Thursday, December 9, 2010

Part 8. On Visibility

     I mentioned earlier that I would be discussing visibility and voice.  Communications and Media scholar Nick Couldry succinctly defines digital storytelling as “the idea that each person has a voice and a story” and cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner defines narrative as “a central mode of human thought and as a vehicle of meaning making” (Couldry 58, Erstad and Wertsch 28).  James Wertsch says that narratives are important cultural tools which help people to form their identities both collectively and individually.  (Erstad and Wertsch 29)  In telling their stories, Dreamers Adrift are really telling counter-narratives, creating representation for the underrepresented, and using identity politics.  But the Dreamers are not telling their stories with the purpose of forming their identities or to make meaning of their lives, they are telling their stories as part of the project of “remapping and renaming (Shohat 290).”  Ella Shohat describes this as when “the Third World and its diasporas in the First World rewrite their own histories, take control over their own images, and speak in their own voices (ibid.).”
    Central to the politics of digital storytelling is that it employs the transformation of the private into the public which can go hand in hand with the feminist principle of making the personal political.  Similar to the public/private concept is what bell hooks describes as “coming to voice” or “moving from silence into speech as revolutionary gesture (hooks 12).”  She goes on to say that in speaking,  “one moves from being object to being subject.  Only as subjects can we speak.  As objects, we remain voiceless-our beings defined and interpreted by others (ibid.).”  This is an important part of self-representation, remapping and renaming, but it is important to note that digital storytelling does a whole lot more than speak, it makes one visible.  The following video deals with the dangerous and high-risk issue of becoming visible as undocumented.

       Audre Lorde said that the "visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength (Lorde 42).” As Deisy, Julio and Fernando described, the visibility of “undocumented unafraid” students was powerful because of the power in numbers and also because of the exponential power inherent in inspiration. I am often asked how I am able to spend my energy on activism and volunteerism knowing that so many people don’t care or are lazy. My answer is always the same: because I also know that the people who do care are working harder than I am and risking more. Undocumented activists have everything to lose and they are my s/heroes. But while I am looking to them, they are looking to eachother. As Julio described, if he is deported he is at less risk than queer activists from other countries. Visibility in the context of Dreamers Adrift was both motivated by visibility and an expression of their own for the purposes of inspiring action. Lorde also uses the rhetoric of voice but adds to it as she believes in the “transformation of silence into language and action (Lorde 40-44).” It is not enough to solely raise one’s voice. Digital storytelling is based on the notion that every person has a voice. But where does that bring us?

1 comment:

  1. The critical difference between voice and visibility is well expressed here. Also, speaking is different then organizing.