Dr. Shirley Thompson -Natural Resources Institute
204‑474‑7170  |  s_thompson@umanitoba.ca

ICT and Participatory Video

The 20th century has given rise to the Information Age.  Concurrent with this dramatic increase of information has come the need to manage and evaluate data, and subsequently translate data into useful information and, perhaps, knowledge.  Resources managers and decision-makers are increasingly expected to understand and effectively use computer technologies in ecosystem research, decision-making, and communication.

Participatory Video and Research

I along with many of my students specialize in participatory video training and video documentary in our research. Participatory video (PV) has its roots in participatory learning methods. As a participatory process, the community chooses the focus, engages in the creation process and provides feedback in the editing to ensure the results represent the communities’ story and views. This cycle ensures that the results are truly representative of a given situation. To its credit, it is a democratizing process that enables communities to document their ideas and examine issues that are relevant to them. Increasingly, PV is a tool used in the development or evaluation context.

Participatory video provides multiple benefits and applications.  First, the ‘video provides a mirror’ where the video helps people look objectively at their own statements. Second, PV provides horizontal learning opportunities for peer to peer learning. In many places and contexts PV provides a method that overcomes the communication barrier presented by illiteracy. People who neither read nor write can easily understand this mix of visual and oral communication. Not only that, but PV is particularly well suited to demonstrate successful techniques such as how to fish or how to build something – perfect for the quintessential ‘how to’ video to exchange and build skills. Third, PV provides called vertical communication whereby local people use video to speak to people in authority – people such as researchers, government, development agents, lenders or donors. A fourth application for PV is to document local knowledge and experience in an archival role that can rebuild cultural heritages. As a refreshing substitute to hierarchical approaches, PV celebrates local knowledge and frees up possibilities to provide an authentic ‘insider’ view. In this way, PV inspires and empowers individuals and communities to help themselves. As well, PV stimulates understanding of differing worldviews. In short, PV is a process that can achieve profound results in sustainability and improving the human condition.

The PV process – which is easy, accessible, and empowering – provides a mechanism for participants to explore issues, demonstrate creativity, communicate needs, problem solve, and express concern to decision makers.  It provides an exceptional tool for engaging and mobilizing marginalized populations in developing solutions to meet local needs, utilizing local resources. The process of PV differs from documentary film-making, where the outcome remains the authored product of the film-maker, with little control exercised by its subjects.  With PV, subjects create their own films, controlling how they will be represented and how they will depict their message. The focus is on content and process, rather than cinematography, to create an avenue for change.