Autoethnography: Making the Personal Political Response

The challenge of autoethnography is in “…creating texts that unfold in the intersubjective space of individual and community and that embrace tactics for both knowing and showing” (767).

After reading this study, I immediately thought of various documentaries in which I have seen authors/filmmakers strive to make their own stories more lively and compelling. A successful autoethnography often allows an audience to relate or empathize with a subject position, allowing a shift in perspective. One specific documentary, Erasing David (2010), really encompasses these ideals. In Erasing David, David Bond basically uses himself as a part of research to examine surveillance and the database state. He leaves behind his wife and child, with no warning, and attempts to figure out how much the government (and private companies for that matter) know about him as he “disappears”. As a successful film maker, David really connects his personal experience with a bigger and wider political (and social) issue. According to Stacy Holman, “Autoethnography writes a world in a state of flux and movement–between story and context, writer and reader, crisis and denouement. It creates charged moments of clarity, connection, and change” (764). Basically, what do these moments mean for the author? How are we able to effectively create significance in these “moments”? David Bond chooses to make meaning of the world by conducting this experiment, and his compelling story really draws the audience in, and allows his film to be a successful one. As a storyteller in the digital age, there are numerous different ways to really connect with a moment. However, being able to narrate that moment effectively is the true challenge. 

Sources: 

http://advancedemp14.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/autoethnography.pdf

http://erasingdavid.com/

http://theacademiccrustacean.blogspot.com/2013/09/autoethnography-making-personal.html

 

Holi Celebration Recognized at the University of Texas at Dallas

Holi, the internationally known holiday at India has been recognized at the University of Texas at Dallas. It really is a beautiful holiday, and the moment I found out that UTD was having a Holi celebration, I knew that I had to go. I created and produced this video to show how the typical Holi celebration is done at colleges here in America. I really enjoyed capturing these moments of hope, and find it particularly interesting to see how the Indians celebrate the coming of spring. I personally did not see much appreciation, but rather more crazy club-like dancing and color throwing. I tried my hardest to capture the true meaning of Holi, and not to make it seem as though the only reason behind celebrating Holi is to have a Hindu Woodstock reunion every March.
The song is by Imagine Dragons and its called “Its Time”. A great and inspiring song which I felt would go along with the flow.
Hope you guys like it! Comments below.

Created and produced by Samia Nasir
This event was sponsored and organized by the UT Dallas Indian and HIndu Student Association.

Web TV in our Digital Era

After watching a few webisodes, I must say the idea of “web TV” is interesting. I also personally think that soon it will eventually win over television, and people will begin to shift to the net: especially with the amount of bandwidth increase and better internet connection. A web series is almost like a series of videos (just like typical episodes on TV) released on the internet or also by mobile or cellular phone, and part of the newly emerging medium called web television. Out of the many webisodes I read about, and watched, I decided I particularly enjoyed Collegehumor. I have watched Collegehumor in the past on Youtube, and have enjoyed it immensely on various occasions. The site features daily original comedy (which is what I mostly watch) and articles. After rising fame, they decided to start The CollegeHumor Show online. I particularly enjoy watching “Nerd Alert” and “Jake & Amir”. Both shows are interesting and humorous. The styles of webisodes are slightly different: they seem to have a more informal quality to them, and are not necessarily “official”. Many (such as CollegeHumor itself) are made “in home” and informally, and not necessarily in a professional studio. The culture is great though. The shows are familiarizing, and I feel as though I can relate to some of the jokes made in webinar series. I also feel as though I can relate with the producers simply because of their informality (not being Hollywood or Disney). I’m not sure whether they will just completely take over television since many well known shows still dominate; however I do think it’s a great possibility in the future since this digital era is moving on from previous objects so quickly. 

Shadowing Experience at BlueCross BlueShield in Texas

Life attacks you in the most unexpected of ways when your in college, and I found that out after shadowing the HR Department at BlueCross BlueShield on Wednesday March 17, 2013. 

UT Dallas offers an “externship” opportunity for all college students interested by allowing them to shadow different large and well known company departments (related to your individual major) and discovering how the average everyday life of the employees in those departments operate. Not thinking much of it other than a small and interesting opportunity, I decided to sign up and shadow the BCBSTX Headquarters in Richardson, TX.Image

To make a long story short: I fell in love with the place. Everything about BlueCross appealed to me! The goal of the company, the resources they offered, how the employees operated as a team internally, how Human Resources promoted loyalty and interaction between each individual department, and even the wonderful fitness center they actually had for employees to work out and stay healthy in between working hours! The networking experience was incredible too, all the people I shadowed showed me extensive work as to how they did their job, and gave me their emails and business cards and encouraged me to reach out to them! 

If your college offers such a wonderful opportunity, then don’t hesitate to sign up. The benefits for a college student from this experience can be pretty awesome, and you meet great and inspiring people who encourage you by sharing their day to day life professions openly. I personally loved the staff of BlueCross: they made me feel welcome, and inspired me enough for me to know that BCBSTX will be one of the first companies I plan to apply to after I graduate. Image

Exit Through the Gift Shop & Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry Comparison and Documentary Video Style

“Every documentary has its own distinct voice. Like every speaking voice, every cinematic voice has a style of “grain” all its own that acts like a signature or fingerprint” –Bill Nichols

I must say that I immensely enjoyed watching both Exit through the Gift Shop & Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. The two films had an extremely interesting plot line, and they observed rather significant and completely strange and bizarre people. These people were able to make a change through the work of a variety of art: street, pop, sculpture, film, and so many more.

