Examples of Manifestos, Community Benefit Agreement, and Symposium Summary
A: FILM Manifestos
A Sample of Manifestos and Guiding Principles from 1923 to 2016.
Design justice rethinks design processes, centers people who are normally marginalized by design, and uses collaborative, creative practices to address the deepest challenges our communities face.
We use design to sustain, heal, and empower our communities, as well as to seek liberation from exploitative and oppressive systems.
We center the voices of those who are directly impacted by the outcomes of the design process.
We prioritize design’s impact on the community over the intentions of the designer.
We view change as emergent from an accountable, accessible, and collaborative process , rather than as a point at the end of a process.
We see the role of the designer as a facilitator rather than an expert.
We believe that everyone is an expert based on their own lived experience , and that we all have unique and brilliant contributions to bring to a design process.
We share design knowledge and tools with our communities.
We work towards sustainable, community-led and -controlled outcomes.
We work towards non-exploitative solutions that reconnect us to the earth and to each other
Before seeking new design solutions, we look for what is already working at the community level. We honor and uplift traditional, Indigenous, and local knowledge and practices.
It’s my job to understand, mitigate and communicate the presence of bias in algorithms.
Be responsible for maximizing social benefit and minimizing harm.
Practice humility and openness.
I will know my data and help future users know it as well.
Make reasonable efforts to know and document its origins and document its transformation.
Bias will exist. Measure it. Plan for it.
Thou shalt document transparently, accessibly, responsibly, reproducibly, and communicate.
Engaging the whole community. Do you have all relevant individuals engaged?
People before data - data scientists should use a question driven approach rather than a data-driving or methods approach. Consider personal safety and treat others the way they want to be treated.
Exercise ethical imagination.
Open by default - use of data should be transparent and fair.
I will not over/under represent findings.
You are part of an ecosystem understand context and provenance.
Respecting human dignity.
Respect their data even more than your own. Understand where its sources and think about the consequences of your actions.
Protecting individual and institutional privacy.
Diversity for inclusivity.
Attention to bias.
Respect for others/persons.
Be intentional as you work to create value.
The undersigned, being alternately pissed off and bored, need a means of speculation and asserting a different set of values with which to re-imagine the future. In looking for a new framework for Black diasporic artistic production, we are temporarily united in the following actions.
The Mundane Afrofuturists recognize that:
We did not originate in the cosmos.
The connection between Middle Passage and space travel is tenuous at best.
Out of five hundred thirty-four space travelers, fourteen have been Black. An all-Black crew is unlikely.
Magic interstellar travel and/or the wondrous communication grid can lead to an illusion of outer space and cyberspace as egalitarian.
This dream of utopia can encourage us to forget that outer space will not save us from injustice and that cyberspace was prefigured upon a “master/slave” relationship.
While we are often Othered, we are not aliens.
Though our ancestors were mutilated, we are not mutants.
Post-black is a misnomer.
Post-colonialism is too.
The most likely future is one in which we only have ourselves and this planet.
The Mundane Afrofuturists rejoice in:
Piling up unexamined and hackneyed tropes, and setting them alight.
Gazing upon their bonfire of the Stupidities, which includes, but is not exclusively limited to:
Enormous self-control in light of great suffering;
Great suffering as our natural state of existence;
Inexplicable skill in the martial arts;
Reference to Wu Tang;
Reference to Sun Ra;
Reference to Parliament Funkadelic and/or George Clinton;
Reference to Janelle Monáe;
Obvious, heavy-handed allusions to double-consciousness;
Egyptian mythology and iconography;
The inner city;
Continue at will…
Digital justice ensures that all members of our community have equal access to media and technology, as producers as well as consumers.
Digital justice provides multiple layers of communications infrastructure in order to ensure that every member of the community has access to life-saving emergency information.
Digital justice values all different languages, dialects and forms of communication.
Digital justice prioritizes the participation of people who have been traditionally excluded from and attacked by media and technology.
Digital justice advances our ability to tell our own stories, as individuals and as communities.
Digital justice values non-digital forms of communication and fosters knowledge-sharing across generations.
Digital justice demystifies technology to the point where we can not only use it, but create our own technologies and participate in the decisions that will shape communications infrastructure.
Digital justice fuels the creation of knowledge, tools and technologies that are free and shared openly with the public.
