Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tina starts feeling a little radical...

Archival Image:
The image I chose is from the Casa de Unidad boxes at the Bentley Historical Library. First off, I just want to say that I kind of loved being at the Bentley, and it was the first time I felt like a "real" college student. Something about doing research and handling documents got me feeling all academic. I picked Casa de Unidad because of their affiliation with CLAVE, and therefore relevance to the interview Jasmine and I are doing with Mary Luevanos. I wanted to stay in the realm of arts education in Southwest Detroit because I thought it might be cool to get an idea of what kind of work goes on in the community. There were several images in the box that I looked at, but this one in particular really stuck out to me. 

There was no information given on this photo in the actual archive, but it was surrounded by materials on some of Casa de Unidad’s arts outreach events, so I think it may depict the crowd outside of one of their festivals. What first stuck out to me was the juxtaposition between the vibrant pieces of art visible on the right of the photo and the fact that everyone is bundled up against the chilly Detroit weather. It made me happy to think of people willing to brave the cold as a community in order to celebrate art and culture, and it speaks to the importance of events like these in maintaining a sense of cultural pride and togetherness. I think that must have been what initially drew me to the image. I also immediately noticed how predominantly female the crowd is in this particular picture, and part of what made the image special for me was the fact that it captures a community of women in the arts, either as artists and creators, or as participants and appreciators. It is also refreshing to see so many different age groups represented in the picture. There are children, parents, teenagers, and old people who have all come together to celebrate a common culture, and it’s interesting to think of art’s capacity to make that happen. For me, it speaks to the power that art and expression can have as a tool not only for bringing people together, but for mobilizing them under a common cause or idea, and that helps me see the work of arts outreach workers and educators, especially those who work in or are part of marginalized communities, in a new light. 

One other thing that is only somewhat represented in this image but is important to note is the role of cultural tradition in the art itself. In the tapestry-esque piece near the top of the photo, there is the faint image of the Virgen de Guadalupe, which was one of the first things my eye went to when looking at the picture, despite how faint it is. Just noticing that small detail helped get me thinking not only about art as a tool for bringing people together, but as a way to keep cultural values and traditions alive. Arts outreach groups like Casa de Unidad and CLAVE have the ability not only to foster a sense of community through art, but also to ensure that important cultural values and traditions are represented in the art they help put out there.

Oral History:
I watched the interview with Rose Marie Roybal, and it took 2 viewings and a couple of rewinds each time to really wrap my head around everything that was going on. I think that may just be the nature of oral histories, where tangents develop and inspiration strikes in a way that doesn’t necessarily provide a clean throughline to the interview and makes it hard to follow, but also develops ideas and stories in a way that might not have happened in a more formal setting. However, even with the kind of tangential nature of the interview, I kept having moments where what she was saying clicked in my brain with something I remembered reading or hearing about in class. The biggest thing that stood out for me from the interview was the role of education in upward mobility and social justice. Roybal talked a lot about her experiences with the GI Forum, a group that encouraged young Chicanos to stay in school and fought to make it easier for them to attain higher levels of education. She also recounted her days as a student, and being told time and again to study, get a good education, and work hard in order to have the life she wanted. This attitude in particular intrigued me because of the educational hardships that many Chicanos faced in public schools at the time. 
In the documentary Chicano! they talked a lot about unsatisfactory educational conditions forced on many Latino students and the activism that arose around trying to fix it. However, Roybal didn’t really address this aspect of the educational system when she spoke about her experiences, which made me wonder whether different parts of the country differed in their approaches to education. She talked more about the young Latino men who came to her school and encouraged her to work hard in order to be successful. She said that they, in their suits and with their high-powered jobs, were an inspiration to her, and she went on to work with some of them on educational outreach when she got older. It seemed to me, from watching the interview, that education was a huge tool for disenfranchised youth to gain power, and I had no idea about the amount of stress that was put on educating people within communities in order to challenge the current social structure. From what Roybal said, they seem to have been working within the existing system and, as she put it, not trying to overthrow anything but gain success in an already established society. 
While this seems like a much more effective way to gain ground for young Latinos, from what we have read both on Chicana feminism and on different civil rights movements of the time, subscribing to a system that automatically places you in a second class status is not going to help change the way society sees you. I think that, comparing more radical groups that sought to change the system so that all people had the same opportunities to groups that tried to advance themselves by adhering to the already established system winds up showing how limiting the system can be. In my own personal understanding of civil rights movements, the more successful fights that have actually changed people’s perceptions about marginalized groups as opposed to just easing the legal strain on them, have occurred by taking apart the existing system and examining how it oppresses certain people. This idea of working within the system also reflected itself in Roybal’s recollections of the GI Forum families and the traditional gender roles that played out within the organizations in which she worked. She recalls people having traditional, conservative values and the women being okay with simply being helpers. When compared to some of the more radical movements of the time, like the Brown Berets, it is interesting to note that many of these groups, though they did want to overthrow the system, adhered to the same gendered practices as some of the less extreme groups, which calls into question just how radical you can be if you still subscribe to established social norms like gender hierarchies. 

