‘Youth Junction’ – Inspired by the 2011 London Ritos

This term, I have the opportunities to incorporate theories into practice work. Before that, I always had difficulties in combining those two elements together, especially in cases of real events. If I were a journalist, what is a true record of a event and how to stand in the neutral position. In order to gain these experiences, we decided to express the topic we chose in the form of a documentary based on the London riots in 2011.

Before setting up plans for the film, I had lectures to learn about social media with Simon. For example, considering our theme in a comprehensive way. Methods like: the target audiences is identified by understanding some relevant online communities and their concerns. Then,  trying to explore and localization of the film production. For a documentary, that is a great help! Based on those research methods, I and other group members were well aware that we cannot expect to control all the key points affected by riots within 7min’s film. Due to time, labor and factor constraints, we have to pay great attention on analysis, planning, specific pertinency and actual effect. We started with raked the online community for information, such as ‘Google’, ‘Youtube’, ‘The guardian’. From these website, we dug up some useful inspirations. For instance, the video about a Malaysian student is “helped” up and then robbed has emerged on the Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Gex_ya4-Oo). From this video, it is easy to find that those bogus good samaritans is a group of youngsters. What is the cause to push these youngsters to attack a people of their own age. Meanwhile, I saw some information in the guardians ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/aug/16/london-riots-young-people-voice-anger.) In this report, some young people speak out about the reasons behind the ritos, they are quite unhappy with the injustice of unequal opportunity on the young people. These phenomenon may due to factors like connections with the rich and powerful. It is unavoidable to think about some youths’ aggressive behavior.  Did they mean to do it, or just took the opportunity to expressing complaints. After we finished the theme research, we decided to filming a documentary named ‘Youth Junction’.

Technically, Lab supplied some very valuable skills. Although I have some experiences of making a short film before, but Lab’s instruction still let me taken in many new ideas. While our documentary had neither specific script nor storyboard to be considered, I still think it is necessary to visualize some image in my mind. Meanwhile, I used two camera in filming days, one is a small but high definition camera from university, I used it when we taking exterior shots. Another one is Sony EX- 1, I thought about the EX- 1 is good for filming people to be interviewed in the room. But I was not sure if there any different image quality between them, because they are two kinds of camera. With this problem in hand, I found some documentaries on-line, I realized the documentary allows variances based on factual events.

After a few more research, we are going to get in touch with those people who appeared in Youtube video. Based on the personal information they have provided in their video portfolio, we quickly found out the contact method with them. The first person we have attempted to contact is the Malaysia student who attacked and robbed from a group of youngster, but still no reply. The second person is an A- level student named Ephraim, he has written a poem on London riots and lost generation. That is just the thing for us!! When we contacted him, he hesitated not a moment in complying with our request.  Another person who appeared in film is a MSc Psychology student in UCL. The reason is we want some professional theories of Psychology.

During the shooting of a scene, the footage from street is more randomly than I thought. We went to several places, like Brixton, Tottenham, South kensington, Campden grove and Peterborough. As a cameraman, firstly, I need to listen to each of the other members’ idea. After communicate with them, I was almost sure we don’t want too judgmental elements in film, like directed against those particular group or their behavior, so I tried to strike a balance between the opulent area and the epicenter of the riots.

As soon as the filming was finished, we enter on post-production works. It is to be noted here that we got a big problem when we editing film, in order to have a clearly sound quality, we used a directional microphone to record sound, I admit I lack of experience to record a perfect sound quality. The end result is that volume level is too low!!! When we do the film editing, we suffered in no small affliction on this account, especially when we attempt to pick out some useful sentence from footage. Fortunately I have a friend is really good at sound mastering, with the help of him, we finally solved the problem. Meanwhile, I also gained valuable experiences in sound record and design.

As we have good teamwork spirits, the course of film editing was smooth. We expended two days and one all night sat together to do the work. Sometimes, in order to speed up the process, I also edited the film by myself. After that, I will show changed places for them.

Through the experiences, I began to learn how to put theories into practice. In the pre-production process, we have to spend time to do lots of research works both in theoretical part and technical part. Now, our film is done, it is nice to just sit down and enjoy it!