Digital justice promotes diverse business models for the control and distribution of information, including: cooperative business models and municipal ownership.
Digital justice provides spaces through which people can investigate community problems, generate solutions, create media and organize together.
Digital justice promotes alternative energy, recycling and salvaging technology, and using technology to promote environmental solutions.
Digital justice advances community-based economic development by expanding technology access for small businesses, independent artists and other entrepreneurs.
Digital justice integrates media and technology into education in order to transform teaching and learning, to value multiple learning styles and to expand the process of learning beyond the classroom and across the lifespan.
1. HONOUR WHAT ORIGINALLY INSPIRED YOU
My father gave me my first camera when I was seven years old. He was taken away by the Cuban Missile Crisis, so I have always made a psychological connection been camera and family. I try to honour his memory.
People on television protesting against war inspired me. Since then, I have continually questioned everything. People like Mandela and Vandana Shiva have taught me to keep the faith, Sister and my eye on the prize, Brother.
Gandhi taught me that Satyagraha (non-violent resistance) means “Truth-force.” I believe that Documentary is Truth-Telling. At the World Social Forum, Arundhati Roy taught me that: “Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness—and our ability to tell our own stories..”..
4. DOCUMENTARY MEANS MEDIA LITERACY
Literacy is the ability to understand, analyze, critically respond to and produce texts in different contexts. Media is as ubiquitous as the water we drink. It is the language our children speak. In a world where media is the very air we breathe, we need to expand our view of literacy to include media literacy. We must understand what media is, what it does and how it works.
And how to make it ourselves: how to “read” and “write” with light, in a world where the pen is now the camera, where the writing’s on the wall—in the form of a screen. Any screen, anywhere...
5. LIFE IS POLITICS
… We should attempt to pour our work and activism into the forge of human service. Let us become our own masters, re-appropriate our media away from conglomerates, consumption and mass-mind colonizers. Let us “robin hoodwink” them, transforming our documentary artwork into real media for the masses.
2006 From The Aesthetics of The Oppressed (Excerpt)
From: Boal, Augusto. The Aesthetics of the Oppressed , trans. by Adrian Jackson. New York, NY, 2006: p. 39.
Unless we create our own culture, we will be obedient and servile to other cultures. And when we are creating our own culture, other cultures can only be beneficial to us, expanding our sensibility. The fact of being who I am, when I know who I am, does not stop me from admiring what others do. Unless I know who I am, I will be a copy.
The Aesthetics of the Oppressed is a project about helping the oppressed to discover Art by discovering their art, and in the act, discovering themselves ; to discover the world, by discovering their world and, in the act, discovering themselves , instead of receiving information from the media, TV, radio, foreign music, etc., to create their own artistic metaphors of their own world.
The original project idea and goals come from the community partner.
The filmmaker’s role is to experiment and adapt documentary forms to the original idea. Break stereotypes. Push the boundaries of what documentary means.
Use documentary and media to “participate” rather than just to observe and to record. Filmmaker-in-Residence is not an A/V or a PR department.
Work closely with the community partner, but respect each other’s expertise and independence.
Use whatever medium suits – video, photography, world wide web, cell phones, iPods or just pen and paper. It can all be documentary.
Work through the ethics, privacy and consent process with your partners before you begin, and adapt your project accordingly. Sometimes it means changing your whole approach – or even dropping it. That’s the cost of being ethical.
The social and political goals – and the process itself — are paramount. Ask yourself every day: why are you doing this project?
Always tell a good story.
Track the process, the results and spend time disseminating what you’ve learned with multiple communities: professionals, academics, filmmakers, media, general public, advocates, critics and students.
Support the community partner in distribution and outreach. Spend 10% of the time making it and 90% of the time getting it out into the world.
Just “showing it” is not necessarily a political goal unto itself. Work with the partners to harness the project’s momentum to effect real participation, and real political change.
We, the undersigned, are graphic designers, art directors and visual communicators who have been raised in a world in which the techniques and apparatus of advertising have persistently been presented to us as the most lucrative, effective and desirable use of our talents. Many design teachers and mentors promote this belief; the market rewards it; a tide of books and publications reinforces it.
