Student Reflection – Congo Coltan War PSA (2.2)

By Keely Peden

It is easy to get caught up in the hype of electronics. With constant, sometimes invasive, advertising and daily technological advancements, our society tends to see electronics as a necessity rather than a luxury. I’ve had some unique experiences that I feel have contributed to my somewhat strong resistance to the technological frenzy, which ultimately inspired the creation of this Coltan public service announcement.

For starters, I had to wait until I was 16 to receive my first cell phone and texting wasn’t even considered until college. This was totally unfair in my teenage mind, especially when most of my friends got their first cell phone for their tenth birthday. My phone was sort of a package deal with the 1986 SAAB 900 (non-turbo) that I was inheriting. It had been in the family 20 years at the time, and had made an actual, “round-trip to the moon” according to my dad’s mileage estimate. I applaud my parent’s resistance to social pressures as well as my incessant whines and pleas. They made it very clear that the only reason I was given a cell phone was in case of emergency (i.e. a car failure), not because everyone had them.

This past summer I had the life changing experience as an employee at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. This high adventure Boy Scout camp sits on the southern tip of the stunning Rocky Mountains, and hosts over 20,000 campers per summer who trek an average of 80 miles per 10-day expedition. Philmont is all about providing a completely primitive experience. It was rare to receive a cell phone signal within the enormous camp, and mp3 players and other electronic luxuries were simply inconvenient on the trail. Every ounce that you can possibly sacrifice could be the difference between life and death while backpacking, so understanding necessity was a crucial survival skill that I quickly grew to understand over the summer.

When I returned to Austin for the fall semester at the University of Texas, I’ll admit I was pretty pessimistic towards the city life. I was accustomed to leave-no-trace camping and building a fire to heat my shower water… not people who panic at the thought of abandoning their cell phones and idiots whose mp3 players were too loud that they risked their lives walking to class. I couldn’t fathom how people could get so caught up in something other than the beautiful Texas sunshine; it seemed like everyone was lost in the technological realm.

Now that you have a better idea of my mindset while creating this piece, let me explain why I did what I did. I’ll admit I was a huge Apple bully with the making of this video and to those die-hard fans, I apologize if I may have hurt your brand-loyal feelings. I chose to target Apple because it is one of the most innovative, successful, and popular brands in the world. I have close friends who buy Apple products primarily due to the logo. So, I decided to poke a little fun at them. By sticking to one brand, it was also easier for me to retain consistency throughout the PSA. The video begins with background music commonly heard on Apple commercials, then clips of everyone excitedly to receiving an Apple product are shown, and at the end I close with the daunting question, “Is your iPod worth it?” (sidenote: I originally wanted to close with, “Death in Congo: There’s an App for That.” Or something to that extent, but I wasn’t sure if that was pushing it too far.)

Of course, karma got me in the end with this one. My beloved Dell ended up failing me at the end of the semester and I lost this project along with a few extremely important others. Thank goodness part of my project required an upload to YouTube! If I was able to revise this project, however, I would expand my brand dissing by including products other than those made by Apple in order to reach a greater audience. I feel this would open more eyes to the issue and create a more universal call-to-action. Coltan is used in basically everything electronic after all– it’s not just an Apple conspiracy.

The creation process was a strenuous one. I had never used any type of video editing programs in the past, so I spent days learning the basic functions of Windows Movie Maker. I actually opted to download and use the older version of this editing program, Windows Movie Maker 2.6, as opposed to the updated version that came with my laptop (Windows Live Movie Maker, 2010 edition). I found the newer version was actually too easy to use. I could see this program being useful for making a quick animated slideshow of vacation photos to impress your grandchildren, but if you’re under the age of 70, I’d be willing to bet that it would bore you to death. Windows Movie Maker 2.6 gave me more freedom in the creation process, which was immensely helpful when trying to create an effective, attention grabbing PSA.