both found on freeplaymusic.com and are listed below:

– “Too Little Too Late”, from Tech Grooves Volume 8
– “Start Me Up”, from Industrial Dimensions Volume 2

By using the same music within each video, it is extremely apparent that the videos are part of a series, and are meant to be watched with the others. Interestingly, the biggest challenges I faced with this documentary was when I was uploading it to the internet. For some unknown reason, YouTube is not playing my videos correctly and the audio is playing out of sync with the video. In order to rectify this, I have paid to become a member of Vimeo and have begun reloading them onto it, with the hope that they will be compatible! I guess it the project wouldn’t be representative of me unless there was drama till the very last minute!!

Overall, I am extremely happy with the final documentary that I have produced. I feel proud in having successfully achieved what I set out to produce for this course, despite a hectic schedule of completing an Honours thesis at the same time. Despite the fact that I chose a documentary medium and process that was extremely lengthy and intensive in terms of work load, I don’t regret my decision. To be perfectly honest, I have impressed myself at the amount of content and information I was able to bring together about a concept that many of my classmates were dubious about. Having been an avid reader of my peer’s blogs – I have been able to carefully monitor their perceptions and input to my overarching project idea throughout the semester.

In addition to my documentary, throughout the semester I have made a concerted effort to engage with the three key topics we sought to explore (Social Media, Documentary and Community), and in doing so, have opened my world to new information and new technologies that I never new existed. One of the most significant ways I did this was by reading publications that had a specific slant on social media issues. I have used this blog to reflect upon relevant articles I read, divulge new social networks I discovered, investigate jargon terms that i don’t understand, contemplate information discussed in class, and comment on my general progress throughout the semester.

Despite admitting to a intense dislike for blogging at the beginning of semester, I have tried my best to be a ‘reflective practitioner’ and hopefully this is evident throughout my many posts.

“Facebook Friends” Part Four: Social Netiquette

8 Jun

This if the final of four videos within the “Facebook Friends” documentary series. This video explores the “Social Netiquette” of the Facebook Community.

“Facebook Friends” Part Four: Social Netiquette from Annabelle Clark on Vimeo.

“Facebook Friends” Part Two: Social Network Boundaries

8 Jun

This is the second of four video in the “Facebook Friends” documentary series. This video investigates the idea of “Social Network Boundaries” within the Facebook community.

“Facebook Friends” Part Two: Social Network Boundaries from Annabelle Clark on Vimeo.

“Facebook Friends” Part One: The Facebook Community

8 Jun

This is the first of four videos in the “Facebook Friends” documentary series. This introductory video introduces the participants and the concept of “The Facebook Community”. Enjoy!

“Facebook Friends” Part One: The Facebook Community from Annabelle Clark on Vimeo.

Facebook In Real Life

2 Jun

Within my Transient Spaces documentary, one of the key issues I will be examining in relation to the Facebook community, is the issue of how this online community differs from real-life communities. Do we act and say things differently on Facebook? Are there things we can do or ways in which we can behave within the Facebook community, that we cannot do in offline communities? Is your ‘community’ of friends in real-life synonymous with your list of Facebook friends? These are just of the few of the questions I aim to explore.

Throughout my process of researching these ideas, I have recently come across some very telling YouTube videos, which explore exactly what would happen if Facebook was played out in real life. Whilst they are intended to be humorous, at their core each video comments on the key characteristics, and indeed differences of the Facebook Community. By using Facebook ‘jargon’ words, they also reflect upon the new set of “norms” that Facebook has introduced to its users…

Watch and enjoy, but with a critical eye as to what is unique about the Facebook community! You may notice that certain behaviours which are considered completed normal online, are entirely unrealistic in a real-life scenario!

This final video is a particularly good one! It is a segment from Hungry Beast which shows the reactions of the public when two guys go around asking people the same questions they get asked on Facebook everyday…

Rough Cuts

25 May

Today in class we presented the “rough cuts” of our community-themed documentaries for critique and feedback from our peers. Having been through several “rough cut” presentations during my undergraduate degree, I have come to see the process as being both advantageous and hindering at the same time. In one respect, I appreciate the opportunity to receive constructive criticism from my classmates in order to make improvements before submission. However, I also find the task of showing unfinished work to be quite confronting. Normally at university, our work isn’t shown to a teacher until the final product is submitted – however in this case, both they and the class get to view evidence of your unpolished, unfinished work in progress. I think this makes the final viewing of your documentary for the purpose of assessment less exciting, as the assessor has already seen and heard lots of the content previously. In simpler terms, it’s almost like a bride revealing her wedding dress to her groom before the big day… Okay so maybe it isn’t exactly like that, but you get my drift!!

That said, I found today’s class to be both interesting and helpful. I found it really interesting to see in more detail, the kinds of documentaries that my classmates were creating. I was hugely surprised by the variation between each and it seemed that their was a great breadth of mediums being used- from video to photography to social media itself as a platform to present a documentary. It made me aware of the vast amount of possibilities this assessment task presented. For the purpose of this blog, I thought I would quickly go through the various documentaries discussed in class today and discuss their strengths.

