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7/19/13

Guidelines for the Evaluation of Ethnographic Visual Media

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GuidelinesfortheEvaluationofEthnographicVisualMedia
AAASTATEMENT Producedbythe SOCIETYFORVISUALANTHROPOLOGY November28,2001 Ethnographicvisualmedia(speciallyfilm,video,photographyanddigitalmultimedia)playasignificantroleintheproductionand applicationofanthropologicalknowledgeandformanintegralpartofthedisciplinescourseofferings.Anthropologistsinvolvedintheproduction ofvisualworksmakevaluablescholarlycontributionstothediscipline.Inaddition,anthropologistsincreasinglyincludevisualmediaproductions aspartoftheircurriculavitae.DepartmentalanduniversityCommitteesforHiring,PromotingandTenurearethuschargedwithjudgingthe scholarlyqualityofthesenonprintworks.Yetnotallanthropologistsbringappropriateexperienceortrainingtotheirevaluationofvisualmedia andnostandardguidelineexists. Committeestaskedwithappraisingthesignificanceofvisualmediaasacademiccontributionstothedisciplinetoteaching,scholarly research,andappliedanthropologycanbenefitfromevaluativecriteria.Accordingly,theAmericanAnthropologicalAssociation,underthe advisementoftheSocietyforVisualAnthropology,offerstheseguidelinesfortheevaluationofethnographicvisualmedia. First,theAAAurgescommitteestoevaluateethnographicvisualsasappropriatemediafortheproductionanddisseminationof anthropologicalknowledge.Filmandvideo,photography,anddigitalmultimediaplayincreasingrolesinresearchtheyarecrucialasteaching toolsinthedisciplinescourseofferingsandtheyareoftenusedinappliedcontexts.Visualrepresentationsofferviewersameanstoexperience andunderstandethnographiccomplexityrichnessanddepth,whicharethedistinguishingfeaturesofanthropologicalknowledge.Visualmediacan conveyformsofknowledgethatwritingcannot.Further,thecontentofethnographicvisualmediaisnecessarilybasedonresearch:its effectivenessishonedbyfamiliarresearchtechniquesincludinglongtermethnographicengagements,interviewsandparticipantobservation. Whileethnographicmediaprovideaccesstovisualandacousticworldsofpracticeandbelief,theyalsomakeavailableopportunitiesto contemplateandexperiencetherelationshipbetweentheoryandobservationsfromthefield.Theimpactoftheorymaybelessovertinsome visualmediathanitisinprint,butworkssuchasethnographicfilmsareinformedbyandprovideopportunitiesfortheoreticalanalysis, interpretationandunderstanding.Thatsaid,thetheorizationofsocialrelationsandculturalmeaningsissometimesprovidedexplicitlyinavoice overbyanarratorandoftenbyfilmsubjectsthemselves.Inanycase,theorizationalwaysinformstheproductionprocessandframesthemaking ofallethnographicmedia.Shotselectionandcomposition,visualmontage,image/soundjuxtapositionandnarrativesequencingallaredesigned topresenttheauthorsintellectualinterpretationandanalysis.Visualmediathereforelinktextualargumentandimage.Theyintrinsicallyalign theoryanddocumentationinthetraditionofprintscholarship. Second,theAAAurgescommitteestoevaluatethetechnicalandscholarlyworkentailedinproducingethnographicmedia.Thegoals, methodology,fieldresearch,designandeffectivenessofvisualworksmaybejudgedbycriteriafamiliartoanthropologists.Aswithgoodwriting, visualworkstypicallyrequiregreateffort,involvingsubstantialamountsofintellectualinvestmentandtime.Theyareoftenbasedonfieldworkof thesamedurationandsophisticationthatarerequiredofprintbasedethnographies. Asinprintmedia,soinfilm,video,photographyandmultimedia,muchofthegroundworkisomittedfromthefinalpublication. CommitteesforHiring,PromotionandTenureshouldbeawarethatfarmorefootageisshotthanisusedandthatallfootageusedandunused mustlaboriouslybeinterpretedandevaluated.Evenshortvisualworksrepresentanenormousamountoflabor.Forexample,independentof preparatoryfieldwork,thecreationofafilmeasilyconsumesfortyhoursforeveryminuteoffinalscreentime.Becauseofthenecessityof acquiringfunding,insomecasesvisualworksrequirethreetofiveyearstoproduce.Mostvisualworksarecollaborativeenterprisesandoften involveacomplexdivisionoflabor. TheSocietyforVisualAnthropologyrecommendsthatacademicevaluatorsseekingtodeterminethescholarlysignificanceofvisual worksconsiderwhethertherelevantproductsshouldbecategorizedas:1)researchfootageanddocumentationthataddstothehistoricaland/or ethnographicrecord,orisusedforfurtheranalysis(suchaslinguistics,danceandart)2)ethnographicmediathatcontributestotheoretical debateanddevelopment3)innovationinnewmediaforms4)mediadesignedtoenhanceteaching5)mediaproducedfortelevisionbroadcast andotherformsofmasscommunication6)appliedmediamadewithand/orforthebenefitofaparticularcommunity,governmentorbusiness. Also,werecommendthatcommitteesinvitetheassistanceofvisualmediaspecialistsfortheirevaluations.Anthropologistswhoarenot expertsinvisualmediamayfailtorecognizecomponentsofproductionandeditingthatassistingmediaspecialistwouldimmediatelyappreciate. Candidatesshouldbeaskedtoprovidedocumentationoftheextentandscholarlysignificanceoftheircontributionstovisualmediaworks, detailingtheirspecificroles(s)asproducer,director,photographer,editor,productionassistant,academicadvisororwriter.Committeesshould beawarethatthedistributionofvisualworksandtheirinclusioninmediafestivalsareacceptedvenuesofpublicationsforethnographicfilmsand videos.Lettersfromfilmdistributorsandstatementsfromfilmfestivaljuriesmayassisttheevaluationofthescholarlycontributionofthese works.Reviewsinscholarlypublicationspresentadditionalevidenceofaprojectssignificance.Wealsorecommendthatcandidatespresent externallettersofsupportaddressingthewiderscholarlysignificanceoftheirvisualmediawork.Committeesshouldconsiderthesedocumentsas wellasthecandidatesprojectproposalsandmonographswhichgivestrongindicationsofthescholarship,conceptualargumentand anthropologicalcontributionofvisualworks.

TheSocietyforVisualAnthropologyisdedicatedtopromotingthestatusofethnographicvisualmediainanthropology.IthasbeenjudgedbytheGoverningBoard oftheAmericanAnthropologicalAssociationtobebestsuitedtoprovideguidelinesfortheevaluationoffilmandrelatedaudiovisualmediaintheconsiderationof hiring,promotionandtenure.

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