Feminists Engages Technology 10- 12 Nov 2008
In Cape Town 3 weeks ago, the first ever Feminist Tech Exchange happened. The Feminist Tech Exchange, also known as the FTX, was developed in response to calls from feminist and women’s rights movements for greater understanding of emerging technologies, their potential and impact on the rights and lives of women. Through skills sharing, information exchange and discussions, the FTX explores feminist practices and politics of technology, and raises awareness on the critical role of communication rights in the struggle to advance women’s rights worldwide.
The Exchange-the capacity building part, was split into 5 tracks, which are as follows:
∑ Digital storytelling
∑ Social networking
∑ Mobile Wireless
I was there as a trainer for the video track and also as an Engagemedia member.
The 3 trainers for the video track met for the first time 2 days before the training to trash everything out. Although we have been planning through emails before hand, it was definitely crucial to have a face-to-face finalization, as we found out how different our training methods, style and personality were. But in true feministic spirit, we embraced the differences and put it into good use in running the workshops.
The first day of training began with a good sharing of what films that the participants had watched that impacted them greatly; and what was about the films that moved them. There were films of personal stories that triumph over struggles, of very exciting documentaries and even 1 animation-Mulan of a girl who went against stereotypical norms and fought battles, shared by the 5 year-old daughter of a participant. Obviously, there were many different stories that appeal to us but there is the similar thread of the stories being personal, interesting, fun, emotional and sincere. These would be the basis of what kind of films we would make in order to appeal to others as well.
Before we plunged into the actual video-making process, we had small groups discussion on what is the feminist practice and politics of videomaking. The results were intensely enlightening for all of us, even the trainers. The entire sharing could be found here.
Some words that jumps out a lot are participatory, the gaze, constantly challenging power relations (in front and behind the camera), truth, ethics, diversity, personal is political, people and process vs product; and empowerment. These would be the principles we would keep in our process and also product of videomaking.
We then proceeded with pre-production, learning the objectives, treatment, managing equipments, crew, locations etc. we also found out as we went that there were too different levels of video skills among participants. We had to repeat some things to some and sense that others were keen to move on. This made us aware that things were going to get more complicated as we move into production and post-production. The face that we only got our participants profile 2 days before the training didn’t allow us enough time to prepare for the great gaps. We then went on to have a consultation and evaluation with the participants on the 2nd day, first thing in the morning. It was happily decided together that we would not be using the high end cameras that the organizer has gotten us but to use the home cameras that some people have brought or borrowed from other participants. We also decided to go with editing on Window’s Movie Maker rather then Premiere.
The sudden reflection and change of plan was quite interesting for me as a trainer as I never had to change plan as drastically before, and it made me realized and applied the feminist principles of inclusiveness and participatory in immediate effect. It was a good call for the trainers and participants as the training went on more smoothly and every group managed to finish their videos.
It was definitely a pleasant surprise to the trainers as the participants stayed on the 2nd night after dinner to continue excitedly with their editing. Although we can’t match their excitements, we were very proud that everyone was finding videomaking no longer a distant idea.
On the 3rd day, after finishing up on their video, we learnt to export the video. Then we had every group to present their films and shared their filmmaking experiences, everyone had smiles of achievement on their faces, which in turn made the trainers smiled even more. Actually I couldn’t stop smiling the whole day after that, even when we had lots to pack up. After that, I shared about video distribution, focusing on the online strategies. We tried to upload some videos up on Engagemedia.org but 6 videos doing that at the same time on the small bandwidth turn out to be a difficult process. (1 of the participant managed to upload it to the FTX website)
1 hour to share about the different codec, different sites for videos, different strategy for online advocacy campaign using video was not enough.
However the participants managed to get the basics of videomaking and distributions; and I hope they will continue to feel empowered to make their own videos for justice to further powered the feminist movement. As for myself, after much rest, I am more than inspired to continue this tech exchanges with FTX and all social justice movements.
SEA Training and Content Coordinator
Also to note that FTX had a hub during AWID and some of the participants continued to make videos during this time, hopefully this exchange of skills will continue over FTX online as well. (ftx.apcwomen.org)