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New from Richard Sherwin on Visual Legal Studies February 14, 2008

Posted by James G. Milles in Visual legal studies.
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Richard K. Sherwin, New York Law School, has published “What Screen Do You Have In Mind? Contesting the Visual Context of Law and Film Studies,” in STUDIES IN LAW, POLITICS AND SOCIETY, Austin Sarat, ed., Elsevier, 2008. Here is the abstract.

Law on the screen gives rise to a distinct way of doing jurisprudence. In this sense, it is incumbent upon legal scholars to discern with great care the kind of reality and the way of being that cinematic and electronic screens invite us to assume. Jurisprudence theorizes law in accordance with the cultural and cognitive meaning making tools at its disposal: story frames, character types, social scenarios, metaphors, as well as cultural and socially embedded or constructed emotional patterns, among other narratival and purely sensational elements. Law and film studies thus may be viewed as encompassing a larger concern with mind and culture. It addresses how a specific set of communication tools in a given socio-legal context polices the production, maintenance, and suppression of meaning and discrete meaning making practices. This aspect of the field implicates a rich agenda for empirical research. And by showing how it is done – how the manifold ways of habituated meaning making produce, preserve, and exclude possible worlds as well as ways of being (seeing/experiencing) – visual legal studies may also help to clear a path toward creative reconstruction. In this respect, law on the screen scholarship invites an empirical as well as an emancipatory practice, a source of knowledge as well as a call to action against false necessity.

Download the essay from SSRN here.

(Hat tip to Christine Corcos.)

Digital Anthropology December 3, 2007

Posted by James G. Milles in Uncategorized.
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From Inside Higher Ed:

Evoking associations with musty, forgotten archives and spiral notebooks in the field, anthropology doesn’t immediately come to mind as a discipline fully situated in the modern, wired world. On the contrary, anthropologists have been tackling the implications of technologies on ethnography with each new innovation, from handheld 16-millimeter film cameras and cassette tapes several decades ago to the Internet and digital video in more recent times.

The information age hasn’t rendered anthropology obsolete, but it has brought with it a host of issues and controversies — as well as injected longstanding debates into new forms of media. At a session Friday at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, scholars and graduate students in visual anthropology discussed projects that harness new media to enrich scholarship, focus the ethnographical microscope on media producers themselves, or both….

As an elder of the Dane-zaa told the team of scholars and students, she recounted, “I’m talking to this white man through this tape recorder, but what I’m really doing is talking to the world.”

That realization led the team to confront, belatedly, the implications of the Internet’s openness and availability. An object central to the exhibit is a “Dreamer’s drum,” a sacred object painted with symbolic images important to the culture’s self-representation. Over the course of several meetings with community elders, the team came to realize that, according to the Web site, “it is not appropriate to show Dane-zaa Dreamers’ drawings to a worldwide audience on the Internet. Even though the drum is central to this website, in order to ensure that the Dreamers drawings are treated properly and with respect, no images of Dreamers’ drawings or the drum that we describe here are shown.”

YouTube Suspends Account of Prominent Egyptian Blogger and Anti-Torture Activist November 29, 2007

Posted by James G. Milles in Citizen Journalism, Independent media, YouTube.
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From Sam Bayard at Citizen Media Law Project:

I’ve blogged before about Wael Abbas, an Egyptian blogger and political activist who has gained renown by, among other things, posting videos on YouTube revealing brutal scenes of torture from inside Egypt’s police stations. According to Reuters Africa, YouTube has recently suspended Abbas’s account due to complaints about the content of his postings:

Wael Abbas said close to 100 images he had sent to YouTube were no longer accessible, including clips depicting purported police brutality, voting irregularities and anti-government demonstrations. YouTube, owned by search engine giant Google Inc., did not respond to a written request for comment. A message on Abbas’s YouTube user page, http://youtube.com/user/waelabbas, read: “This account is suspended.” “They closed it (the account) and they sent me an e-mail saying that it will be suspended because there were lots of complaints about the content, especially the content of torture,” Abbas told Reuters in a telephone interview. Abbas, who won an international journalism award for his work this year, said that of the images he had posted to YouTube, 12 or 13 depicted violence in Egyptian police stations.

Elijah Zarwan, a human rights activist and blogger living in Egypt (and a personal friend), told Reuters that he found it unlikely that YouTube had come under official Egyptian pressure, and was more likely reacting to the graphic nature of the videos.

I wonder if the people making account-suspension decisions at YouTube realize that they’re blocking an important distribution channel for some of the most important journalistic work to come out of Egypt in years. It would be a shame if this is happening because of some squeamish and/or paternalistic YouTube users who can’t be content to simply turn their own eyes away. Then again, that’s slightly less disturbing than YouTube caving in to Egyptian government pressure. I’ll keep my eyes on this one.

New documentary series, “Encountering Attica” November 27, 2007

Posted by terilawprof in Blogging, Documentary.
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The Projecting Law Project at the University at Buffalo School of Law has undertaken a year-long project that takes a small group of first year law students out to Attica Correctional Facility, a men’s maximum security prison) six times to meet with inmates doing long sentences over the course of their first year of law school. The students (as well as correctional officers, ex-cons, prison administrators and civilian staff) are interviewed on videotape about their insights into the criminal punishment system.