Just on an unrelated production note, I found the shot to be a little too close in on Roybal, but it did help lend an air of intimacy to my experience of the interview, which is interesting to note when framing a shot. The sound quality did kind of bug me, since there was kind of a buzz in the background the whole time, but otherwise, very simple and direct choices were made in framing and lighting that I thought served the interview pretty well.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Anna's followup to Elizabeth's comments!

Elizabeth and I met up last Friday to work on our initial set up for the trial run Oral History. I was definitely thankful we did so because we had some technical difficulties with the volume, as well as the camera focus. After a bit of fiddling (and memory jogging from the session we attended in class), we finally figured it out. We did our final filming Sunday at Elizabeth's house to simulate the environment that we will most likely have with our interview subject. Although the lighting wasn't 100%, the overall outcome of the video sound and the picture were pretty clean. The one thing we both decided we needed to remember is to make sure to position the microphone at an angle where the least amount of rustling/movement will affect it. 

In regards to the actual oral history, I found that asking the questions themselves were much harder than actually answering them. We came up with a few generic questions after reading over the sheet sent out to the class (i.e. what was your background growing up, why did you choose to come to University of Michigan etc). As an Oral Historian, you want to give the respondent plenty of time to answer. When I found myself wanting to respond to Elizabeth's answers, I wasn't really sure how/what was appropriate. A few times I caught myself mumbling "that's so cool". As noted in Conducting Interviews, "A smile or a nod signals that you got the point and will encourage the interviewee to keep talking. Quiet signals are preferable to verbal interruptions, which sound foolish on the recording and clutter the transcript (106)." Those are things I definitely will need to refrain from doing and make sure I give myself a mental reminder before going into an interview. 

The videoing itself went on without a hitch since this was our second attempt (the first time we met we went over camera functions and as previously mentioned had some struggles); the hardest part of the whole videoing process on the second day was the upload time. It amazed me how long it took to upload just 5 minutes of video to iMovie. We did simple clip editing after the upload. 

Anna's and Elizabeth's Trial Run

Anna and I had a great time learning more about the interview process and experimenting what it feels like. We both think that this trial run helped us learn what things we’ll need to work on or ask for help with before we get to meet Emily Martinez.

Scanning documents was a straightforward process and there were hardly any complications. The scanner was easy to use and Anna’s archives were easily uploaded.

The same can’t be said about recording the interviews. It had to be done in two steps. When we originally met to record the interviews, we thought it would take us an hour to be done. Little did we know that it would take us that hour to get acquainted with the camera. We ended up having to schedule to meet again to actually record.

The day of recording everything went a lot smoother. Setting up the camera was fast and recording went well.  Uploading the videos to our laptops took longer than we expected and we discovered one of the reasons interviewing takes so long: the videos take FOREVER to upload. We both anticipate that uploading Emily Martinez’s video will allow for a lunch break.

Editing our trial run clips was another experience. I had never used any editing software so Anna gave me an iMovie tutorial. I thought I had it down until I wasn’t able to successfully cut down my clip. We will definitely have to have more thorough tutorials to prepare for the future. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Trials and Running of Tina and Jasmine's Trial Run

