On Friday 4 October 2013, as part of its ongoing series of videoconferences between students in Chennai and elsewhere around the world, the World Storytelling Institute co-facilitated an Ethnographic Videoconference between 11th Standard / Grade students in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India; and in Burlington, Wisconsin, USA.
The recording of this 90-minute videoconference is at http://youtu.be/Uyt7AgSYucY .
In this videoconference, the students discussed their identities, including in terms of ways they use language (expressions, idioms, euphemisms, proverbs, etc).
A list of expressions gathered on the Chennai side is here. A list of expressions -- and general questions -- gathered on the Burlington side is here. Only a tiny fraction of this material was discussed.
An essay framing Ethnographic Videoconferencing as having evolved from Ethnographic Photography, and Ethnographic Film and Video, is here.
The 4 Oct 2013 videoconference was a mutual Ethnographic Videoconference -- people at each site were learning about each other.
This was a relatively non-academic Ethnographic Videoconference in that no prior formal fieldwork was conducted, no formal reading was done in advance, and there was virtually no use of the local vernacular language (Tamil) on the India side.
Videoconference sessions between students could certainly be designed to be more structured and rigorous than the 4 Oct 2013 videoconference. This could be done, for examples, by assigning readings to be discussed, and having students prepare and give brief presentations (including the playing of brief video recordings they might have made).
Also, I am interested in developing videoconferences that might be a combination of student-to-student, and Indian-artist-to-distant-students, events. That is, on the Chennai side we could have a dancer, a cinema actor, or any other artist (folk, commercial, classical, etc) -- as well as myself, and Chennai students. This artist could perform, and then could be interviewed by the local Chennai students, and also by the distant students in the USA.
I have come to the conclusion that my favorite visual configuration for the webcast and recording of a videoconference is for both participants' images to appear side-by-side -- as in the still-image here, taken from the 15 Oct 2011 videoconference mentioned below. This way, viewers can perpetually see the speakers and the listeners at the same time, and there is no distraction caused by images appearing and disappearing.
A disadvantage of a side-by-side presentation is that both pictures are relatively small, and there are wasted blank areas on the top and bottom of the overall window -- but I feel these disadvantages can be overcome through the use of close-ups, and through the end-user making the overall window large.
The 4 Oct 2013 videoconference was webcast and recorded using the more popular configuration: when sound comes from a site, that site's image appears full-screen.
I should add that the images in the recording of the 4 Oct 2013 videoconference appear slightly thin -- this has to do with the (width-to-height) aspect-ratio of the recording.
Options for future videoconferences include,
1) Reliance Communications facilities (which were used for the 4 Oct 2013 videoconference), and
2) Google+ (involving a "Google Hangout" videoconference with the "On Air" method of webcasting the videoconference and placing the recording on Youtube).
Advantages of the Reliance option include: they could provide a large space, a teletorium (an auditorium equipped with videoconference technology), which would be especially helpful if dancers, and/or large classes of students, might be involved at the Chennai site; and the equipment is professional quality.
One advantage of the Google Hangout option is: one could participate in the videoconference from one's laptop or tablet computer. Just for general interest, a sample recording of a Google Hangout videoconference is here, and a written tutorial is here.
Recordings of three other recent Ethnographic Videoconferences facilitated by the WSI are at
(The audio volume is a little low: an external speaker may be needed.)
20 March 2013 --
This is a recording of a videoconference between students at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras, and at the University of Malaya, at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The session topic was, "Everyday Creativity: Indian and Malaysian Ways of Doing Things". Students discussed their identities in terms of language use (such as sayings and proverbs), and other cultural practices. The faculty person on the Malaysia side is Dr Faridah Noor, Chair of the eCulture Working Group of the Asia-Pacific Advanced Network, which facilitates regional and global research projects involving very high speed Internet.
24 Oct 2012 --
This is a recording of a videoconference between students at IIT-Madras, and at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. The session topic was, "Everyday Creativity: Indian and Egyptian Ways of Doing Things". Students discussed their identities in terms of personal experiences, language, epics, and social-political events. The 2-page handout for the event is here.
15 Oct 2011 --
This is a recording of a videoconference between people (including a professional Mahabharata storyteller) at IIT-Madras; and Folklore scholars at Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana, USA. The session topic was, "An Anti-War Sentiment in the Performance of Mahabharata, an Epic about War". Additional info about the event is here.
Feedback regarding any of the above would be most appreciated!
Dr Eric Miller (PhD in Folklore)
Director, World Storytelling Institute