- Eyewitness: Designing a Platform that Embody the Contextual Specificity of Citizen Media Visual Content that has Historical Significance––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
1. PrefaceCitizen media (CM) is defined as “citizen-run, non-profit, independent media projects that may have greater democratic potential” (Mihal, 2003). It is an influential medium that provides communities with the opportunity to create counter narratives of events and empowers marginalized witnesses by giving them means to communicate what they have witnessed (Al-Ani, Mark, Chung, & Jones, 2012).
The role citizen media visual content (CMVC) plays can be examined in light of the Arab Spring. CMVC (videos and photos) generated in the Arab countries that have witnessed the awakening (that started at the end of 2010 and continues until the present) are aesthetically and functionally rich and unique (Elshahed, 2011). The important role the content played (and still plays) derives from an increasing respect for the model of participatory media versus a decreasing one for the traditional authoritarian model (Harkaway, 2012).
2. Design ProblemBut the de-contextualization and massive amount (Comninos, 2011) of CMVC among other characteristics, stand in the way of its dissemination, aggregation, and consequently exploration (Harkin, Anderson, Morgan, & Smith, 2012). The obstacles this media faces directly and strongly affect the perception and understanding of its content or in other words the “sense making” of this material.
Executing scenario based methods in studio and reviewing several proceedings from the International conference of Computer Human Interaction CHI (Giaccardi, Churchill, & Liu, 2012; Churchill & Ubois, 2008; House & Churchill, 2008) show that the de-contextualization of citizen generated media content (texts, photos, and videos) is one of the important factors responsible for threatening the content; it stands in the way of its aggregation and exploration. Consequently the content is categorized as data rather than information.
The de-contextualization of citizen generated content ruptures the event from:
a. Time and space, where the occurrence unfolded
b. Other citizen media content, captured in similar time and space of the occurrence
c. Situational circumstances of the witness, meaning his/her emotive conditions
Video Model of
- 3. Design ObjectiveThe design objective is to create a platform that embodies the contextual specificity of citizen media visual content (CMVC) that has political and historical significance. This embodiment will be achieved by reconstructing the relation between citizen media content and three notions: the temporal, spatial, and circumstantial dimension of an occurrence, as examined from one or multiple witnesses’ perspective.4. Proof of Concept Video Model: "Eyewitness"In my latest proof of concept video model, I aimed at reconstrucitng the temporal, spatial, and circumstantial dimension of a politically charged event that took place in Cairo, on December 17, 2011.
4.0. A Note about the Day Represented in the Model:
December 17, 2011. Tahrir SquareThe citizen media content was aggregated from Cairo’s Tahrir Square, on December 17, 2011. At the time, Egypt was under the rule of Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), that had been leading the country since Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February 2011.
Security forces clashed with protesters in Tahrir Square to clear the area. The official speaker of the SCAF later announced: “clashes had broken out when a security officer was attacked and protesters had attempted to break into the parliamentary compound. It said its forces had shown self-re- straint, denying the use of gunfire.” The security attacks resulted in the death of 10 martyrs and around 300 injured (Neild, 2011).In an attempt to put the viewer in the shoes of the witness, I modeled “Eyewitness”. It displays citizen media visual content in respect to the spatial, temporal, and circumstantial specificities of the occurrence and the witness.
4.1. How "Eyewitness" Envision the Reconstruction of Time and SpaceThe space of the event is constructed by stitching together hundreds of still frames that were exported from a video captured by a citizen. The stitching process results in an expanded synthetic view of the space where the event took place. Then time-based content (video) unfolds in the expanded space, following the same motion as the witness's camera.
4.2. How "Eyewitness" Envision the Reconstruction of Situational CircumstancesCurrent representation tools and displays that were designed to conform to traditional media needs and content (state owned and corporate owned media) do not conform with the special characteristics of citizen generated visual content, namely its context, aesthetics, and functions.
By contrast, the intensity, raw quality, shakiness, relative continuity of CMVC are all aspects that typify citizen media and set it apart from corporate media. But these aspects can't be mediated using the traditional representation paradigms. In order to mediate these characteristics "Eyewitness" recreates the path followed by the witness's camera: an approach that allows the viewer to existentially experience the citizen generated video content.
5. Technical InformationThe video models were created using the Adobe suite.