Encouraged in this direction, designers then apply their skill and imagination to sell dog biscuits, designer coffee, diamonds, detergents, hair gel, cigarettes, credit cards, sneakers, butt toners, light beer and heavy-duty recreational vehicles. Commercial work has always paid the bills, but many graphic designers have now let it become, in large measure, what graphic designers do . This, in turn, is how the world perceives design. The profession's time and energy is used up manufacturing demand for things that are inessential at best.
Many of us have grown increasingly uncomfortable with this view of design. Designers who devote their efforts primarily to advertising, marketing and brand development are supporting, and implicitly endorsing, a mental environment so saturated with commercial messages that it is changing the very way citizen-consumers speak, think, feel, respond and interact. To some extent we are all helping draft a reductive and immeasurably harmful code of public discourse.
There are pursuits more worthy of our problem-solving skills. Unprecedented environmental, social and cultural crises demand our attention. Many cultural interventions, social marketing campaigns, books, magazines, exhibitions, educational tools, television programs, films, charitable causes and other information design projects urgently require our expertise and help.
We propose a reversal of priorities in favor of more useful, lasting and democratic forms of communication - a mindshift away from product marketing and toward the exploration and production of a new kind of meaning....
Every year we face new challenges and opportunities. Our work changes constantly, and there is no perfect formula for how we do this work. Embedded throughout our organizing is a set of principles which we have distilled from listening to our network.
We are making an honest attempt to solve the most significant problems of our day.
We are building a network of people and organizations that are developing long-term solutions based on the immediate confrontation of our most pressing problems.
Wherever there is a problem, there are already people acting on the problem in some fashion. Understanding those actions is the starting point for developing effective strategies to resolve the problem, so we focus on the solutions, not the problems.
We emphasize our own power and legitimacy.
We presume our power, not our powerlessness.
We spend more time building than attacking.
We focus on strategies rather than issues.
The strongest solutions happen through the process, not in a moment at the end of the process.
The most effective strategies for us are the ones that work in situations of scarce resources and intersecting systems of oppression because those solutions tend to be the most holistic and sustainable.
Place is important. For the AMC , Detroit is important as a source of innovative, collaborative, low-resource solutions. Detroit gives the conference a sense of place, just as each of the conference participants bring their own sense of place with them to the conference.
We encourage people to engage with their whole selves, not just with one part of their identity.
We begin by listening.
Volume One, Issue 7, Phile 3 of 10, [Phrack Inc.]
The following was written shortly after my arrest...
\/\The Conscience of a Hacker/\/
Written on January 8, 1986
Another one got caught today, it's all over the papers. "Teenager
Arrested in Computer Crime Scandal", "Hacker Arrested after Bank Tampering.”..
Damn kids. They're all alike.
I made a discovery today. I found a computer. Wait a second, this is
cool. It does what I want it to. If it makes a mistake, it's because I
screwed it up. Not because it doesn't like me...
Or feels threatened by me...
Or thinks I'm a smart ass...
Or doesn't like teaching and shouldn't be here...
Damn kid. All he does is play games. They're all alike.
And then it happened... a door opened to a world... rushing through
the phone line like heroin through an addict's veins, an electronic pulse is
sent out, a refuge from the day-to- day incompetencies [sic] is sought... a board is
"This is it... this is where I belong..."
I know everyone here... even if I've never met them, never talked to
them, may never hear from them again... I know you all...
Damn kid. Tying up the phone line again. They're all alike...
Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is
that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like.
My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me
I am a hacker, and this is my manifesto. You may stop this individual,
but you can't stop us all... after all, we're all alike.
1976 PROBLEMS OF FORM AND CONTENT IN REVOLUTIONARY CINEMA (Excerpt)
Jorge Sanjinés, “Problems of Form and Content in Revolutionary Cinema”, In Film Manifestos and Global Cinema Cultures: A Critical Anthology , ed. Scott MacKenzie (Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2014), 286-294.
Revolutionary cinema is in the process of taking shape. It is not an easy or rapid matter to transform conceptions of art which bourgeois ideology has interposed very deeply in artists, particularly in those who have been formed within western culture. However, we believe that such a transformation will be achieved, through contact with the people, their involvement in artistic creation, greater clarity about the goals of popular art, and the abandonment of individualism. Numerous group works and collectively made films already exist, as, very importantly, do examples of popular participation, where the people themselves play roles, make suggestions and become directly involved in the creative act. In such cases, the people are already determining methods of work. Closed scripts begin to disappear and dialogue is born from the people’s own prodigiously fertile talent, during the very act of representation. Life itself speaks, in all its force and truth.
