Final Project Rationale
In Robert Putbam’s Bowling Alone, he introduces the concept social capital (19 – 20). Social capital refers to social networks, norms of reciprocity, mutual assistance and trustworthiness (Putnam, et al., 2). But similar to physical capital and human capital, social networks can also enhance the productivity of the society. Therefore, he uses “social capital” to refer to the social network. Social capital is valuable for the community. Authors of Better Together gave an example. A child born in a state whose residents volunteer, vote and spend time with friends less likely to be born underweight, drop out of school and kill or be killed than the child who is born in another state whose residents do not (269). Putnam distinguishes two dimensions of social capital, bridging and bonding (22). For the bonding social network, community members tend to look inward and reinforce exclusive identities and homogeneity of the group. While for the bridging social capital, people are outward looking and encompass diversity within the group. As described in the beginning of Bowling Alone, participation and membership of different social groups, including social clubs and charity leagues, had declined dramatically from 1970 to 2000 (Putnam, 15 – 16). In the later chapters of the book, Putnam presented an extensive statistical survey of civic engagement and illustrated that the sociality was fading (31 – 180). The author summarized several contributing factors for the decline of social capital: pressure of time and money, suburbanization, the popularity of television and other forms of electronic entertainment and generational change – the replacement of old involved generation by their less civic descendent (183 – 284). However, with the advent of 21st century, the Internet has become the most powerful communication and entertainment medium instead of televisions and telephones. In fact, Putnam and his coauthors examine the virtual community, craigslist.org, in Better Together (225 – 240). They believed that the virtual community created by craigslist shares many elements with real communities: localness, member participation in defining norms of the group, aims and purposes beyond that of simply being together (240). Better Together was published in 2004 and may not depict the most recent civic development. For the past five years, social network, such as facebook and twitter, has achieved an unprecedented success. We believe that it also changes the landscape of the social capital in the country.
Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam reflects upon what he considers tenants of democracy, such as civic participation, altruism, and reciprocity. In our short video remix documentary, we sought to engage both the critical theory of Bowling Alone, while also remarking on the advancement of social media and its role in social change. Our documentary remediates the material ofBowling Alone in a hypermediate respect, in that the remediation on the selected media is blatant, and obvious. Our purpose with the footage/clips that we obtain was not to make it appear as if the documentary is one cohesive piece. Instead we sought to explicate that notions of social capital, civic engagement, etc. with short vignette style clips of news reel footage, lecture footage, and screen capturing. This was done in an effort to make the documentary have an intimate feel, as if the content is the personal reflection of a person surfing the internet, interacting with social media, and so on. Our initial aim was to create a documentary that first conclusively reflects on the theory of Bowling Alone, then creating a conclusive argument for the efficacy of social media in its impact in social change, then writing a conclusion to the effect that the issue is solved, or entirely explicated in the manner we intended. We realized very quickly after beginning that this would not work out. Bowling Alone is the results of decades of research in the field of sociology, and could not be justifiably condensed into a short video. Therefore, while the overarching themes in bowling alone are left unexplored, enough definition to the core concepts of the work are given in the documentary to facilitate comprehension, also to contextualize the material. The importance of community, in the traditional sense is also left unexplored. It is assumed that the view has some inclination as to why social engagement is important because it is a notion that has permeated much of the social commentary of recent memory. The presentation of the video clips is sound in the manner described in (Shipka, 355-373) because it reflects accurately on the effect of social media on democracy. Our documentary also frames the historical context of the social change that is addressed in Putnam by noting that the decline in community involvement has occurred across almost all form, “ We address this by editorializing slightly, that this occurrence is troubling when considered in the context of preserving democracy
The documentary consists almost entirely on youtube clips that were “ripped” from the site using the video capturing software, Camtasia. The clips were reassembled in the Ableton Live video/audio editing software, where they were paired with music and narration, which was mixed at a bitrate of 44100 Hz. The video capturing did introduce a deficit in the quality of the video as the capturing process was not lossless, but, however the software did preserve much of the original audio and video quality. The music is intended to be typical of any short documentary in that it exists mostly on the emotive plane as described in meaning that the music is intended to evoke a emotive response to the documentary, but not be the subject of focus itself. We are both particularly fond of the idea of sampling as presented in many types of music, electronic, hip-hop, etc, so we also wanted to engage the media in this manner as well. The documentary is best though of not as a documentary perse, but as an audio video collage that has a narrative.
In several aspects, the documentary meets the criterion of effective visual evidence as outlined by (Hampe 49-61),. Firstly, the central idea of the documentary can be described with concrete nouns and actionable verbs. It is to look at the effect of social media on democracy in the sense that is not described in Bowling Alone. Secondly, the piece is organized into a sequence of visuals that present evidence towards our point. The editing in the documentary is crucial, as careful consideration was taken to avoid presenting footage out of its context. That is why each section is not edited down into “nuggets” or small sections with just the “buzz words”, but presented in full with all of the available and necessary contextual information in order to ground the topic. A substantial portion of the visual evidence collected is that of lectures, or interviews describing the arguments made in the documentary. This also represents the behavior of the people shot in the documentary, ala, “Shoot people doing what they do, even if you’re mainly interested in what they have to say”. In avoiding the “Interview Problem” that (Hampe 49-61), describes inMaking Analogs of Reality, our interview and lecture clips consist of the person talking anecdotally, such as telling a story, or reflecting on some common general scenario, “The way you get good stuff in a documentary interview is by encouraging people to tell you stories …”. Also, much care was taken in avoiding the possible contradiction of the visual evidence with the narration. The benefit of sourcing the clips, without shooting any actual footage allows us to present very cohesive arguments in this documentary. We also recognize that this must necessarily bias our documentary, as the footage was explicitly selected on its efficacy in supporting the argument of the documentary.
The introduction, middle, and ending sequence that involve screen captured typing were done soundly with the respect that their purpose is meant to make the viewer feel as if they were at the computer typing. The type set and font is important for this goal, and therefore the default Arial font made perfect sense to accomplish this. With respect to the notions explored by Drucker, the textual language is intended to instruct the viewer.
In conclusion, we sought to address the effects of social media on democracy, and civic engagement, and we believe that we did so in a sound manner. The use of music, video, sound, and editing for our documentary converges to a cohesive piece that reflects our joint efforts in addressing these issues. The problem is a fundamentally intractable one; therefore our aim is to address the issues without making any comprehensive statement. We allow the viewer to advocate their position given the visual evidence presented.
Shipka, Jody. “Sound engineering: Toward a theory of multimodal soundness.”Computers and Composition 23.3 (2006): 355-373.
Hampe, Barry. “The Documentary Interview.” Trans. ArrayMaking Documentary Films and Reality Videos: A Practical Guide to Planning, Filming and Editing Documentaries of Real Events . . 1stHolt
McKee, Heidi. “Sound Matters: Notes Toward the Analysis and Design of Sound in Multimodal Webtexts.”Computers and Composition . 23. (2006): 335-353. Web. 8 Jul. 2013.
Bolter, Jay. Remediation : understanding new media. February 28, 2000. 1st. Boston: The MIT Press, 2000. Print.
Putnam, Robert D. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York:Simon & Schuster, 2001. Print.
Putnam, Robert D., et al. Better Together: Restoring the American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004. Print.