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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