I also read Nichols article over the six types of documentary models, and found that I could definitely apply them to the films I watched.

Exit through the Gift Shop , the film covering the rising  character of local Frenchman Thierry Guetta. Based on Nichol’s research, I spotted a good number of documentary modes in this film. Firstly, I noticed there was definitely an expository feel to the documentary. According to Nichols, expository documentaries rely “heavily on informing logic carried by the spoken word. In a reversal of the traditional emphasis in film, images serve a supporting role. They illustrate, illuminate, evoke, or act in counterpart to what is said” (Introduction to Documentary). There was a professional narrator in Exit through the Gift Shop, who often would state qualities or characteristics about the “craziness” or “shocking discovery” Guetta would come across, and use images or film clips of moments to express his words and statements. Other than the personal narrator, the producers of this documentary would also cut snippets of interviews with Guetta and insert them in while portraying what his experience was like. For example, when Guetta discovers the artistic creativity of Banksy, and desires to meet him; they show clips of Banksy’s sensational and though provoking street art while hearing Guetta’s intent desire to meet him in text (audio). Exit through the Gift Shop also consists of Observatory and Participatory documentary modules. The film could be considered a participatory documentary simply because it “looks on life as it lived”. There are actual blurry and unedited clips of Guetta in Disney Land, dropping the camera, filming law enforcement officers while they are not looking, and so forth. Guetta was literally within the film even while he was filming it, making the film scenes feel more “in the moment” and exciting. They could also be considered observatory because Guetta would often catch artists completely in trance in their work, and they would not even realize that he was filming them. It was not professionalp, but rather they were running around or cussing or moving the camera away in order to go about their daily life.  

            Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry was a bit different than Exit through the Gift Shop. The documentary was rather a bit more formal, though it still had many documentary modes expressed in it as well. For example, the film could be considered observatory simply because the cameraman would catch snippets and shots of Ai Weiwei  in his artistic zone (sort of unrealizing the camera is there) and go about with his art work as though no one is even watching him. The film is definitely expository as well; following the guidelines of the common traditional documentary and allowing words to be strengthened and expressed through the images shown.

To conclude, these two films made me heighten my sense of the art world: to realize the importance of otherwise minor and insignificant things such as street art and pop culture, and how it affects our society at such a grand scale. I also personally admired the courage and strength of Ai Weiwei, for openly issuing challenges against the government of China and expressing his unique view with pride.

Intellectual Property: Who Draws the Red Line?

We have a massive system to regulate creativity. A massive system of lawyers regulating creativity as copyright law has expanded in unrecognizable forms, going from a regulation of publishing to a regulation of copying. –Lawrence Lessig

After watching these series of clips, I must say that if things go according to the corporation idea of copyright (or pro copyright people)..I would probably be in jail right now.

This film attacked a series of important aspects which are suddenly becoming extremely relevant today: is this culture free? And if it is, how do we know when we are infringing copyright or not? Our culture today is a digital one, and it is extremely difficult to set  a precise red line on what could be considered others property anymore. The internet has allowed the transferring of bits to occur at top notch speed, and make perfect copies of the original. It has also allowed sharing to be easier! I guess what I am getting at is: back in the 90’s, a person would actually go buy a CD album for a particular singer. And if someone wanted that music (say my neighbor)..then I would lend it to him! But now, with the internet, I can upload my music (and a perfect sharp exact copy) from my CD, and allow everyone to download it. Who makes the calls on whats considered copyright infringement? I did buy that CD right?

One particular artist who came to my head and has established fame just by remixing and mash ups is Gregg Gillis or Girl Talk. This guy is revolutionary: he makes completely new songs by mixing a good twenty or thirty different tracks together. His work was unnoticed at first..but then people actually started buying his music, and asking him to do live concerts! All of a sudden, copyright became an issue. The fact that Girl Talk used the tracks of others without their consent and proceeded to create a whole new song (and then sell that album) became an issue of importance.  Should Girl Talk attribute the artists they use to create their mash-ups? Should they have a right to sell their music on Amazon and other websites? Through sampling and experimentation, Girl Talk is able to achieve a compression of cultural time that makes the music a living distillation of pop. Gillis’s viewpoint on copyright, according to Forbes, is actually rather straightforward:

“I basically believe in that idea [of Fair Use], that if you create something out of pre-existing media, that’s transformative, that’s not negatively impacting the potential sales of the artist you’re sampling, if it’s not hurting them in some way, then you should be allowed to make your art and put it out there. I think, even in the years of doing this, the conversation has shifted a good bit.”

His music could be deemed creative, but for some it can also be considered stolen. His work is widely known and he proudly accepts that he believes that this digital culture is a free one, and as long as another artist does not lose anything in the process; that work can be made built on the original. His work reminds me of the idea which Lawrence Lessig calls “Walt Disney Creativity— a form of expression and genius that builds upon the culture around us and makes it something different” (Free Culture). 

Overall, after reading Lessig’s ideas and watching clips on mash-up and copyright, I guess I can reflect and conclude that there really is no right or wrong answer. That is just the way art is: shades of grey. And the digital culture (the mash-ups, remixes, appropriations) have reached a global scale (everyone can do it!) and if we work based on the work of others..then is it necessarily deemed stealing? Who draws the line on whats considered copyright infringement any longer? This film definitely pressed some interesting ideas in my head, and caused me to rethink almost every film, picture, and song that I have listened to.