Video, Advocacy, and Mental Models

Video of a prominent NFL star beating his then fiance changed the career trajectory of an NFL player last week. This viral video launched a national conversation on domestic abuse.
Through videos we were all reminded of the 9/11 attacks last week. As George Bush said, “We were all forever changed.”
Videos of two journalist beheaded flipped national sentiment over middle east intervention over the last two weeks. As Fareed Zakaria said, “The purpose of the gruesome execution videos was to provoke the United States. And it worked.” The last two wars just made things worse, but videos get us pissed off and we go to war when we’re pissed off.
Over the past weeks, social media feeds were full of videos of people dumping ice water on themselves to benefit ALS.
The addition of Instagram video (check out the new Hyperlapse app) and auto-play videos on Facebook have made it even easier for clips to go viral.
It was difficult to navigate the last few weeks without considering the implications of video and its impact on our mental models. Music has a short cut to long term memory. Video seems to have a shortcut to our mental models–it quickly and disproportionately impacts our understanding of how the world works.
Ferguson Missouri cops and protesters are wearing body cameras now. But some experts are worried that some edited video quickly becomes a perceived reality at the expense of other forms of evidence.
Video isn’t reality–it’s often shot and shared with a point of view, premeditated and edited. It may be valuable, it may be informative, but it’s important that we view video from an informed perspective and add it to other forms of evidence.
Edu implications. More than 3,000 students leave high school before completion every day–no visibility, no crisis, but those young people are effectively cut out of the economic mainstream. It’s a crisis for them and for our communities. But we haven’t figured out how to use video to mobilize the public around public education. It’s obviously important and we don’t make sufficient use of the medium.
Sure, there are films that attack the status quo and films that attack reformers but I wish there was more video of student stories that helped share their reality like Grad Nation’s Don’t Call Them Dropouts. We’ve made a few videos about the promising ways educators are helping students co-construct pathways to family wage employment (like this one). We’re going to try to do more of that on this site and hope you’ll join us.


Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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