As we argued once before in an article on this subject, revolutionary cinema, as it reaches maturity, can only be collective, just as the revolution itself is collective. Popular cinema, whose central protagonist will be the people, will tell individual stories when these have collective meaning. Such stories must help the people’s understanding and not that of an isolated individual, and must be an integral part of the collective story. The individual hero must give way to the popular hero, the multiple hero, who in the process of making will not only be the film’s internal raison d’être but also the dynamic behind its quality, both participant and artist.
The area of black independent film-making will soon see the growth of a number of workshops established with the specific aim of catering for black film needs. We will also see a growth in the number of films made by members of these workshops. As in any other field of cultural activity and practice such a development calls for collective debate and discussion. Some of the important issues to be raised will be around the relationship between the workshop organisers and participants in the course. The others should obviously be about the nature and structure of the courses themselves.
Prior to this debate, however, is the task of accounting for the specificity of black independent film-making. What, after all, does “black independent film-making” mean when present film culture is a largely white affair? And does this posture of independence presuppose a radical difference of film orientation? If this is the case how does one work with difference?
1969 TOWARDS A THIRD CINEMA: NOTES AND EXPERIENCES FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF A CINEMA OF LIBERATION IN THE THIRD WORLD (Excerpt)
Solanas, Fernando and Octavio Getino. ”Towards a Third Cinema: Notes and Experiences for the Development of a Cinema of Liberation in the Third World”. In (Argentina,1969) Film Manifestos and Global Cinema Cultures: A Critical Anthology, edited by Scott Mackenzie, 230-250. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2014.
. . . we must discuss, we must invent — FRANTZ FANON
Just a short time ago it would have seemed like a Quixotic adventure in the colonised, neocolonised , or even the imperialist nations themselves to make any attempt to create films of decolonisation that turned their back on or actively opposed the System. Until recently, film had been synonymous with spectacle or entertainment: in a word, it was one more consumer good. At best, films succeeded in bearing witness to the decay of bourgeois values and testifying to social injustice. As a rule, films only dealt with effect, never with cause; it was cinema of mystification or anti-historicism. It was surplus value cinema. Caught up in these conditions, films, the most valuable tool of communication of our times, were destined to satisfy only the ideological and economic interests of the owners of the film industry, the lords of the world film market, the great majority of whom were from the United States.
The revolutionary filmmaker acts with a radically new vision of the role of the producer, team-work, tools, details, etc. Above all, he supplies himself at all levels in order to produce his films, he equips himself at all levels, he learns how to handle the manifold techniques of his craft. His most valuable possessions are the tools of his trade, which form part and parcel of his need to communicate. The camera is the inexhaustible expropriator of image- weapons; the projector, a gun that can shoot 24 frames per second.
Each member of the group should be familiar, at least in a general way, with the equipment being used: he must be prepared to replace another in any of the phases of production. The myth of irreplaceable technicians must be exploded.
WE: VARIANTS ON A MANIFESTO
We call ourselves kinoks—as opposed to “cinematographers,” …
WE proclaim the old films, based on the romance, theatrical films -Keep away from them! -Keep your eyes off them! -They’re mortally dangerous! -Contagious! ...
WE are cleansing kinochesfvo of foreign matter-of music, literature, and theater; we seek our own rhythm, one lifted from nowhere else, and we find it in the movements of things.
In revealing the machine’s soul, in causing the worker to love his we introduce creative joy into all mechanical labor, we bring people into closer kinship with machines, we foster new people. The new man, free of unwieldiness and clumsiness, will have the citizen to the perfect electric man. workbench, the peasant his tractor, the engineer his engine light, precise movements of machines, and he will be the gratifying subject of our films. Openly recognizing the rhythm of machines, the delight of mechanical labor, the perception of the beauty of chemical processes,
WE sing of earthquakes, we compose film epics of electric power plants and flame, we delight in the movements of comets and meteors and the gestures of searchlights that dazzle the stars. Everyone who cares for his art seeks the essence of his own technique. Cinema’s unstrung nerves need a rigorous system of precise movement.
