Remixing Human Rights: Rethinking Civic Expression, Safety, Privacy and Consent in Online and Mobile Video

The Twentieth Anniversary of the Videorecording of the Rodney King Beating

Sam Gregory and Elizabeth Losh

Opening clips from WITNESS

How do we move people from being consumers to being creators and re-creators of media?

What are the ethical dilemmas of working with media created by others in moments of crises?

What new media literacies are particularly relevant to human rights content -- to making it, to making sense of it, to participating and engaging with others’ content?

The Human Rights Perspective:

Examples of creators as firsthand witnesses, distant witnesses, purposeful and professional witnesses, perpetrators, casual bystanders, remixers, etc.

The work of WITNESS: consent/privacy/dignity + intentionality + authenticity + effective storytelling

The Public Rhetoric Perspective:

Tests of truth in mediated publics: testimony vs. evidence

Modes of representation:

graphic violence vs. abstraction

continuous footage in context vs. rapidly cut mash-up/montage

The Pedagogical Perspective:

New genres and transnational memes

"They Don't Care about Us"

Iran version

Egypt version

Online Examples

Often confusing Tunisian violence - YouTube clips reached by searching the keyword "Kasserine" (street chaos, hospital scene, wounded man)

Egypt protest footage - for example the shooting of the protestor (and context)

The Shaheed channel (and witness accounts highlighted on a UK site)

The vlog of Asmaa Mahfouz

Remixing Egypt: VJ Um Amel vs. Mark Marino's Remix

Neda remixes: spoilers and rockers

Remixing news audio: RIP Oscar Grant

Case Studies for Higher Education

Righteous Remix, Rachel Shapiro, Syracuse University

The Spanish Civil War Archive, Luis Miguel Cabrera, UC San Diego

Voices of Rwanda

USC Shoah foundation

Student-centered approaches

STAND student network

The Role of Artists and Activists

Rebellious Pixels

: taking people from consumers to activists

Group one: Higher Education

Group two: K-12

Group three: Grassroots organizing


Questions for groups:


How does human rights material translate to learning?

How are the activities of curation and storytelling transferable?

What can we learn by handling human rights content?


How do we handle questions of privacy/consent? What can we translate from human rights?

When do our images become public property?

Many examples of video clips that could be used here; two reference points - the Iranian crowdsourcing of protestors from citizen video clips and Malaysian squatgate


How do we understand anonymity in relation to human rights the age of Facebook? How do we understand questions of ethos?

From the WITNESS blog


How do we think about digital participation as mode of activism and where the opportunities for it lie in relation to human rights footage?

Looking at ‘It Gets Better’ (see Sam Gregory's comments) and then look at other similar examples, e.g. this example of advocacy from Morocco that has some similarities


How do we develop digital literacy to understand videos or to authenticate? Who helps us do this?

What is going on in this video? (Watch with subtitles and without, and even then need surrounding context to shocking images).

Also see the Iran example below for the role of curation in authentication


How do we handle questions of intentionality, remix and re-use?

This example of police brutality remix decontextualizes a series of images (some of military violence, some of police) and includes some very specific events (e.g. at 1:50 this is a very specific incident of police brutality in Egypt that was one of the catalyzing examples of footage that contributed to the growth of a movement against police brutality that was part of recent #jan25 events)

As compared to Egypt remix examples, for example the use of citizen video in this Omar Offendum rap video or this this music video from hadi15, which also incorporates spoken testimonies

Or as compared to the annotation by a curator on this remix music video from Iran (at 3:47) to indicate inappropriately used footage that is not from Iran

Moving Toward Principles of Responsibility for the Classroom

“There is now occurring a change in relationships between the one-on-one negotiation of consent, rights and usage between a documentarian and a subject, a largely binary relationship or series of relationships, an ethics of an image grounded in a particular relationship to a focus on an ethics of networks, of material circulating, re-combining and being re-used in multiple relationships between people often far distant from the source originators (the filmer, the filmed).

Some provisional principles might include:

  1. An image uploaded, bluetoothed or shared is an image that can circulate and move and be reshaped, and all ethical assumptions should be based on this.
  2. Consent – emerging from established human rights practices and traditions of documentary ethics, and social science, and grounded in a recognition of real dangers on the ground – is central, but needs to be re-grounded in new communities of practice such as exist in spaces like YouTube
  3. Respect for human dignity, emerging from established human rights practices and traditions of documentary ethics and grounded in a culture of empathy, is central.
  4. Preservation of agency is a balancing act between the storyteller and the remixer/re-user, reliant on internalized and externalized context
  5. Aggregation offers us an alternative to singular emblematic stories or paradigmatic stories that fits preconceived ideas, yet require new frameworks of aggregative ethics and questions about how to generate ‘responsibility to act’
  6. Ethical engagements will be conditioned by the technological operators of online services, the creators of software and hardware  – and their engagement is critical to this project”

For more go to this link.