The Guerrilla Educationalist

There has always been a significant number of people who have documented their lives in various media for many decades. The combination of mobile devices and social media has of course blown those figures through the roof.

It’s funny to think back a few short years to when so much fuss was being made in the UK about ID Cards when we live in a society that hands out personal information on a digital plate! The question of ‘choice’ remains I suppose, but so many users are blissfully unaware of the implications of, for example, GPS tagged pictures and messages tracking there every move, that they are leaving themselves wide open for exploitation.

So, slightly off tack there, but the AudioBoo below relates to some thoughts I’ve had (and blogged about) recently regarding the impact of documenting our lives and how our experiences may be diminished as a result. The images we capture oftentimes don’t even exist in our heads as memories because they are captured via the lens of a device.

So my Boo was inspired by a Radio programme called ‘Short Cuts’ on BBC Radio 4. The programme is available online for another 6 days – you can find the link, and more info on the programme, via this news story.

Since I was about 7 or 8 years old I’ve been recording on tape. I had a little cassette recorder that my Dad let me play with. He even let me play with a little reel-to-reel that someone gave him. One tape I made with some friends was a burp tape. We would sit with the microphone of the reel-to-reel (which had a pause button on it) and record burp after burp after burp. We would be very disciplined and record for hours before we played back what amounted to 30-40 seconds of back to back burps. I wish I still had that tape!

Of course it wasn’t just burps. Before long we progressed to farts, but that was a much longer day!

The ultimate in those days would have been to have a movie camera. We wanted to capture the action of our Scalextric cars, Star Wars figures, the skate ramp… every inch of our lives played out like a movie in our heads and we wanted to capture it.

These days I’m more interested in audio. Audio frees you mind and opens your imagination. In contrast, to me, video can shut down the imagination and the viewer becomes locked, powerless in it’s gaze.

I’ve been making videos recently, commissioned by a social innovation organisation called The Young Foundation. The brief was to capture the stories of clients of a homeless hostel in Westminster for training purposes within the organisation that YF were working for. Recognising faces on these kinds of films can be problematic in many ways and so, despite having permission to film from all concerned I prefer, where possible, to find ways of capturing footage that doesn’t rely on any clarity of identity. The images often become, not detached, but slightly abstract, in their relation to what is being said… instead we see the surrounding environment, hand gestures, awkward feet or the shadow of the subject. I’ve also played with combining audio and video that were unrelated to each other, apart from the fact that they seem to fit. It’s hard (for me) to describe but the result (for me as editor) is a slight juxtaposition between what you hear and what you see. It’s likely that some viewers won’t notice or recognise this small detail but I hope that on some level the hint of ‘not quite right’, however subconscious, might result in a little more attention in the viewer. I’m keen to push this method of ‘audio filming’ and see what results it brings.

I’ve gone off on a slight tangent again, but the point is that we value documentary as entertainment or as a document of a time ad place, so why should it be undervalued in our personal lives? What do we gain or lose from capturing and sharing?

In the BBC programme David Weinberg talks about the views of his friend at the time who knew of his ‘habit’ and felt that “life is fleeting” and should be kept that way, not documented and pondered over for posterity. The sad irony was that the friend tragically died and Weinberg and a mutual friend seem glad to have recordings of him to remember him by.

On the AudioBoo I talk about how I feel the complete opposit. I like looking at clips of my kids growing up. So much is, or can be, forgotten in a moment and it’s nice, for me, to look back. Of course, I have memories too but I love showing the kids, and they love watching, themselves at an age that they could never remember.

So this is my dilemma…
I always loved the idea of getting family members to record stories that we could listen back to. At the moment my little boy, for school homework, is asking family members about their favourite toys as children. I’d like to capture those stories. As time goes by and we lose family members to age I would like to remind the children of who they used to spend so much time with, but who they can hardly remember.
The flip side is a project I started with my kids where I get them to talk about books they’ve read and then I tag those stories to QR Codes that I stick in the front of the book.

I used to capture these audio stories and upload them to YouTube but then AudioBoo came along and it seemed so much more mobile and relevant that it seemed the perfect fit. I feel I don’t do enough of it but maybe I do too much?!

I love that the kids will be able to find those stories in the future – maybe even after I’m gone! They will be able to listen to them and play them to their children.

But I also love the idea of taking duplicates of the QR Codes and tucking them inside the same book(s) in the local library or Waterstones and that other listeners might get some benefit too. I want to be a guerrilla educationalist!

What do you think..?


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