David Buckingham was the first speaker at this weekend's DIY Video Summit about his work on "Camcorder Cultures," which looks at people’s everyday uses of portable video. Unlike some unqualified enthusiasts, Buckingham is often critical of how broadcasters deploy the rhetoric of "user-generated content" and argues that "if users had really seized the means of production" is still an open question, particularly when digital video often serves entrenched interests as a tool for surveillance or potentially perpetuating a "society of the simulacrum" that only serves up mediated representations to its citizens. However, Buckingham also asserts that the British government has become relatively progressive about fostering media literacy rather than merely policing behavior and points to the efforts of OFCOM to promote citizen empowerment.
Much of Buckingham's talk was devoted to explaining his theoretical orientations and his interests in domestic photography and movie-making, vernacular creativity, and learning in communities of practice. Scholars on his list of influences included James Moran, Patricia Zimmerman, Richard Chalfen, Keith Negus, Mike Pickering, Joe Spence, Annette Kuhn, Charles Leadbeater, Robert Stebbins, Howard Becker, Jean Burgess, Etienne Wenger, Paul Willis, Lucy Green, Jon Dovey, and -- of course -- Pierre BourdieuHe argued that academics too often focus on "cool video" rather than seriously think about how people come to see themselves as media-makers and write about machinima, remixes, or activist video rather than consider how family rituals and celebrations are documented in the "home mode." (Buckingham did admit to having done research on hipster topics like skateboarder movies and the associated visual self-representations crucial to learning and on pornography.) Along with hours and hours of "painfully boring footage" and "just farting around," his group has made some interesting findings about video literacy practices among the ethically and socio-economically diverse group of London households that were given cameras by his research team.