The three themes of the series are: (1) why is the conversation so difficult to have (in other words, why is it so unusual for prison inmates (who have experienced the justice system firsthand) and law students (who are studying the justice system and training for careers in law) to have an extended discussion? (2) how might the views of the one group change or influence the views of the other group (and vice versa) over the course of the year? and (3) what are the costs of the current “lock them up and throw away the key” philosophy of the criminal justice system?

The Projecting Law Project is screening the first of three installments at the law school on Tuesday, Dec. 4th. The screening (of about 16 mins. of roughly edited footage) will provide a springboard for a broader conversation about criminal punishment in the 21st Century and the pros/cons of the current trends in criminal punishment and incarceration. The Dean of the Law School will lead a discussion after the screening. Since the series is an ongoing work-in-progress, the audience will actually have an opportunity to suggest to the filmmakers directions the series should take, and additional issues that could be explored.

Although the face-to-face encounters with the inmates are limited, the law school group communicates with the prisoners via a protected discussion board, as well as a public web blog at wordpress.com. So the discussion continues outside the visits themselves, and the content of these discussions is included in the footage that will eventually be edited into a full-length documentary.

Law School Documentary July 30, 2007

Posted by James G. Milles in Documentary.
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Via Rebecca Tushnet at Georgetown Law Faculty Blog:

The Trials of Law School, a documentary film on the U.S. Law School system, will premiere at the 20th Annual Dallas Video Festival. The film will screen Sunday, August 5th, at 4:30 in the Kalita Humphries Theater. . . .

The Trials of Law School captures the stress and emotion both inside the classroom and out. The film follows eight students, with different backgrounds and expectations, as they try to juggle family and relationships with a new curriculum, a new language and a new way of life. Their journey is contrasted with insight from over 25 acclaimed law professors and legal scholars from around the country, including Taunya Banks (Maryland,) Randy Barnett (Georgetown,) David Becker (Washington St. Louis,) Angela Davis (American,) Charles Daye (Former LSDAD president,) Rich Freer (Emory, George Washington) Elizabeth Garrett (USC,) John Goldberg (Vanderbilt,) John Kidwell Wisconsin,) Paula Lustbader (Seattle,) Ruth McKinney (UNC,) Judith McMorrow (Boston College,) Rob Miller (Author, Law School Confidential,) Martha Peters (Elon,) Eric Posner (Chicago,) Richard Primus (Michigan,) Patrick Schiltz (U.S. Federal Judge,) Chris Slobogin (Florida, Stanford) David Sokolow, (University of Texas,) Mark Tushnet (Harvard,)and Elizabeth Warren (Harvard).

The film is directed and produced by attorney and filmmaker Porter Heath Morgan, who began production during his second year at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. Before law school, Morgan received his B.A. in Film and B.B.A in Marketing from Southern Methodist University. This is Morgan’s first feature documentary film.

More here.


Silbey on Filmed Confessions March 29, 2007

Posted by James G. Milles in Evidence.
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Jessica Silbey, Suffolk University Law School, will publish “Criminal Performances: Film, Autobiography, and Confession,” in the New Mexico Law Review. Here is the abstract.

This article questions the criminal justice emphasis on filmed confession as the superlative evidentiary proffer that promotes accuracy and minimizes unconstitutional coercion by comparing filmed confessions to autobiographical film. It suggests that analyzing filmed confessions as a kind of autobiographical film exposes helpful tensions between the law’s reliance on confession as revealing the inner self and the literary and filmic conception of confession as constituting one self among many. Through a close examination of several filmed confessions along side an examination of the history of autobiographical writing and film, this article shows how filmed confessions do not reveal the truthfulness or honesty of the defendant’s statement. To the contrary, close examination of filmed confessions evidences the performative aspect of all confessional acts.

Like autobiographical film subjects, filmed defendants perform their criminality, or enact their legal identity as guilty on film. Framing the confession through a film camera (as increasingly police and detectives do) stresses the qualities of confessional speech as always in the process of forming an identity, and therefore as inherently unstable and manifold. Building on an earlier article that criticizes the nationwide trend that requires the filming of criminal confessions by comparing filmed confessions to a form of documentary filmmaking, this article engages the same critique by examining filmed confessions as a form of autobiographical film. Doing so relocates the analysis of the filmed confessions from one of truthfulness and voluntariness of the spoken confession to one of advocacy and persuasion by the speaking subject. Analysis of several filmed confessions shows how filmed confessions are more akin to filmed autobiographies: performances of identity in relation to the constraints of the discursive medium (the interrogation). What we learn from the filmed confession is the limits of film and of law to reveal the truth of the crime. This critical perspective undermines the state’s assertion that filmed confessions unambiguously denote the defendant’s voluntary recitation of his criminal act.

Download the entire paper here from SSRN.

[Hat tip to Chris Corcos.]

