One hundred and ten pieces of artwork created by students of Lee High School lined the walls and entrances of Chelsea’s Cafe for the last Science Cafe event of the semester. Each picture was representative of a screenshot from an ethnographic film that played at the Ethnografilm Festival in Paris.
Wes Shrum, a University professor of sociology and the executive director of the festival, said the festival ran for four days and screened its last movie on April 20. The festival included documentary-style movies from around the world about human races, culture and other issues. The main reason for the festival, Shrum said, was to promote academic filmmaking.
The Lee High School student’s artwork was on sale at the Science Cafe for $20 each, with the hope of raising enough money to take students to Paris next year, Shrum said.
The Journal of Video Ethnography is the world’s first video-based academic journal, Shrum said, and was something he and Journal of Video Ethnography Editor-in-Chief Greg Scott worked on together. The journal’s purpose, according to its website, is to advance the social scientific use of video and film as a method for exploring human society.
Shrum, who is chair of the department of sociology, directed a film called “Brother Time” about the tribal conflict in Kenya after a presidential election. Shrum has also worked with University students to document the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for the Louisiana State Museum.
Shrum said the idea of filming first came to him when he was working in Africa in the 1990s.
The Journal of Video Ethnography publishes twice a year and is available for free to anyone who subscribes. All movies are peer-reviewed by other experts in the field. Shrum said to remember the journal is an academic journal at its core, and it happens to be made up of movies.
Shrum said academics, or researchers, collect data in many different ways, but the best way to collect it is with an audio-recording video camera. He said the research they do using a camera won’t just be numbers or quotes on a page lying flat to be read, but a living, breathing thing.
The thing people need to recognize, Shrum said, is how easy using cameras has become and the flexibility it gives a researcher when they are interviewing people. For example, if someone does not want to be filmed, they could only have audio recorded or only be interviewed.
“My position has never been that anyone should stop writing and publishing research articles,” Shrum said, “but people like and want to watch movies, whereas they might be less likely to read.”