[Editor's Note: What follows is the
Introduction from Dee Dee Halleck's book, Hand Held Visions:
The Impossible Possibilities of Community Media, Fordham
University Press, New York, 2002.
Ms. Halleck has worked in community
media for forty years, and written about it extensively. Her
book is a compendium of articles written over the years on subjects
that have piqued her interest. The fact that it was published
by Fordham is perhaps more than a coincidence. It was at Fordham
that Fr. John Culkin began his own children's media project,
and it was a Fordham that Marshall McLuhan and Paul Ryan met.
And it was from Fordham that Frank Gillette borrowed one of the
first portapaks in New York and made the St. Mark's Tapes. Forham
looms large in New York's early video history.]
Hand Held Visions:
The Impossible Possibilities of Community Media
by DeeDee Halleck
For forty years, I have been intrigued
with the possibilities of creative expression with simple consumer
My work on a variety of projects that
involve media making by "non-professionals" began in
1961. It was in that year that I worked with children on the
Lower East Side of New York City to produce films by scratching
the emulsion off 16mm film stock. What started as a simple exercise
that was documented in a short 16mm film called, Children
Make Movies, happened to appear around the time that Marshall
McLuhan was touting the utopian possibilities of a mediated world.
The children's film project, made for
$88 with a couple of rolls of left over film stock (short ends,
they were called) was met with enthusiasm by a group of newly-coined
"media educators" who used it as an example of the
democratizing potential of "hands on" media education.
It was shown at several early conferences on youth and media,
among them one organized by John Culkin and Marshall McLuhan
at Fordham and a UNESCO convocation in Oslo in 1962.
Since that time, I have been a "media
educator" in a variety of situations: at a reform school
in up-state New York, with elementary school children and teachers
as an NEA artist-in-residence in Kentucky, Texas and Nebraska
school systems, at senior centers, mental hospitals, farm workers
centers, art galleries, film schools and at several universities
in an effort to foster creative use of equipment and technology
and to encourage critical viewing of main stream productions
and networks. I have taught at the Department of Communication,
University of California, San Diego; Cinema Studies at N.Y.U;
The School of Visual Arts; C.W. Post, Long Island University
and several other institutions.
The titles of the courses which I have
taught are a record of my interests: Towards a Technology
of Liberation; Making Our Own: Women and Media; Media
as a Social Force: Community Production for Social Change;
Continent in Transition: Film and Video in Latin America;
Media in the Classroom for Arts Educators; Communications
General: Technologies and Community; History of Alternative
Media in the United States.
My goal has been to develop in myself and others a critical sense
of the potential and limitations of mediated communication through
practical exercises that generate a sense of both individual
and non-hierarchical group power over the various apparati of
media and electronic technology. These interests coalesced in
1981 with the formation of Paper Tiger Television, a production
collective which has now produced over three hundred programs
providing critical views of print and electronic media.
This book is a collection of essays,
presentations and lectures which I wrote over the past 35 years.
Some have been published in journals, and some were presentations
I made at conferences and seminars as a spokesperson for community
media activism. Although they come from a variety of situations,
the reader will find certain common themes: communication democracy
is perhaps the over-arching subject.
In the past fifteen years I have been especially interested in
the use of consumer-grade video for community use. This work
has a base within the public access movement in the United States
and I have been an active participant in the Alliance for Community
Media, a national organization which supports and sustains the
public access movement.
I have also been active and served on
the board of Videazimut, an international organization to encourage
democratic use of communication technology. Through my research
I have been in contact with video groups in many countries of
Latin America (Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Colombia,
Nicaragua, El Salvador, Cuba, Haiti, Mexico), in Europe (Spain,
the Netherlands, U.K, France, Germany, Denmark) and Asia (Taiwan,
Japan, Korea and the Philippines).
For many of these groups, I have been
a conduit for information about public access in the United States
and I have helped to expand exchange of programs between groups
in these countries through programing films and videos from this
international community in festivals, art centers, film theaters
and universities around the United States.
Many of the programs have also been collected for transmission
on Deep Dish TV Network, which I co-founded in 1986, a network
of over three hundred community channels in over forty states.
I hope that my experiences as an observer
of community based media both in the United States and in such
countries as Brazil, Cuba and Asia will be useful in providing
examples of alternatives to corporate commercial media. Many
educational, cultural and social organizations both in the United
States and around the world are realizing that they need to re-think
the current models for media and technology. NGO's everywhere
are beginning to take media seriously. There is a vibrant community
of media educators who are providing the technical means and
creative encouragement that fosters work that is not dictated
by commercial pressures or academic constraints.
There are many successful projects that
have been generated by video makers, urban planners, librarians
and artists. There is very little dissemination of this work
so that others can utilize and grow from these many experiments.
Most media research focuses on main-stream
television and filmmaking, with scant attention to efforts to
create popular forms of participatory media. I hope that this
book will serve as a resource for those who are engaged in this
work. I start with a discussion of my own development as a teacher,
producer and an active participant in the struggle for media
democracy. Many of these essays were written in the heat of battle,
so to speak. I hope this can give the readers an historical perspective
on the community based media movement and a sense of the determination
and resolve that have enabled often fragile and much embattled
local community video organizations and independent producers
to survive in a climate that is dominated by global media corporations.
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© Davidson Gigliotti, 2000CE