         On October 14, 2013, Tina and I went to the ISS-media lab for our oral history trial run. I was the interviewee, and Tina was the interviewer and production manager. To prepare, I went through my personal archive and chose three documents that I wanted to scan. What is interesting is that after we conducted the interview, I found that the three original documents did not reflect the topics that were covered during the interview. I went back through my personal archive and chose three different items, including a picture of me harvesting wild rice,
an itinerary from my semester in the People’s Republic of China with the School Year Abroad program, and a school newspaper, which contained an editorial piece I had written. I found that these three items better reflected the topics which we discussed in the interview. This experience as  the interviewee leads me to believe that having access to potential questions prior to the oral history interview helps the interviewee to collect their thoughts and experiences and gives her or him the opportunity to organize her or his personal archive in order of relevance to the topics to be discussed. Going through my personal archive, I found many items that I would want preserved and can understand how difficult it will be to choose archival items to digitize for our interviewee, Mary Luevanos. I also found that there was some information about place names or people’s names that I struggled to remember on the spot. This experience has shown me how important prior research is to help the interviewee remember dates and names and why having the questions prior to the interview would be helpful.
            The trial run has been very instrumental in my understanding of the dedication it takes to engage in such a project. The experience showed Tina and I the amount of time and resources it takes to conduct one short interview and digitize three items from a personal archive.  The week prior to the interview, Tina and I scheduled a time to use one of the collaboration rooms and to reserve a camera, tripod, microphone, and voice recorder. Collecting the items from the media lab was time-consuming as we had to verify to that all of the items we needed were in their respective cases. After checking out the equipment, we found setting up the equipment and testing their functionality to also be time-consuming. We discovered that it is important to factor in how much time it takes to set up and test the equipment into the scheduled interview time so as not to take away from the actual interview. Once the interview started, we realized how quickly the time flies. We initially intended the oral history interview to be five minutes long, but it quickly developed into a twenty minute interview. I can see why follow-up interview appointments might be necessary since all the questions may not be covered in the initial interview. After the interview, we had to wrangle up all the equipment, load the video onto our hard drives, and be sure to be out of the room because we were only scheduled for two hours. I’m glad that we were able to practice uploading the video onto the hard drive because there is definitely a difference between having it explained to you and actually doing it.

            Although the interview required a bit of time, I believed that scanning the documents and uploading them to the digital archive would be quicker. I discovered that I was wrong. The scanning experience showed me why it is important to be prepared lest you run out of time. I had forgotten to bring my computer and without communicating to Tina, I hoped that Tina would bring hers. Unfortunately, we lost valuable time during our scanning appointment because Tina was kind enough to run back to her house for her computer. Uploading the software to Tina’s computer took even more time, and we were only able to scan and upload one of the archival items before I had to leave. As I had many things come up later in the week and into the weekend, I was unable to return to finish the scanning and have to schedule another time to upload the software and scan and archive the other two documents. I think we learned how important it is to be in communication with your team and have extra equipment available so that everything can be completed on time. I believe that the scanning process will be much shorter now that the software will be uploaded to both of our computers. Tina and I have exchanged telephone numbers so that we can be in better communication with each other. The trial run has shown me how the Chicana Por Mi Raza digital archive project is truly a labor of love since it requires so much time and preparation.

My daughter, Shayla, on her first Halloween. She's seven years old now :)

Sarah and Tom's Excellent Adventure (trial run)

Sarah: As a whole our interview this morning went well, though we encountered a few missteps when trying to upload our video file to the mac. We were able to copy it to the desktop, however the file format wasn't recognized and therefore would not play on iMovie or Quicktime. We learned after returning the equipment that we needed to hold down the "option" key when dragging the file to the desktop rather than using copy/paste shortcuts. We will definitely take appropriate steps in the future so that we don't run into this problem again!

Additionally, we noticed that our lighting could have been better and that the subject (Sarah) could have fidgeted less. Because we don't know how comfortable Maria will be in front of the camera we will try to make her feel as relaxed as possible before/during the interview come November. 

Lastly, we forgot to change the file quality before interviewing. In the future we will choose the video format beforehand to ensure the best quality possible.

Tom: Thank goodness we had a trial run. We could use another few, to be honest (I could, anyway. I don’t want to speak on behalf of Sarah).

Drama aside, the truth is that most things went smoothly.  We had no issues with setting up the camera, the framing of the shot, or sound. There were some slight issues with lighting, being that perhaps Sarah’s face could have been lit more evenly, however I don’t think this comes across as entirely distracting upon viewing. Everything was set up pretty quickly, and we were able to focus more on how the interview would be conducted.

Overall, I thought we interviewed well. As one of the readings suggested, we discussed what the themes of the questions were going to be, and in some cases, what questions I had planned. Obviously, we attempted to stay away from those ‘yes/no’ questions, and move toward a more open discussion. Interestingly, I actually found this quite difficult at times, which was unexpected. Upon watching the interview back, I realised that a few of my questions could very much have been a dead end given a more timid interviewee.