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Intrinsic motivation and media ethics

Making this six-minute documentary was a challenge I did not expected as we weren’t 100 percent sure what message this film is going to send to people until we finished editing. There were so many intangible elements such as the content of the interviews, what footages we are going to get and so on which made me feel like I have no control over but to participate and be a part of it.

The process of making a documentary was definitely enjoyable for us but also painful to edit. To actually go to all these places to shoot, we all gained more understandings of the riots as we discovered the huge gap between ‘what London is like’ and ‘what we think London is like’. The comparison that we drew between Tottenham and South Kensington basically speak out social exclusion themselves. The disadvantage, on the other hand, was that we have so many footages and it was a lot of work to go through them and choose which to use for the film. We tried our best not to complex the content because it is difficult for me when I hear some points very interesting but considering the message of the film as a whole, we have to cut it out.This intuition of information sharing I experienced while making the film is similar to the examples Benkler mentioned in the article “The Economics of Social Production”(Yochai Benkler, 2006) for which Edward Deci defined it “the intrinsic motivation.” With our generation so greatly benefitted from other people’s work out of their pure personal satisfaction and without seeking rewards, I believe social production can really create another meaning for economics which is no longer measured by money.

The other important fact I discovered through the editing was I realised how easy it is to manipulate a message, especially when our film is a documentary and everyone would suppose it’s real. From my past experiences of seeing documentary films, the one thing I noticed is that because some documentaries are made out of a group of people’s belief, they can be quite biased and single-sided. I actually have a friend who became a vegetarian only because of one documentary she had seen. Look how powerful documentaries can be! So, after reading the chapter “Ethics in a Transparent World”  by David Phillips and Philip Young, I really started thinking how to stand neutral when you are producing information. Taking our filmmaking process for example, frankly we hesitated a little whether to cut the sentence of Ephraim saying “I am going to university next year” out, and just make him a typical example–an A-level student who can’t afford to go to university because of the raise in the tuition fees. But we decided to be honest.

In the past two decades, the development in video technologies massively changed the way films are shot especially in terms of breaking the pre-existed barrier in film production fundings and accessibility of technical devices. While more and more people have the social media platforms to speak up, to be known about, to get closer to their dreams, it also made it almost impossible to regulate all these information flows. While one has to be aware of the purpose of producing a piece of information, in another word, to look at the information from a broader perspective instead of passively absorbing it.  I believe making justifications yourself through getting resources from different platforms are also very important things to do.

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Value of content

This article or rather blog post we talked about in class at the beginning of this term, http://buzzmachine.com/2005/08/23/who-wants-to-own-content/Who wants to own content? made me think about the transience of content of a text and its value. Especially, some of the responding comments reveal divided opinions if what the writer posts is actually content or not. This content about content exemplifies the dimension how easy “content” can be produced in social media and in the internet in general. An other blogger talks about content and conversation http://socialmediatoday.com/wordspring/152636/why-conversation-not-content-king and that it is the conversation between humans what is “king”.

Considering one poem our interviewee for the documentary published on youtube and through which we become attentive to him as an individual, I experienced that the value of a content  grows through conversation, particulary in the virtual world. Because the young guy wrote two poems about the London riots. The first one he created at the very beginning of the riots with badly informed background information, as he told us. He received comments on that which included criticism as well as plaudit. The first time in his life by the way that he was confronted with racist abuses. After participating through news and talking to people what was actually going on in the streets, he wrote a second poem and published it as well on youtube. The feedback comments on this were completely different than on the first one. They mirrored back the depths this new peom provides. It seems that as soon something new appears the former produced content loses its importance or rather has to share attention of audience with even one more peace of text.

The transience of content especially in the internet has its downsides but as well it offers multiple chances to produce and publish a text and express yourself. It seems a virtually typed word has the same value as a printed word. With the difference that the participation of others rates the value of virtually typed content in a completely different way as printed content which is read.


by | June 16, 2012 · 9:51 am


Before thinking of a script and filming we had classes about social media, divided in social media in theory and social media in practice. Not knowing at this point how important social media are going to be to film our documentary.