B: Community Benefit Agreement between MIT and DNA
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Between Detroit Narrative Agency and Co-Creation Studio at MIT Open Documentary Lab
I. PURPOSE AND SCOPE
The partnership between Detroit Narrative Agency (DNA), a sponsored project of Allied Media Projects, and Co-Creation Studio at MIT Open Documentary Lab (ODL) will provide a fellowship and mentoring opportunity for selected moving-image projects from the DNA 2016-17 Cohort.
As we commit to building equitable relationships, we recognize that DNA organizational staff, trainers, and project teams are bringing the following to the table:
● Cultural and intellectual capital, credibility, and deep local knowledge
● Insight, historical analysis, and lived experience
● Specific skill sets in their areas of expertise as artists, activists, organizers, educators, entrepreneurs, and beyond
We see this partnership as an opportunity to:
● Connect Detroit artists, thinkers, and community members to collaboratively work together with other artists, scholars, and cultural change makers in a powerful and authentic way that builds creative solutions, awareness, and accountability, thereby strengthening the artistic and economic fabric of our community.
This partnership will support the development of selected projects through:
● In-person and virtual training
● Individualized mentorship for project teams
● Opportunities to explore collaborative media making across technologies
● Developing a “Co-creation Plan” for each project
● Visits to ODL & Co-Creation Studio
● Workshops in Detroit by ODL and selected trainers
● Each party will appoint a person to serve as the official contact and coordinate the activities of each organization in carrying out this MOU. The initial appointees of each organization are: ill weaver, DNA, Kat Cizek, Co-Creation Studio at MIT ODL.
● DNA is committed to:
○ Conducting a needs assessment to evaluate each project selected for this fellowship opportunity in areas such as mentorship, skills development, production needs, and community engagement
○ Shaping the trainings conducted through this partnership based on the needs of the DNA 2.0 project teams
○ Co-designing, co-researching and co-writing an article about the DNA model of collaboration, together with the DNA team. This process would involve:
■ Shaping the research questions jointly
■ Conducting peer interviews (using PAR when appropriate)
■ Participating in the writing and editing of the final 1,000-2,000 article, to be included in the Co-Creation Study
■ Reviewing and approving text prior to publishing
■ Providing the wording for the credits
○ Completing the text for the research study by the end of 2017
○ Sharing visual images to accompany the article in the co-creation study, and to be used in the Co-Creation web presence
● Co-Creation Studio at MIT ODL is committed to:
○ Coming to Detroit to work with project teams on 2-3 occasions for sessions including, but not limited to:
■ Group presentations
■ One-on-one meetings with MIT Mentors and project teams
○ Virtual “office hours” each month with each project team on an as-needed basis
○ Individualized mentorship for project teams based on the needs of each group
○ Providing up to three DNA Fellows with two opportunities to visit ODL & Co-Creation Studio for 3-4 day sessions
■ ODL will provide (funds) to cover mentors, DNA travel, accommodation, food, and honoraria for Cambridge visits
○ Co-designing, co-researching and co-writing an article about the DNA model of collaboration, together with the DNA team. This process would involve:
■ Shaping the research questions jointly
■ Conducting peer interviews (using PAR when appropriate)
■ Participating in the writing and editing of the final 1,000-2,000 article, to be included in the Co-Creation Study
○ Completing the text for the research study by the end of 2017
○ Communicating with contact persons from DNA when making decisions that impact or reference DNA or its project teams
○ Crediting images and research content appropriately
○ Clarity around where the research based on DNA work and this partnership will be published, stored or shared
■ MIT will ask permission for each individual use and provide context for its use
■ All text to be used will be reviewed and approved by DNA prior to publishing.
● DNA and ODL commit to an equitable organizational structure by:
○ Hiring and supporting the development of Black and People of Color-identified organizational leaders with cultural/political competency in addition to relevant coordination, facilitation and organizing skills.
○ Prioritizing Black and People of Color identified trainers and consultants with cultural/political competency in addition to relevant technical experience, coordination and facilitation skills.
● We are upholding the following mechanisms of accountability throughout the planning, implementation, and follow-up stages of our project:
○ Prioritizing engagement with participants who reflect the demographics of current and historically marginalized communities of Detroit through our programming
○ Offering resources and guidance to support participants in the event of challenging or emotionally triggering content
○ Gathering feedback from project teams and staff throughout the course of this partnership and through a post-survey
○ Reflecting on successes and areas of improvement through a post-project debrief with staff from both organizations
○ Facilitating a process for documentation with attribution to the authors for ideas generated and making documentation available (as a way to value contribution, create transparency and prevent co-optation of ideas).
