Ethnomediaology

“The universe is made of stories, not atoms.”

Muriel Rukeyser

Using interdisciplinary approaches inspired from music and anthropology, the StoryLab Skills Training for Democratised Film Industries projects utilise a methodology developed out of the AHRC funded StoryLab International Film Development Research Network entitled Ethnomediaology. Ethnomediaology is an interdisciplinary approach inspired by practices in Ethnomusicology and Autoethnography. Ethnomediaology involves the active and immersive participation of researchers in the research culture and process, using this active personal engagement as a basis for knowledge generation, data gathering and evaluation.

Story, the intangible and archetypal movement of characters and events through emotional and intuitive transitions, and narrative, the telling of a story through a tangible representation of a form, such as the cinematic form, lie at the heart of StoryLab’s ethnomedialogical approach. While there are many existing training programmes that target technical (digital) skills training, young people, globally, increasingly have advanced digital skills, but lack experience of original ideas generation and storytelling skills. These are essential skills that underpin any technological knowledge and lead to advanced development of creative craft skills that can be deployed in a variety of employment contexts. Filmmaking is not just about cinema. Filmmaking has become ubiquitous and is used for education, training, campaigns, advertising, social work, health messaging, social media and many other purposes, including contribute to addressing some of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Film is consumed on a massive scale and platforms such as YouTube are fuelling new types of income streams. StoryLab, through its ethnomediaology approach to research and impact engagement, specifically targets the exploration of grass roots training to empower and enable a wide section of the population to take advantage of these opportunities in order to build secure, meaningful and rewarding employment and business opportunities and use story and narrative as a means of engaging with a range of challenges and opportunities.

Ethnomediaology offers training methods for film practices that are rooted in the notion of democratisation and take advantage of networking, collaboration and sharing to encourage the development of film and related sectors that truly reflect the shifting paradigms emerging from often silent individuals and communities. Three core values underpin ethnomediaology: integrity, authenticity and openness.

Integrity points to the fact that the training schemes are mentor based in which equality of the relationship between mentor and mentees, professionals and communities, researchers and participants, is an integral part of the nature of discussions and collaborative engagements. Authenticity indicates a commitment to anchoring story development in the feeling, emotional, intuitive, aspirational, dream, memories and aspirations of the individual participants in workshops. No agendas and expectations are set by outside agents and all stories developed are closely aligned with these core attributes. Openness signifies the nature of the working space in which professionals, researchers, mentors, participants, mentees and communities engage with the practical processes of story development. This working space is an open ‘clean slate’ working space in which all participants engage in freshly developed ideation and not pre-defined narratives or previously ideated projects.

It is envisaged that the core StoryLab ethnomediaology values and methods can be applied to a range of different contexts and narrative forms, making it truly transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary network of creative practitioners engaging with the feelings, emotions, intuitions, dreams, memories and aspirations of individuals and their communities working with story creation as a means of engaging positively with challenges and opportunities that surround us.