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How to make anthropology accessible for smartphone viewers?: A manifesto for ultrashort and low-resolution films
(University of Vienna)
Paper short abstract:
Changing channels of film distribution ask for new kinds of anthropological films. It's time to develop a new genre of anthropological filmmaking, which can be viewed and shared on a smartphone: ultrashort and low-resolution.
Paper long abstract:
A new genre of ultrashort and low-resolution films has come into being, meant to be viewed on a smartphone, produced for easy phone-to-phone sharing, with a duration of only a few minutes or even seconds. Such films have attracted much attention for example in India, where they are distributed through social media and have become a source of grave concern because they often promote violence against minorities. Simultaneously, the distribution of longer genres of documentary film, including ethnographic films that previously functioned as a window to minority perspectives, is limited by old and new forms of censorship. How can multimodal anthropologists respond? Besides studying smartphone usage, media regulation, and violence, can we also engage the smartphone as an alternative venue of knowledge sharing? Can anthropologists, then, appropriate the new genre of ultrashort and low-resolution film? In my presentation I will share three films of forty seconds each, which I created with a smartphone viewer in mind. These three films are the result of the experimental pilot project "Presence in times of erasure", which I initiated as a postdoctoral researcher at Leiden University (in 2018) to communicate about insights from research in India. Since then, I have encouraged my students in multimodal anthropology to develop the genre further. With this new genre of ultrashort and low-resolution anthropological films, I align with the journal entanglement's call for a multimodal anthropology that engages the critical and political dimensions of research through visual representations that implicate viewers.
Languages of entanglement: mapping the ethnographic modes and media