Switching Project Form! (Peer Critique Response)

After reviewing the peer and professor critique of my digital scrapbook, and considering my final multimedia project more deeply, I came to the conclusion that video is not the most conducive medium to help represent my story about the city of Boston. Pendleton’s suggestion of focusing on the structure of the project also influenced my switch. She mentioned that because Boston is such a diverse city, with no singular idenity, the form of the video would be very important in adding order and structure to the project—narrowing down the scope. My final project focuses on the development and transformation of neighborhoods in Boston as illustrated through the personal stories of Bostonians (ranging from ages 20-60 years old).

While I was anxious at first to change the form half way through the project—and therefore greatly alter my plans—I realized that I didn’t have access to the sources of information needed to properly construct an engaging, informative video that does Boston—and the stories of my interviewees—justice. Because I did not have the opportunity to interview people in person, I used a Google Form to collect responses to a list of four questions and basic background information. Therefore, all my responses were in written form. In order to incorporate the information into a video, I would have to use voice over in some capacity. While I was open to using this storytelling technique, I knew that it would somewhat limit the video watching experience and not be as engaging as in-person interviews. That’s when the idea of incorporating the written responses into an interactive map came to mind. An interactive map encompasses the visual element of illustrating an individual’s neighborhood location, and it can also incorporate information, videos, and the written interviews. For example, in ‘My Maps’ by Google, I can plot a point at a certain location and then add text, pictures, and video for that particular location. My Maps also has a feature where you can mark a route with a dotted line. I can use this feature to plot out the journey of certain people who have lived in several locations across Boston.

I plan to embed my interactive map into a WordPress website where I can also store background information, profiles of interviewees, and a key to the map. While a video gives the viewer little leeway on how they consume and interact with the project, an interactive map allows the viewers to consider information at their own pace. They can re-read certain sections, choose the individual interviews that they want to learn more about, and have freedom to choose which information they wish to view or not view.

City Notes #3: Articles

Article #1: Immigrant neighborhoods in Boston

– 1920: 5th biggest city in the US670,000 people (240,000 of which were foreign born.)
– Microcosm-macrocosm way of looking at the city
– 1980: 563,000
– 2012: 636,000
– 2014: 27% foreign born
– 1910: 36% foreign born
– East Boston: 50% foreign born (highest percentage of any neighborhoods in the city)
– 1910: city planning initiative “Orient Heights”(built on a landfill area of East Boston). Biggest immigrant groups at that time: Italians and eastern European Jews. Now: El Salvador and Columbia.
– Dorchester: Boston’s youngest neighborhood with immigrants from Vietnam, Cape Verde, and Mattapan Center (18% of residents speak French or Haitian Creole). MA has the 3rd largest Haitian community in the US after NY and Florida.


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Article #2: Boston Public Library Exhibit

– Consider that, today, the BPL posited in a statement, more than 18,000 Bostonians were born in China and as much 9 percent of Boston’s total population is of Asian descent. Areas like Central Square in East Boston have historically played home to this specific demographic and is reflected in the likes of businesses and restaurants, as well as where exactly they’re located.
– “City of Neighborhoods celebrates the diversity of the City and the traditions that are reflective of both Boston’s great history and those that are unique to each neighborhood,” said Evan Thornberry, co-curator, in a statement. “The exhibition explores not only the people, but the institutions in each community that grow and support the cultural identities of people from around the world who now call Boston their home.”

 

City Example #2

Boston’s North End: America’s Italian Neighborhood 

Produced by the North End Historical Society, 2012


 

Pros: 

  • People are interviewed in causal locations (barber shop, park, home, etc).
  • Music is a key component of the documentary rather than background noise.
  • Use of both old and new representations of the neighborhood.

Cons: 

  • The narrator is pictured in the documentary.
  • Unique use of photo/video transitions and photo overlay.

This 2012 documentary, Boston’s North End: America’s Italian Neighborhood, provided clear contrast to the 1987 documentary, Mission Hill and the Miracle of Boston, by virtue of it being much more current. Because of this, not only was the video quality better, but video editing style was also more complex. However, I personally though that the fancy video transitions and video/photo overlay was unnecessary at times and drew attention away from the actual content of the video. I am a firm believer in “less is more.” This documentary also utilized a narrator to provide historical background which was very helpful in appreciating the video.

Because my video is an interview based documentary I payed close attention to how the videographers chose to conduct their interviews. I noticed that all interviews were conducted in casual, everyday locations where you would normally find people (park, barber shop, home, etc.). This added a more intimate feeling to the documentary, making it feel like you were listening to a neighbor speak rather than a stranger.

Similar to the 1939 documentary The City that we watched as a class, Boston’s North End heavily relied on music to bring life and excitement into the video. For example, whenever the people in the documentary referred to a place in Italy, lively italian music would play in the background. I plan to also utilize audio/music to help make my audience more engaged.

City Example #1

Mission Hill and The Miracle of Boston

Directed by: Richard Broadman, 1978


 

“MISSION HILL AND THE MIRACLE OF BOSTON is the story of urban renewal, racial conflict and the struggle of a neighborhood to survive these changing times. Spokespeople include real estate developers, community activists, workers and residents.” (Quoted from Fandor.com)

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Pros: 

  • Thee use of black and white film – it gave the film an authentic and substantive quality.
  • The mix of still photos, video, and interviews gave the documentary variety and movement.
  • The combination of voice over from a narrator and voice over from interviews from a diverse group of people.

Cons: 

  • There was not always a clear distinction of who was speaking in the voice over.

While I only was able to analyze a preview of this documentary, Mission Hill and the Miracle of Boston, there was still a wealth of information to glean from this ten minute excerpt. Because this documentary was made in 1978 there are some technical aspects, such as video and sound quality, that limit the viewing experience of the documentary. However, I think the film’s black and white aesthetic added authenticity to the documentary – I am considering to make my video be in black and white as well. I especially appreciated the historical background provided by the narrator that gave context to the film. I am incorporating a similar style narrator into my video.

There was a sequence in the film when we heard short speeches from people describing the changes in Mission Hill, one after another, as the video displayed images of Mission Hill itself. I think this technique beautifully contrasted Boston as city of feeling and as city of fact. While the viewer is seeing concrete image of the city, we hear a wave of opinions about the city from native Bostonians. I may adapt this voiceover technique in the opening sequence of my video.

City Notes #1: Brainstorm

Project Ideas Brainstorm:

– How did people come into Boston?
– Where these groups of people come into Boston and decided to settle? Why did they stay together?
– What was it like then, what is it like now?
– Immigrant roots, immigrant culture: why is it still there?
– Why is Boston the way it is today? Where does Boston pride come from? (Start from current day then go backwards)cropped-Boston_hotels_skyline.jpg

Why Did I Choose Boston?

– I am from Deerfield, Massachusetts (two hours east of Boston) and my father was born and raised in Boston
– I have always been fascinated with the Revolutionary War (Boston being the birth place of the revolution)
– Rich history, reputation of Boston pride, familial ties

 


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