Until you learned to read and write, this thing was utterly worthless….
In the past two weeks, we have trained 80 people as new videojournalists, plus the folks at McGraw Hill and the folks at the Star Ledger we worked with during these 14 days, and we’re at a grand total around 150, give or take a few.
That’s not a lot.
Not when you consider the magnitude of what we are trying to accomplish.
This is not about teaching people to make video.
This is a revolution in literacy.
We are, today, a society that is defined by video. It is, for better or for worse, the Lingua Franca of our culture. The average American spends 4.5 hours a day watching videos, either on TV or online. That number is primed to get much bigger as video migrates to the web. ‘
Video is the way that we, increasingly, communicate stories, news, information and even ideas to one another. It is powerful because it often transcends barriers of language and of culture. It is universal. It is powerful. It drives everything from politics to religion, and much in between.
Yet the vast majority of the population (on the order of 99.99 percent) is and remains largely video illiterate. That is, while they can watch video, they cannot create it. Thus they are cut off from participating in creating the very elements of our public discourse, as well as our entertainment. They are, in effect, second class citizens.
What is worse, is that we are all the poorer as a culture when we place this incredibly powerful medium in the hands of a select (or self-selected) few.
It is a crazy and terribly destructive thing to do.
So no, we are not teaching people a skill. We are teaching them to participate in the formation of our culture, instead of being simply passive observers.
The morning after the printing press was invented in 1452, there was almost no one in Europe who was literate. Literacy was then the purview of a tiny and elite fraction of the population. The great and vast majority of the world was incapable of reading and writing.
So while the printing press was a wonderful machine for democratizing learning and ideas, it had to go hand and hand with a rather rapid process of teaching people to read and write, and empowering them with the idea… the idea… that they could do this. That it was, in fact, both their right and their responsibility.
This transformation took several hundred years, and not an insignificant amount of blood was shed in its defense.
Today, we live in a world in which print literacy – the ability to read and write, is viewed as a fundamental unifying principle of our culture. We teach people to write in school, not in the hopes that they might one day earn a living as writers, but rather so that they might fully contribute to culture as a whole.
Now, as we move rather rapidly from a print based to culture to a video based culture, it is equally important that we teach people how to communicate their ideas in video. Not so that they might one day earn a living as cameramen (though they might), but rather so that they might craft their ideas in the medium in which we are all increasingly communicating.