● All intellectual property created by the DNA projects shall be the property of the individual(s) who created it. DNA and ODL shall in no way be involved in deciding the proportion of ownership of any intellectual property created by the project teams during this fellowship.
● All intellectual property co-created by DNA and ODL in the process of this partnership shall be the property of both DNA and ODL. The products of what is co-created will designate both DNA and ODL as the co-authors.
● All documentation and data produced through this process will be mutually owned by DNA and ODL.
● No final report or other documentation of this process will be published without the approval of both DNA and ODL.
III. TERMS OF UNDERSTANDING
The term of this MOU is for a period of 6 months - ending in May 2018. It shall be reviewed at least once during the course of this Fellowship period to ensure that it is fulfilling its purpose and to make any necessary revisions. During the review of this MOU, if revisions are to be made, there will be mutual consent and understanding to the new terms, and re-authorization through signatures from each party.
It is the mutual intent of DNA and ODL to successfully fulfill the terms outlined in this Agreement. With that understanding, given the possibility of unforeseeable circumstances, DNA and ODL mutually retain the right to cancel or terminate this agreement with notice.
By signing this MOU, each party agrees to these terms and commits to contribute to its further development.
AS MUTUALLY UNDERSTOOD,
FOR DETROIT NARRATIVE AGENCY:
ill weaver Director, DNA
paige watkins Associate Director, DNA
FOR MIT OPEN DOCUMENTARY LAB:
Katerina Cizek Artistic Director, Co-Creation Studio
Sarah Wolozin, Founding Director, ODL
C: Symposium Summary
A two-day symposium on co-creation, held at MIT in September, 2018, included panels, lightning talks, and showcases of work, as well as breakout sessions, with more than 150 participants in attendance. The eight breakout groups were facilitated by a team organized by Dr. Richard Lachman of Ryerson University. Using co-design tools, the team gathered ideas for themes on the first day of the event, and then on the second day, they facilitated groups around the themes to best draw on the expertise and experiences, and the diversity of those in the room.
The breakout sessions focused on eight different topics. However, the events of the symposium themselves brought ideas to the surface of past experiences, and provoked strong feelings among participants. The attendees ended up diverging widely from the individual topics of the sessions to discussions of the event itself, resulting in some common threads across all of the sessions. What emerged from the attendees were questions and concerns as well as recommendations, all with a single overarching realization that this conversation is about multiplicity and messiness as much as it is about mapping data, or documenting. There are many ways to work, and there are multiple ways of framing the politics of inclusion, narrative, participation, and production. This symposium, as indeed this report, embrace the messiness, the complexity, with a goal of discussing dynamics rather than codifying practice. Co-creation is, by definition, an evolving and wide-ranging practice across many contexts, and the questions and discussion below reflect that reality. Within that framework, there were some common themes that developed across conversations in various breakout sessions.
Ongoing Commitment to Dialogue
The sessions revealed a strong and expressed need for more horizontal, non-hierarchical, and, inclusive dialogue. It became apparent that opportunities for these types of conversations are actually siloed, in that the types of people involved in this work rarely co-mingle: academics attend conferences; creators appear at film festivals; funders are at a remove, on panels, and community members may be excluded entirely from reflexive and comparative conversations, apart from local exhibitions or screenings of works. Finding more opportunities to cross boundaries with frank conversation, that is, avoiding the stratification of traditional media critique, was a strong theme that came out of this symposium, and something participants hoped to extend to future events.
Yet even within this horizontal framework it is important to ask who is not present, who is excluded from the conversation. The importance of elements such as childcare, or the realities of day/night job conflicts, geographic locations, and the signaling implicit in the choice of venue were emphasized. The following questions were raised:
Are some venues elitist?
Who can afford to travel across the country to meetings?
Does an institution hosting an event constitute recognition of importance of a project, or serve as an indicator of judgement and power?