First of all we did some research about the London riots and what is published where about it.  While thinking about the reasons what made people releasing such a destructive motivation in the streets during the riots we came across the terms social exclusion and the unbalance in society. We googled to find blogs or institutions who deal with similar topics to sort out who our audience could be. To keep an overview we listed all relevant webpages we found and some characteristic aspects, like what minded they were and who talked to what target group. I think this was important to me to approach this subject by systematically listing and by sighting different sources, firstly to shape my own opinion about it and secondly to clarify out of what angle we want to approach the topic for our documentary.

We wanted to interview someone who is involved in what happened. That doesn’t mean necessarily to find a participant but someone who is affected emotionally.

The fact, we found one of our interviewees through youtube, underlines the dominance of  internet based working and the completely different approach to a subject compared to the times of my early high school years. It was an awkward moment to shake someones hand in real we only knew virtually before –  in a completely unknown place we all have never been before.  The transparence of the internet makes it possible to enter peoples most private environment, their home. Without even questioning it, that today you can just meet anyone anywhere in an intimate manner, sth. I am used to do only with people who are part of my life somehow. This was interesting to experience what we learned in theory in class and to see the influence of social media already in the making process of our film.

Another interesting thing was to experience that A-level student who is not much younger than us, but expresses himself much more through social media, than I do, for example. Except of the poem he wrote about the riots  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnPb_P1gJUk he has his own channel on youtube where he publishes own poems and songs he wrote.

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Making our short film

After staying up all night editing yesterday (or should I say rendering…), we finally have the provisional version of our documentary!

Initially, the topic we chose for the short film was about social exclusion. As an oversea student for seven years myself, it was really difficult to explain my feelings when I watched the video of that Malaysian student being mugged and beaten by two groups of rioters consecutively. Nowadays everyone is trying to deny the fact that there still are social classes, minorities and other marginalized groups in this seemingly modern world, but indeed they are everywhere. And as both of our interviewees said, they have always been suffering unheard. Therefore, we wanted to dig deeper into the causes of social exclusion and how it affected the riots in general.

To put this short documentary film in shape, all of us made a lot of effort. We went from places that were most suffered in the riots such as Brixton and Tottenham, to posh areas such as High Street Kensington and Chelsea where we experienced a completely different atmosphere. It was also a long yet memorable experience for us to shoot the interviews for the two interviewees we found. We interviewed my friend Jess, who is a postgraduate psychology student at UCL, as we wish to give a psychological explanation on the forming of social exclusion. Through the interview, we addressed a major issue we wanted to be more focused on which is the recent changes to UK’s education system due to government austerity. The fact that the government raised the tuition fees of the home students was a huge move last year. At UCL, students protested and painted “Education is not a commodity” everywhere visible in the university. Thinking about the barriers it built up for many A-level students across the country while the chances of losing their future prospects becomes bigger, it is then easy to see where the anger comes from. Also, technician wise, we found the camera we used had some problems with syncing its sound speed with images. For that we received a great amount of help from Tivona’s friends with a professional camera and independent sound recording process.

As the first guy Ingrid found who wanted to join the riot cancelled our interview, we had to find an alternative route. Luckily Ingrid found Ephraim through YouTube, an A-level student who wrote poems about the London riots. To interview him we had to take a train to go to Peterborough. The journey was particularly interesting when the taxi driver told us the address does not exist…We then thought Ephraim, who by then was still a virtual figure exists only on the internet, might have intentionally given us a wrong address and instead Johanna suggested we should make a documentary of the journey to find a guy on YouTube . Turns out the taxi driver was wrong and we found him! Although he was really shy, he talked about many interesting points from a fresh angle. The fact that he is going to university next year and his age was similar to the majority of the rioters made his perspective especially valuable.

At the end of the interview Ephraim played guitar and sang a Bob Dylan song for us, which we all found really sweet. It is interesting how social media technology can sometimes be so evil that all people accuses it as the accelerator of the riots, but in our case, so amazing as it brings someone you would never have met in life reachable to you.

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