Firstly, Caroline’s Tumblr documentary about “Dinner on Tuesdays”. This really impressed me. I love how she had chosen to use the social medium of Tumblr as a new, experimental form of “on-the-go” documentary-making. Immediately I saw the connection between two fundamental themes of our course “social media” and “documentary”. I also really appreciated her use of several different mediums within the overall framework (video, photos, text and sound) and the fact that these were produced using “on-the-go” technology. Namely her IPhone, and the various applications available within it. To me, this stressed the value of social media in allowing anyone, anywhere to share information. The third theme of our course, “community” was also clearly represented. Her simple idea of documenting her own group of friends and their weekly tuesday night dinner was extremely effective and personal. The simplistic layout was also an asset in terms of easy navigation through her documentary, and overall I think the class really responded to it. The only improvements suggested was more “tags” to theme certain posts within her documentary, and a contextualising paragraph to concisely explain the “Tuesday Night Dinner” concept.

Next, was Phillip’s “Unknown Artists” documentary about the “collaborative community” between the various artists he works with. In a similar way to Caroline’s, Philip’s documentary also took the form of a blog that incorporated images, videos and text. However at first glance, it wasn’t as easy to navigate or understand as Caroline’s. I felt the fundamental concept behind his documentary and how it related to a community was extremely strong, however I don’t think he articulated it as well as he could have. While I understood his efforts to make the page appear clean and artistic, I think for the purpose of this course, he needed to include more text describing how the different elements relate to the documentation of a community, and who that community was. While the source themes of “documentary” and “social media” were clear, the theme “community” needed to be emphasised further. I think once he does this, it will be a really interesting and engaging form of documentary and I am excited to see the finished product.

After Philip, we watched some footage from Susie’s video documentary about the craft community “Brown Owls”. There seemed to be a consensus within the class that the “community” Susie chose was extremely appropriate and very effective in expressing the direct impact social media can have on the creation of community. I loved the juxtaposition created by the somewhat old-school topic of arts and crafts and the vigorous discussion of very modern pursuits such as blogging and Twitter. The filming itself was incredibly well done, and Susie’s decision to interview the two main craft people together made for great banter and depth of discussion.

Next, was Emily’s video documentary about the “Ballarat Bushwalking Club”. First and foremost, I was incredibly impressed that emily had bravely chosen to participate in the documentary herself. Her vibrant personality was a noticeable asset throughout her documentary, adding to the interviews with bushwalking members. I particularly liked her piece to camera at the beginning, which gave the documentary quite a personal feel and directly set the mood for what we were about to see. I think the piece will lend itself well to a Vimeo audience and look forward to seeing the end product.

Following this, we discussed Rolland’s “Self Portrait Project” which aims to collect photographic “self portraits” of people from all over the world. Despite the project being in the early stages, this concept is really exciting and has great potential. I thought it was great how he had decided to change his angle from being about an already established community, to being about the creation of a community. I think this will serve him well, as it is extremely different from what everyone else in the class is doing. The web pages Rolland has designed to display the project are extremely appealing, and his use of several social mediums to get the “word out” so to speak, showcases a great understanding of how social media can be used to generate a community from the ground up. I will be following the project closely and look forward to seeing it progress.

Finally in the last 20 minutes of class, I showed my own rough cut footage. Overall I was really happy with the feedback I received. I was glad to hear that I was on track with the themes I had chosen, and it was really useful to hear what people’s views were in terms of the length of each of my 4 mini documentaries, as this was what was concerning me most. Going from here, my plan is to continue working towards the final goal I have envisioned for my project, ensuring not to cut important content for the sake of a shorter documentary. That said, I still want them to be tight and engaging pieces that maintain the interest of the viewing audience from start to finish. I have a lot of work to do, and several hours of editing ahead of me, but I am hopeful now that it has the possibility to turn out really well. Wish me luck!

Professional Networking

23 May

Due to the fact that my Transient Spaces documentary is based around the community of “Facebook”, most of my blogs have been discussing the use of social media for social purposes. However, what about the use of social media for professional networking purposes? Facebook is intrisically personal, and doesn’t really allow for professional, industry-relating networking. However, there are several social media sites that do. The following is a list of professional networking sites, that aim to create a community of like-minded professionals:

Linked in – A professional network that allows you to be introduced to and collaborate with other professionals.

Biznik – A community of entrepreneurs and small businesses dedicated to helping each other succeed.

Cofoundr – A community for entrepreneurs, programmers, designers, investors, and other individuals involved with starting new ventures.

Fast Pitch – A business network where professionals can market their business and make connections.

Focus – A community focused on helping business decision makers and IT professionals make decisions.

PartnerUp – A community connecting small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneur Connect – A community by Entrepreneur.com where professionals can network, communicate, and collaborate with others.

Upspring – A social networking site for promotion and social networking.

Having previously been a member of LinkedIn and been disappointed with the “networking” experience that the site offers, I am forced to wonder whether any of the sites listed above are particularly useful or effective? In such a crowded marketplace already, how are professionals meant to know which professional networking sites are superior to others? I have found a great blog post here which explores the topic of whether or not professional networking sites are worthwhile or a complete and utter waste of time.

What do you think?