There’s an old joke among instructional designers. In response to a request for “gratuitous” video in a course, we ask, “What moves?” The implication, of course, is that if you are not showing content that is inherently dynamic and in motion then there is no point to video.
How last millennium can you be?
The joke betrays a lack of sophistication–of literacy–regarding the expressive power of the moving image. I think we need to take video more seriously and give it a privileged place right beside the written word in freshman composition classes. Because video can express some of the same concepts we ask students to relate using the written word, only more powerfully, more compactly and…well…just differently.For example, take a look at this satirical rendition of how Microsoft would design the iPod box. And while you are watching it, imagine that it is a student-submitted video compare/contrast assignment. “Describe the differences between how Microsoft and Apple present the value of their products and their respective relationships to consumers of their products.” Using only a few words, this video illustrates the differences brilliantly. The music, the graphics, and yes, the motion all convey the author’s impression of Microsoft’s marketing thought process. “What moves,” really, is that thought process. Video is a fantastic medium for expressing temporal progression. And interestingly, the narrative is constructive rather than deconstructive in nature. Academic writing tends to encourage students to take things apart but doesn’t show them how to put them back together again. The creator of this video, in contrast, had to dissect the differences between Apple’s and Microsoft’s marketing and then wrap the Microsoft marketing mindset around an existing Apple product. That shows real mastery. The student is effectively teaching the viewer how to brand like Microsoft, rather than just describing the elements that Microsoft uses on existing products.
Now, going from few words used to no words at all, take a look at this clip of how the image of the much-rumored next-generation video iPod was(?) faked. Again, with a few gestures and a little music, the creator brilliantly shows us just how little stock we should place in photo evidence anymore. For a Photoshop-illiterate like me, it was a real eye-opener. I knew in the abstract that pictures can be faked, but I had no idea it was that easy to do something that convincing. The creator implies that the rumor-hungry Apple fan sites are equally naive.
Well-known technology writer Jon Udell has been a real promoter of using video for his brand of journalism, writing extensively about screencasting. This is a guy who makes his living with words and describes not news events but technologies. What moves in a software application or in its source code? And yet he thinks video is critical to his craft. I think we should take him very seriously on this front and tackle video literacy as a fundamental and critical part of general literacy.