Partnering with a university, a film festival, a community center, or a café can convey strong signifiers to potential participants, and the venue can shape the conversation. Participants also noted that curating the types of interactions within events is important, and called for prioritizing the knowledge in the room. Several breakouts noted that the structure and hierarchy of these events should change from standard panels, discussions, etc., with one person warning: “When you work to change power, you end up emulating it.”
Participants also noted that co-creators need to rework the language we use to talk about and represent projects, at every level. This reworking needs to occur at all levels, from funders to creators, producers to artists, awards venues to audiences. Participants talked about the need to change all aspects of how we think about and represent the work from a single-author/single-story approach to one that builds a multiplicity of narratives, time-frames, and outcomes into a very different mental point of view; the notions of author, producer, creator, participant, expert, technologist, subject , development, impact, and creation all influence how we conceive of works.
There was also a lot of conversation about what needed to be part of this horizontal dialogue. The choice of either academic conference or festival-circuit model as our standard approach to discussing media don’t match the conversation. Other conversations explored the notion of project failure in this context, and if, or how, failure can become part of the conversation. Further, it was discussed whether or not a celebration of projects could be combined with a critical lens, and how mapping the field may or may not make artificial distinctions, yet still reveal useful approaches and potential collaborators. Finally, the sessions discussed whether or not a hub of practices (not best practices , but lists of options, template agreements, questions, and provocations) be a worthy output from events.
Time and Space
Co-creation projects, while widely varying across almost any category of description, certainly embrace a different time-frame than common media-production/creation forms. A focus on the long-term versus the short-term, on iteration instead of conclusion, can sometimes conflict with institutional time-frames that consider everything from funding to exhibition. Some questions coming from the sessions included:
How can we fund an iterative process, that may not conform to (say) film-production cycles of development, production, and distribution?
Multi-year engagements in co-creation might need to flex, pivot, or respond to events of the moment, without a clear sense of the end-goal when a project begins. How do we fund process-driven work?
How do we track and make accountable financial and project-goals within such a longer-term time-frame, or on an iterative basis?
Most importantly, how does a focusing on process rather than progress re-shape our sense of outputs or success?
Several participants described the importance of a physical space in their work with communities, as much for the tangible effects on collaboration as for the more intangible effects on pride and self-image; a physical space can lend credibility to the work, and helps participants feel seen, and recognizes the importance of their stories as well as representing a commitment of longevity to the project. This is one of the ways in which institutions can lend weight to a project: providing physical space as well as an imprimatur that originates beyond the scope of a single project. However, if project space is located, say, on a campus rather than within a community, participation can become much more complicated, perhaps prohibitively so. Symposium participants described projects with both types of support: an out-of-community office at an institution that lends an air of importance, and can massively reduce costs for rental and infrastructure, can be long-term, or in the community and is accessible to regular participants, visible, and available to more hesitant or less trusting participants. Dealing with the question of space, as with many elements of co-creation, may be more about conveying stories of what others have tried than any sort of standard or rulebook.
Virtual space is also a hallmark of the digital age. Within co-creation projects, then, is remote participation (of producers, creators, funders, or participants) possible or desirable, and how does it affect the process? The role and accessibility of digital placemaking and conversational tools was raised during session, and included email, and other free shared collaboration frameworks such as Google Drive and Dropbox. These forms of space can change over the lifetime of a co-creation process, with earlier work perhaps needing in-person involvement, and later-stage relationships able to make use of digital tools for collaboration. Of course, digital tools are not universally accessible, and this can affect who is represented, who has a voice, and who can view the work.
A major theme that arose in several breakout sessions focused on funding, chiefly the relationship of project participants and funders. Whether government-related or private, the dynamics of power and finance remain a subject of much contention. Some funders are re-evaluating their internal processes, and/or establishing new programs that try to address inequities in access to funds for co-creation methodologies. The question of how to fund process rather than the variously defined impact is a complicated one, with examples such as the NFB Challenge for Change, or Filmmaker-in-Residence programs providing interesting lessons. Symposium participants asked how foundations or funders can work with one another at various stages of a project and at national/international levels. Others called for massive shifts in power, with funders needing to embrace inclusion, yield control, and engage in serious self-analysis. Some funders try to connect with organizations closer to communities, allowing re-granting by those organizations — however, some critics believe that this simply makes those organizations yet another gatekeeper.