Of course, as soon as Sarah began speaking, most of my planned questions almost went out the window and I found myself going along a line that I certainly hadn't expected, but which was somewhat more interesting. I started off asking about Sarah’s future direction in life, and ended up hearing about her drunk grandfather (not as irrelevant as it may sound). Looking back on it, I actually had a quite a bit of fun seeing where the interview would go.

I should also add that I realized I’m not entirely sure of the correct manner to begin or conclude an interview. I’m sure it’s self-explanatory to most, but I wondered if there were any specific things that needed to be said at the beginning of the interview, perhaps for archiving or editing purposes.

As Sarah mentioned, we failed to heed the ctrl+drag advice that we were given (more than once), but we managed to upload and edit nonetheless. I wanted to put the whole thing up so that y’all could tell us what you thought, but blogger didn’t seem to like that. Instead, here’s a short excerpt where Sarah talks about her Grandad’s reaction to her switching from pre-med to an International Relations major. 

I could change the thumbnail, but considering how pensive Sarah looks, I really can't

Trial Run--Abe, Mike, Christian

With our group and camera equipment clustered together in the living room of my apartment, Mike, Christian and I prepared for our trial run. Setting up all of the equipment and preparing the shot was actually relatively easy and stress-free. Christian had taken excellent notes during our class session at the ISS Media Lab, and so there was little confusion. The voice recorder proved the most troublesome though. We set it to record during the interview as a backup--we thought it a good idea to practice for a backup in the event that we actually needed one during a real interview, as there likely won't be any redoes--but we didn't know it wasn't recording until after we had already wrapped up. Christian managed to get it to work, however. Once we managed to balance out our sources of light, we got a good look, not perfect, but good, we began to sort through good questions. No one the group had been particularly interested in being interviewed, so I agreed to do it. It was the trial interview that proved to be more awkward (and amusing) than setting up the camera.

Most of the questions were generic: Where are you from? What do you want to do? Who were your role models? But it was my inability to answer them without laughing, or the interviewer (Mike) laughing that made it entertaining. I'm terrible at answering questions about myself, particularly superficial questions as they don't require much thought, interest, and are seldom engaging. As a group, we began to realize that doing an interview required a bit of skill and perhaps a little time to get both the interviewer and the interviewee comfortable with one another. Also it was trial run. Much of our concern was with getting the camera ready and making sure that everything worked properly. Still, the nuances to conducting an interview became readily apparent to us. I even found myself looking to Christian (our cameraman) for support on answers to questions that only I could answer. I suppose it was because there was another person in the room who wasn't interviewing me. Overall, though, it went rather smoothly.

Mike: We had an entertaining, yet informative experience reacquainting ourselves with the audio and video equipment. The experience yielded little or no problems from a technical standpoint.  We were able to quickly set up the equipment with no speed bumps. The only difficulty we had was mistakenly wiring the microphone to the wrong input - an issue which we quickly resolved through monitoring sound levels on the camera display. We also gained insight into Abe’s personal aspirations, which include becoming a professor as well as having two to four children.

Ari and Grace's mini-Oral!

Ari: I volunteered to be interviewed since I brought a large portion of my archive to school with me. I've been keeping a stack of journals, letters, photographs, and important family items since I was eight or nine years old. That being said, it was a natural choice for Grace to assume the position of the interviewer, and me, the interviewee. 

Because we scanned my archive first, Grace and I decided to try to pick questions from the review sheet that related to some of the items I chose. I incorporated items from my Jewish and Italian cultural heritages, my queer identity,  and notes from a high school diversity conference called Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) which I attended my Junior and Senior years of high school. Since I had a wide range of archive items, it was easy to relate the interview questions to them. From the CPMR question sheet we picked questions revolving discovering sexism, inspirations for my current activism at the University of Michigan, my early childhood, and my experiences in a same-gender school. Of course, these questions were tweaked during the interview process and Grace added her own spins as we went along. She did a wonderful job asking probing questions to obtain more detail as we went along. The questions, though, were open so that I had space to give longer more open answers. We did, in fact, follow some of the advice from the "Conducting Interviews" reading: Grace asked open questions in order to receive freer answers, and I did get to see some of the major question ideas in advance. As the interviewee, I found this helpful because it gave me a chance to reflect a little bit on my experiences before being on camera. 

