Walden School Visits VFC for a Lecture on Ethnographic Approaches to Media

Posted by Myles David Jewell

Most of the time I am teaching for the VFC, I am on the ground in a school classroom.  However, this past October (2016), we had a visit from the Walden School to the VFC in Middlebury, focusing on Ethnographic approaches to media.  The hour was spent trying to spark discussions around a few key ideas we find very powerful in the lexicon around Ethnography; if all media is produced, which in turn means that representing reality is an impossible notion, how can we do a better job at this impossible task?  Our point in creating this contradiction around media production is to emphasize the general idea around ethnography, which is to try and best represent the story from the point of view to who that story belongs.  Contextualization and collaboration are probably two of the biggest attributes we try and stress, so during the course of the discussion with the students, I  screened clips from Nanook of the North to some of Jean Rouch's work, emphasizing different formal approaches to representing reality or media making.  To my mind, being able to show visual examples really helps ground these concepts for teenagers.  From the VFC's point of view, we feel that this general introduction can carry over into many areas of studies, but ideally, we hope that a basic understanding to the methodology can help spur on the process of discovery amongst young scholars.