Connecting through video

Festivals bring people together and Thursday’s Celebrate South Madison was no exception. It was exciting to see community members come together to share food, converse, and learn more about area services. There were some great conversations happening about local issues and a sense of unity was apparent. Common chatter can start very basic, i.e.: “We have a lack of fresh produce available in our local stores” and, through further discussion, transform into something great like a weekly farmers’ market. The power of concerned citizens is undeniable.

Still, I found myself wondering about the residents that were not at the event.

It was frustrating. Were they unable to attend because of work, school, or other conflicts? Are they shut-ins? Do they think the festival is lame? Do they actually know about it? Do they feel disconnected from the community as a result of their absence? Do they even care?

I don’t have an answer to these questions, but I do have a suggestion for how to find out and answer other questions: Connect.

Everyone is on a different schedule and we might not be able to get everyone to one place at the same time to hang out and talk. Additionally, it’s not enough to set up an online account where only select people, or those with a specific knowledge of computers, can join in on the conversation. Although I think a forum for discussion online will be valuable, it will still leave out some people. After all, not everyone is able to share on those types of sites, and some people simply don’t want to take the time to learn.

Still, I do think it is possible to let everyone be heard through new methods of technology.

People love watching TV, and most people like the idea of being on TV. In addition to a social media page where community members can share thoughts via writing, adding photos, etc., I think it would be really neat to shoot videos of community members talking about particular issues or asking questions, and post them online.

We could set up a camera in a few secure public areas, such as the library, where people could record. A staff member could then upload the videos onto a shared site or social media space. This would allow those that lack computer skills to share their thoughts quickly and easily. The clips could also be played on a public access channel. To promote video sharing, we could even have a contest (a chance to win something is the best motivation)!

Topics of video posts could be chosen from a suggestion box located in the same place as the camera. For those unable to reach the filming location, we could allow previewed uploads from home or have trained volunteers film from additional locations.

While it’s not a stand-alone solution, I think it would make for some neat supplementary material and let those that can’t/don’t want to attend events still participate in the conversation, a key for development. It would be especially neat because you could see the person talking, not just read a message. This would allow viewers to better recognize their neighbors on the street and understand the tone they deliver their thoughts with. We could even closed caption the videos!

More importantly, I think it would make people want to participate because it’s fun! And enjoying the participation process is half the battle and taking this first step should lead them to try other types of technology, as well.



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