The set-up and take down had some small glitches but nothing too serious. We decided to interview outside in the courtyard of the League because we wanted to take a chance with natural lighting. You will hear in the background of the video a dull buzzing noise. We though that the microphone wouldn't pick that up. It did. We certainly learned that sound disturbances can be more audible, even with a localized microphone. Since I am the production manager, it worked out that I did much of the physical camera set-up and take-down. During this time, Grace ran back to the media lab to obtain a microphone because we didn't think we would need to specifically request it (we thought the class name was enough). Through a fire drill, wacky cloud movement, and several sound checks (just to be sure!), we still managed to conduct a good amount of interview time. Despite some distracting chirping chipmunks at the end of our second half of the interview, I think it turned out fine!

Grace: Ari did a great job of summarizing our experience creating our mini oral. It was great that she had such a large archive on hand that we could choose from. I think she definitely illustrates the concept of the fluidity and instability of personal memory described in the "Constructing Memory" reading. She knew that she wanted to remember some pivotal moments in her life so she wrote down her experiences and keeps them with her. Archives Power says writing was constructed as a means of stabilizing information over time. It is great that Ari has already embraced writing for this purpose, keeping a personal archive with her as a means of stabilizing information about her own life that she deems important. 

One last comment about the procedure in this mini oral, getting everything onto iMovie takes a REALLY long time...

Here's a clip from our interview where Ari talks about a Diversity Conference she attended:

Here is a portion of Ari's Archive, a written conversation at the SDLC conference:

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tina and the Trial-Run: The Movie

Though I've had experience working with cameras before, that didn't stop me from taking a good five minutes to figure out how to load the battery into the camera this afternoon. The whole trial interview process went pretty smoothly, but it did takes us a while to get back into the swing of things. The room we'd reserved was tiny and dominated by a large table with a huge computer on it, so we did not have a lot of space to work with, but I think we managed to find just the right spot for the interview. Setting everything up was a pretty slow process, not at all helped by the space constraints, but Jasmine and I worked well together to figure everything out, and definitely collaborated on remembering everything we went over last Monday in class. I found it very helpful to work with her because we took the time to really try and figure everything out together so that we knew exactly what we were doing, and it helped ease my nervousness about being "Production Manager" for our team. Once we got going, things seemed to fall into place, and my confidence running the equipment began to build. I tried to make mental notes of everything that needed to get done so I could run things more smoothly during our actual interview with Mary Luevanos, and after today, I feel pretty secure about it. After several weird experiments with the sound recorder and once everything was set up and we'd double checked just to be sure the equipment was working alright (perhaps a minor bout of OCD on my part), we slowly began the interview process.

Jasmine had volunteered to be the interviewee, so I felt some pressure to come up with really good interview questions. I went back over the readings from last week in order to prepare myself, but was still pretty nervous going into the interview itself. I wanted to make sure to ask open-ended but specific questions that did not guide or restrict Jasmine's responses, but found that harder that I thought it would be. I went in not entirely sure that my questions would lead anywhere. Luckily, Jasmine was an amazing interviewee, with plenty of charisma and great stories, so my worries were soon put to bed. It was so easy to get wrapped up into what she was saying that I sometimes forgot to keep an eye on the camera. I experienced some of what we talked about in class, where the questions I'd prepared only served as a guide for me and I instead snowballed off of what Jasmine was saying when I did interject or ask her to expand. It turned out to be a pretty fun experience, and I enjoyed the easy flow of conversation that came about as we both got more comfortable. I will however be glad to not have to do all of the interviewing and camera-operating at the real interview, because it was a lot to keep track of. At one point, I noticed that the level on the camera was off and that the lines on the wall looked crooked, so I found a natural stopping place in the interview and fixed it quickly. Because it happened during the trial run, I feel like it won't happen again because once I make a mistake, it sticks in my mind more than the things I did right so I'm sure not to do it again. 

Once we found a natural stopping point, and after a quick "WHERE DID OUR FOOTAGE GO!?!?!?" moment that proved to be no problem at all, the post-production process was pretty quick and painless. We got everything onto the hard-drive with no problem, and I uploaded the footage into iMovie on my computer, since I've worked with it before and wanted to throw a quick little clip up for this blogpost. The hardest part of the post-prod process was actually choosing which clip I wanted to show, since there were several pretty good stories in there. I picked this one because I think it showcases Jasmine's storytelling energy, and it relates to some of what we've been talking about in class. I also think that most of the production elements come together pretty well in this clip, so I hope you enjoy it!