Instructor Reflection – The One: Contagious Kindness (1.2)

by Bill Wolff

In many ways this project is informed by my traditional approach to teaching with communication technologies: hands-on and play from the beginning. As such, the project essentially begins the first day of class when students are given their Flip video cameras for the semester. But it’s not all play, of course. The project has several pragmatic and pedagogical goals, including: to become familiar with the Flip video camera; to experience the act of interviewing; to start using some basic oral history techniques in anticipation of a larger oral history video project; to learn basic video editing using iMovie or Windows Movie Maker; to introduce students to Creative Commons licensing; to think about how to compose a narrative; and to consider how various modes of communication affect meaning in a video. This is quite a bit for one project and as a result we spend the seven weeks the project lasts talking about the nuances of video, audio, alphabetic text, and the ethics and affects of their use. Because it is the first project students complete it also sets the tone for the entire class—a tone that (I hope) embodies creativity, experimentation, and gradual technological savvy.

When I watch “The One: Contagious Kindness” I see creativity, experimentation, and a newfound sense of technological savvy. Chris took a fairly generic (albeit somewhat long-winded) assignment—ask 25-30 people one question—and turned it into a kind of lament for a time when the idea of doing something kind for someone did not come as a surprise. Did not strike people as a difficult question to answer. It is idealistic and idyllic in its vision, in the diversity of people portrayed, in the look on their faces, and in the promise that all parents have for that bean-turned-plum-turned-melon-turned-child.

The subtext, however, is Philadelphia, the so-called City of Brotherly Love, that has seen drastic increases in murder and corruption over the last several years. We cannot escape this fact. The interviewees ground the viewer in the reality of city-space by mentioning and/or alluding to race, religion, homelessness, hunger, isolation, and war.

Ultimately, what makes the video so successful, I think, is the balance it finds between the pragmatics of reality and the idealized vision. We root for the people because we root for that kind of kindness in ourselves.