Interactive Spectatorships

Media Viewing Practices in the Digital Age

Project Blogs

Pilot Screening 1 - Student response

Posted on May 12, 2012 at 4:40 AM

After being part of the organisation process for the first interactive screening of Catfish (2010) at University College Falmouth, I have had several of my own personal discoveries about the project. After immersing myself in the participant questionnaires, and having in-depth discussions with fellow students, perhaps the most interesting discovery is how a way has been found to overload even a digitally immersed student’s mind.  Many times respondants used the word ‘distracting’. After reading and discussing further into the reasons why, many said it was not necessarily the concept, but because of the way this first screening was set up, visually and spatially. The main negative feedback was similar to this comment: ‘distracted from the experience of the movie’. Paradoxically, this may even be viewed as positive as it could be interpreted as making the viewer become less emotionally/passively involved, but more intelligently/critically involved. The film at first seemed perfect when Dario suggested screening Catfish due to the narrative centring on social networking itself. However, for many students the film itself added to the ‘distraction’ because Catfish demands a greater attention to the theme social networking itself, but this, paradoxically, had a negative effect on enjoyment and the 'quality' of the tweets posted.

There were more academic and serious tweets from students. This was often in response to a lecturer’s tweeted question. However with this came many comedic and rather 'pointless' comments. Many responses on questionnaires suggested that some tweets: ‘undermine the tension of the film and changed the meaning’. Another concern was how the film was visually presented. The projected screen (see Dario’s previous blog for picture) was, for many viewers, surprisingly too much of a constant reminder  of the computer screen. Initially we thought that it may be easier for viewers to watch both if the twitter feed and film were on the same screen. However, many comments such as, ‘The screen is irritating’ and even a suggestion of ‘extra screen for twitter’ highlights that a different configuation may be better. The latest screening of Jackie Brown did have a separate screen and initial judgement suggests this spatial arrangement received a much more positive response.

The first screening definitely did not only provide critical suggestions however. Positive and valuable information was gathered through verbal and written responses about how the system could be applied to learning in the future. My personal experience was mostly positive. I found the twitter feed developed my understanding of the narrative and I believe if it can be structured coherently into teaching practice, the system could become efficient in broadening my interpretations of the film’s stylistic qualities. It definitely brought excitement to the experience and ensures engagement even from the people who did not tweet. One respondent wrote: ‘It kept everybody really engaged with the film and wondering what others in the room thought. Especially good for people who are usually shy’. The system did allow people to immediately put forward their ideas, connecting viewer's comments in a kind of dialogue, and perhaps for some, produced a more relaxed environment than a seminar.

The questionnaires filled in before and after allowed an interesting insight into how level 1 film students, who were the target audience, view university screenings at the moment. The responses to the question on the 'before' questionnaire; ‘How would you assess yourself as a film watcher?’ confirmed previous concerns that students do not watch films, especially the specific films for our course, in a critical way. One of the questions posed before the screening asked: How do you see yourself as a film watcher? The choice of responses was: critical, engaged, passive, ambivalent. No first year students put solely that they were a ‘critical’ viewer and only two put it along with circling another option of ‘engaged’. This viewing experience aiming to address the problem of 'critical viewing' did seem to have an impact with the main positive response highlighting how the screening became more interactive and interesting. Changing the type of film, and the arrangement of the visual presentation, should bring about an ideal structure that can enhance the potential of the concept. With new and improved interactive screenings coming in the next few weeks this project is definitely on to something good!

Any comments to do with the blog or screenings would be very welcome.

Categories: Student blog

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Reply Dario Llinares
6:45 AM on May 12, 2012 
Those figures will be looked at in detail and assessed but they will only provide a very broad indicator of how respondents assess themselves as viewers. These blogs are only initial, tentative assessments and will require much more in depth analysis as the process develops.

Chay Collins says...
How many put solely engaged though? and how many put the other two options though?
Reply Chay Collins
6:35 AM on May 12, 2012 
How many put solely engaged though? and how many put the other two options though?
Reply Dario Llinares
5:01 AM on May 12, 2012 
Great blog Ellie.

I think your point about the use of the word distracting is very important. We maybe need to think about this more and perhaps ask distracted from what? From the narrative. From specific details of the film?s form/style? Or is from being able to view passively? This last one is an interesting possibility particularly since so many of the respondents characterised themselves as ?passive? viewers. It is as if they didn?t like being distracted from their passivity. Not wanting to be asked what they thought. But obviously many of the respondents embraced the idea too. Lots to think and write about.