Communities and participants wanted to connect issues of trust to the transparency of the flow of funds, however, this can in turn lead to contentious debates and divisive team dynamics. These are not simple questions, and the best practices are not obvious. Other questions that arose included:
Can granting timelines use micro-grants, rolling deadlines, or process funding to support work along a markedly different timeline than that of traditional development/production financing?
How do we shift from producers needing to know outcomes and commit to timelines and direction at the time of application for project funding?
How can a co-creative approach still find and fund quality projects?
How do notions of auteur-driven, repeating successes, or of funders gauging risk based on past performance, mesh with new voices, with in-depth community engagement across years or decades, and with creators who may be so deeply engaged in their community that they don’t have a past record of other productions to evaluate?
And how does recognizing the unique aspect of each community engagement mesh with funders’ values of standardization, repeatability, and open and common application/evaluation guidelines?
Concern over the time frame of funding aligns with the concern of project timelines in general. One participant called for a shift from subsidized models to sustainable ones. Another called for grants for capacity building instead of production, or for early-stage investments in communities. Still another suggested staged funding for teams and training, which could then dovetail with production grants for successful trainees. Fundraising, grant-writing, and reporting can be full-time job it was argued; this can push cash- and time-strapped creators well beyond their limits. What changes then could simultaneously address reporting and respect time constraints?
The role of mentors in connecting with new voices and emerging creators was emphasized as being incredibly important. Mentors can open up networks of power as well as advise on approaches and creative works. In the context of funding, however, the following questions were raised:
Could mentors be paid?
Would this increase participation and, for some, enable them to participate as mentors in the first place?
Should mentees be paid?
And who controls that funding, or negotiates rates?
For that matter, are there some projects where participants could be paid?
This is a tough issue, because journalists have a tradition of not paying subjects for stories lest it compromise the honesty of the subjects’ accounts and incentivize fabrication or spectacle. However, under the co-creation mandate people are seen to own their own stories. In this case, the following questions were raised:
If there are some productions, some outputs that generate revenue, or even simply reputational enhancements for the funders or creators, should the participants in the process not benefit in some way, either from the outset (during creation) or at the conclusion (sharing in revenues, awards, or opportunities garnered by an end product)?
Documentarians might not traditionally pay subjects , but they might pay experts (e.g., programmers, developers, designers) and so, are co-creation participants not experts in their own stories and lived-experiences?
And how do we define who gains monetary benefit from the transactional nature of production, and who does not?
This leads to the question of ownership. The principle that people might own their memories may be linked to the thought that they might be compensated for sharing those memories. Compensation, of course, doesn’t have to be only financial, but could comprise benefit to communities, sharing resources, giving credit, sharing honors, etc. Who then holds the responsibility for ensuring benefits or rewards accrue to communities? The questions that arose from this discussion include: Is this a guideline that funders could or would insist upon as a condition of financing, and how does decision making and ownership as a collective differ from individual forms? Conventions differ across communities and societies, and there are no simple answers — projects and time frames can be radically reshaped by discussions of ownership and value, and the nature of a community relationship can raise a lot of strong feelings within communities. Negotiating co-ownership as a path towards a more equitable relationship is itself part of the co-creative process.
One participant described a sort of “prenup for partners” agreement that they use, one that explicitly spells out rights and relationships. Another participant insisted on following the laws and practices of the communities they work within, structuring their relationships so that they are employed by the communities and are acting on that community’s behalf. This makes it clear that the ownership of end products rests with the community itself. It is also worth noting that power itself is not a unified concept; power can be vested in economic, creative, cultural, or political capital, among others. The funders, in this sense, are dependent on the cultural power of the communities, which may be a very different way to conceive of relationship dynamics.
Finally, participants often addressed the question of how to reach audiences. These included:
How does this kind of work find an audience when outputs may not conform to theatrical engagements, and when those most open to the works may not be traditional festival audiences?
How is media production different when seen through the lens of long-term engagements and transformative experiences, with the primary audience being those who actually are going through the process of production?
How can we switch from traditional metrics (audience-reach, awards garnered) to those based on deeper engagement, when those measures are themselves the subject of debate and critique?
Participants raised ideas such as: metrics as creator-defined rather than funder-assigned; support for non-traditional venues and/or common-distribution platforms; and asked the very provocative question: “If no one saw this outside of the participants, does that matter? Are audiences important?”