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We are HK Too

Disseminating Cellphilms in a Participatory Archive

Casey Burkholder

“Democracy! Not Just for Locals but for us too!”

Exploring Multi-Ethnic Young People’s Calls for Social Change in Hong Kong through Cellphilms


Casey Burkholder

Abstract In 2014, Hong Kong’s Occupy Central movement gripped the city as young people organized mass occupations of its streets and digital spaces to interrogate its political system, relationship to China, and its identity. In light of this youth-led call for democratic reform, Hong Kong’s multi-ethnic young people’s conceptualizations of what it means to belong, and to engage politically, need to be interrogated. Capitalizing on young people’s everyday media practices—such as cellphone video making (cellphilming)—may be democratizing as DIY (Do It Yourself) media-making may challenge traditional political and media structures. At the same time, the democratizing claims of participatory visual research need to be unsettled within Hong Kong’s specific socio-political context. This study describes eight young people’s reflections on the Occupy Movement, a close reading of two cellphilm productions, and an archive of these cellphilms on YouTube as instances of civic engagement. In these reflections, youth both discuss and problematize their realities, while making recommendations for social change. While youth-produced cellphilms were found to provide these young people the opportunity to express and share their understandings of democracy and civic engagement, the study also highlights the tensions between calls for democracy in participatory visual research projects in a changing Hong Kong.

What's a Cellphilm?

Integrating Mobile Phone Technology into Participatory Visual Research and Activism

Edited by Katie MacEntee, Casey Burkholder and Joshua Schwab-Cartas

What’s a Cellphilm? explores cellphone video production for its contributions to participatory visual research. There is a rich history of integrating participants’ videos into community-based research and activism. However, a reliance on camcorders and digital cameras has come under criticism for exacerbating unequal power relations between researchers and their collaborators. Using cellphones in participatory visual research suggests a new way forward by working with accessible, everyday technology and integrating existing media practices. Cellphones are everywhere these days. People use mobile technology to visually document and share their lives. This new era of democratised media practices inspired Jonathan Dockney and Keyan Tomaselli to coin the term cellphilm (cellphone + film). The term signals the coming together of different technologies on one handheld device and the emerging media culture based on people’s use of cellphones to create, share, and watch media.
Chapters present practical examples of cellphilm research conducted in Canada, Hong Kong, Mexico, the Netherlands and South Africa. Together these contributions consider several important methodological questions, such as: Is cellphilming a new research method or is it re-packaged participatory video? What theories inform the analysis of cellphilms? What might the significance of frequent advancements in cellphone technology be on cellphilms? How does our existing use of cellphones inform the research process and cellphilm aesthetics? What are the ethical dimensions of cellphilm use, dissemination, and archiving? These questions are taken up from interdisciplinary perspectives by established and new academic contributors from education, Indigenous studies, communication, film and media studies.

Katie MacEntee, Casey Burkholder and Joshua Schwab-Cartas

Katie MacEntee, Casey Burkholder and Joshua Schwab-Cartas

Joshua Schwab-Cartas, Katie MacEntee and Casey Burkholder

Katie MacEntee, Casey Burkholder and Joshua Schwab-Cartas