Graduate students will be able to examine video evidence from body worn cameras in a new course this fall.
The UCLA Department of Information Studies’ four-unit seminar, “Special Topics in Information Studies: Archival Practice in the Age of Ubiquitous Surveillance Technologies,” will review policies about audiovisual material and provide training for students pursuing careers in film management, said Jean-François Blanchette, an associate professor in the Department of Information Studies.
Blanchette will lead the class with Snowden Becker, a program manager in the Moving Image Archive studies at UCLA. Blanchette and Becker will use recent news coverage of videos taped by civilians, often involving police and violence, as examples of how audiovisual evidence and technology are changing, Becker said.
“Almost everyone is walking around with a phone that can capture a historic event now,” Becker said. “It’s really interesting to think about where those recordings have gone in the past and where they’re going to be going in the future.”
Becker said she and Blanchette were motivated to create the course after recent news coverage of the Los Angeles Police Department’s body camera implementation program, which will require more than 120 new employees to manage the data from the cameras.
“We think of machines as being neutral and having an unbiased perspective,” Becker said. “But every tool can be used in different ways. The views a camera provides of an encounter between people is not the same thing as a first person encounter.”
The seminar is designed to familiarize students with film and footage policies, including how long footage is kept as public record, Becker said. It will also cover the fundamentals of preserving film materials and how laws deal with requests for body camera footage.
Becker said the field trips, which may include visits to the LA Metro and local police stations, will give students examples of how officials deal with the large amount of footage accumulated each day.
Becker added the field trips are designed to encourage students to think about being constantly on the record, and having a visual record mirroring our everyday experiences.
“(We hope to) provide students with as many viewpoints as possible on these issues, and to avoid the simplistic narrative in which we’re all doomed because Big Brother is upon us,” Blanchette said.
Becker added she hopes students from all departments and fields take the course so there can be a range of viewpoints and perspectives on the topic.