Big Dreams, Small Screens: Online Video for Public Knowledge and Action — Publications — Center for Social Media at American University January 29, 2007

Posted by James G. Milles in Digital distribution.
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Here is a new report from The Center for Social Media at American University: Big Dreams, Small Screens: Online Video for Public Knowledge and Action.  From the Executive Summary:

This study describes ways in which users are employing popular commercial online digital video platforms, such as YouTube, GoogleVideo, and MySpace, to create, exchange, and comment upon information for public knowledge and action.

These new platforms provide a site to test the proposition that new publics are being created around open media spaces on the Internet. These emerging video sites are enormously popular, potentially attracting new viewers to issues familiar to advocates and potentially creating new networks of concern….

Some public-issue, topical campaigns attracted signiicant attention and resulted in action, especially if they used humor, music, melodrama, scare tactics, celebrity endorsements, or personal narratives. Campaigns also evidenced the key role of interaction and response in creating new work. In public-issue work as elsewhere, users are critiquing, celebrating, or mashing up both mainstream content and the videos produced by other users.

Veriication, accuracy, and legitimacy are open issues in these emerging public spaces. The quality of information ranges widely, and some clearly inaccurate and inlammatory work is showcased on an equal footing with other videos.

Guantanamo Detainee on YouTube January 14, 2007

Posted by James G. Milles in Advocacy, Documentary.
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This notice comes via Michel-Adrien Sheppard, AKA Library Boy:

The Parisian daily Le Monde reported last week that lawyers representing an individual being detained by U.S. authorities at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp have produced a video posted on YouTube.

The January 11 article (“Les avocats d’un détenu de Guantanamo plaident sa cause sur Internet” = Lawyers for a Guantanamo detainee plead his case on the Net) provides a link to the 9-minute video entitled Guantanamo Unclassified.

The narrator of the piece is William Teesdale, investigator and attorney with the Federal Public Defender for the District of Oregon.

More on the UCLA video and citizen journalism November 22, 2006

Posted by James G. Milles in Citizen Journalism.
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This from ACRLog:

The Whole World is Watching – On YouTube

by Barbara Fister

Sometimes academic libraries hit the news in a big way. In the case of campus police using a Taser on a student in the UCLA library it even has become an international incident. As reported in many blogs and in Inside Higher Ed, this incident has not only has been widely viewed on YouTube, where as of this writing nearly 3,500 comments have been posted, it caused the Iranian foreign minister to pronounce it “a clear violation of international and human rights.” But it made me ponder some library and information issues.

First, libraries are places traditionally open to ideas – and to people who want to pursue them. Though libraries in urban areas have a legitimate need to control access for security reasons, including safety of their students and collections, it’s particularly shocking to have such a violent arrest result from conflict over someone’s right to be in a library. Whatever the independent investigation will conclude, it’s particularly distressing to see this happen in that setting that is dedicated to intellectual freedom and open access to information.

Second, there is a fascinating paradox in our information environment right now. The police have new powers and means to do surveillance. But while it’s more and more common in US cities to have public places monitored by cameras that can be controlled from police stations or squad cars, it’s also easier for citizens to whip out their phones and film police actions. There are over 500 clips on YouTube as of this writing tagged “police brutality.”

Just as read/write technologies challenge authority in projects such as Wikipedia and enabling library users to create their own tags for the catalog, it ripples out into other arenas. Big Brother may be watching, but we can watch back – and share what we see online.

YouTube at UCLA November 16, 2006

Posted by James G. Milles in Citizen Journalism.
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(Updated below.)

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Cellphone Photographers Capture a Harrowing Incident at UCLA

YouTube may help end the careers of a few police officers at the University of California at Los Angeles — and if it does, it’s unlikely that students at the university will shed many tears.

Last night the Daily Bruin reported that campus police officers had shot a student several times with a Taser after the student refused to leave a library computer lab. The article featured some strong words: A UCLA alumnus who witnessed the incident called it “the most disgusting and vile act I had ever seen in my life.” But what really struck a chord with blogs — where news of the incident has spread like wildfire — was a harrowing video recording made by a student with a cellphone camera.

The video, which was posted almost immediately on YouTube, shows an officer repeatedly shooting the student (identified by the Los Angeles Times as Mostafa Tabatabainejad) with a Taser as he screams in agony and rage and other students try to intervene. To say the least, it’s hard to watch.

The incident is, among other things, a case study in how quickly news spreads in the age of YouTube. Just as cellphone documentarians and online pundits helped harden resistance to Gallaudet University’s presidential-selection process (The Chronicle, November 10), outraged bloggers and blog aggregators may have turned the fracas at UCLA into nationwide news. —Brock Read

Update: The L.A. Times reports:

The latest in a recent spate of cellphone videos documenting questionable arrest tactics surfaced Wednesday, this one showing a UCLA police officer using a Taser to stun a student who allegedly refused to leave the campus library….

The incident was the third videotape of an arrest to surface in the last week in Los Angeles.

One video showed a Los Angeles Police Department officer dousing a handcuffed suspect in the face with pepper spray as the suspect sat in a patrol car.

That video came to light Monday, just days after the LAPD and the FBI launched investigations into another videotape showing a police officer hitting a suspect in the face several times after a foot chase in Hollywood.