by Jean-Pierre Bekolo
Changing the Classroom Environment as well as Changing the Knowledge Medium
Can we learn with an online medium platform such as Zoom the way we learn with books in a classroom… and more ?
One thing we need to take into account and that has never been used in online platforms despite the fact that it has always been there is “motion”. The same way cinema is seen as a “motion picture”, the same way we should put knowledge in motion on these Zoom platforms.
-How has cinema achieved putting knowledge in motion?
Film as a knowledge machine
What is a film made of? A film is at the same time a construction and an assembly of signs put together by the filmmaker for the viewer. Both the viewer and the filmmaker are the two entity involved in the knowledge production machine.
for the viewer.
On the audience perspective, knowledge is produced by the film structure.
Few words on structuralism
Language Knowledge, structuralism
Cinema becomes a knowledge machine once we start looking at it, the way structuralists would; as a language.
The idea of cinema as a language comes from the
different theoretical descriptions of cinema and the early semiotics of cinema was about bringing the knowledge about language into cinema.
The fundamental belief of Structuralism, that all human activities are constructed and not natural. With its penchant for scientific categorization, Structuralism suggests the interrelationship between “units” (surface phenomena) and “rules” (the ways in which units can be put together). In language, units are words and rules are the forms of grammar which order words.
Structuralists believe that the underlying structures which organize rules and units into meaningful systems are generated by the human mind itself and not by sense perception. Structuralism tries to reduce the complexity of human experiences to certain underlying structures which are universal, an idea which has its roots in the classicists like Aristotle who identified simple structures as forming the basis of life. A structure can be defined as any conceptual system that has three properties: “wholeness” (the system should function as a whole), “transformation” (system should not be static), and “self-regulation (the basic structure should not be changed).
Signs Knowledge, Semiotics
Cinema as a semiotic subject becomes also a knowledge machine when it is studied as a sign. The semiology of cinema will study films in their linguistic dimension, as a system that produces meaning. The same way we would study the word, the gesture, the sound, the object and the image.
According to him Ferdinand de Saussure, language is not a naming process by which things get associated with a word or name. . Saussurean theory establishes that human being or reality is not central; it is language that constitutes the world.Saussure creates the semiotic theory saying that, the study of language must be situated within the larger province of Semiology, the science of signs.
A sign is the meeting of something that I perceive and the mental image associated with this perception. The sign is by essence double. We call the signifier the material, physical side, which can be sensorially grasped, and the signified the immaterial, conceptual side, which can only be grasped intellectually. The signifier and the signified are indissociable; they are comparable to the two sides of the same coin, which is the sign. The signification is the act that unites the signified and the signifier and produces the sign. Semiology comprises three terms: signifier, signified and sign, in which sign is a relation between the signifier and signified. All signs are cultural constructs that have taken on their meaning through repeated, learned, collective use. The process of communication is an unending chain of sign production.
Now we have set up our cinema knowledge production machine on the perspective of the viewer, the audience and the critic, let’s see look at it in the perspective of the filmmaker.
Editing is Writing
for the maker, the filmmaker. On the filmmaker perspective
The cinema knowledge machine should produce its writers, using the film language and medium to do exactly what those who write with text do. The couple writer-reader should find its equivalent in film. The reader becomes the viewer and the writer becomes the editor. Therefore we have the writer/maker versus the reader/viewer. Editing becomes the key element in knowledge production with images. Something we never had before unless it was for just assemble images. Now we need to look at editing through the gaze of structuralism and semiotics.
The meaning production process intellectuals are involved in when they write a text should be at play when they edit images.
Cinema structures events, actions and thoughts in the form of chains. The same way our brain has been able to combine music notes to produce melodies, movements to create choreography, words to construct syntax, it has combine moving images to make a film. It seems like our culture is a culture of the assembly line, a culture of the timeline, a culture of the movement in space and time, a culture that probably dates from the origins. The unfolding of a life would be similar to the unfolding of a film. It has a beginning, middle and end.
Cinema, a living being
In our film knowledge machine production entreprise, we have a choice of looking at a film like a text or looking at it as a living being (why not? At a difference of a book that is a dead object, cinema is moving like an animal!).
For the text, the structuralist have already done the job. For the living being we can use biology as a model. Can we study film as a living organism?
If atoms and molecules are the components of a living organism, the shot and the scene in film could take the same status. The cell could be compared to a scene in a movie, the cell being the fundamental unit of life.Then, the principle on which the construction of complex structures of living systems could apply to film. If we consider that any complex structure such as living beings, it could be broken down into smaller and simpler pieces. We can repay the same process with a film. A large number of cells form each organ and determine its shape, movement and function in all organisms. It is the same for each scene of a movie made up of a number of shots that all have the same purpose, that is to feed the scene.
Ideas for cinema knowledge
The Structure Dynamic
Films are constructed in a way that draws the viewer into a whirlwind of meaning, creating another layer to the story … motion is created by the dynamic produced by the structure.
Cinema operates by identification of one or more characters, it appeals to our personal lives.
Because it runs from a departure situation to an arrival situation, cinema raises the question of meaning, the meaning of our lives, the meaning of life. Cinema is a comparative study between the existing (real) and the possible (fiction). In making cinema, we make a theory of reality by proposing models. Therefore, cinema is a criticism of life.
The im-mediate-ty of cinema
The specificity of cinema in relation to other media that can equally claim to tell human experiences such as literature, resides in its nature which is im-mediate. Cinema is direct, it does not use an intermediate code of decryption you have to learn like the alphabet in writing. Cinema shows life, cinema is the medium of life. That’s because cinema allows us to look at life, so to study it, analyze it im-mediately. It is therefore the best model to talk about life.
Cinema is a medium that allows us to live events « theoretically » as if they were real. The experience is sent to the public in a real and direct way, with a photographic precision, so that the viewer’s emotions feel to him like a witness. It is the only art in which the author can create an absolute reality similar to life. It is combination of intense observation and speculation which proclaims that things may be, have been and will be different.
Cinema to Think
Intelligere is phantasma speculari – To think is to speculate with images. Let’s use the cinema model to try to cum prehendere – take with us (understand) the world we create for ourselves with its formulas that are often only about fantasies.
If complexity is gradually disappearing from our daily experiences including in film, how can cinema reflect it the best?
Can it help us to accomplish the leap into the unknown of our daily lives? What kind of cinema can accompany us towards an uncertain future?
Michel Serres says that « Fortunately, when there is a huge difficulty in everyday life, there is always a chance for humans. It is a chance that children disobey… Einstein disobeyed Newton, Lavoisier disobeyed alchemy. Humanity would disappear if children were behaving like their parents. Humanity has been invented by Eve. She disobeyed and therefore, changed the course of Mankind. Without praising delinquency, do not stay in the box. »
Disobeying is hope. Cinema must take uncertain paths, bother to know strangers, imagine their behaviour. What initially was an unknown and scary territory becomes a place of recognition. It is by accepting the difficult time of the encounter, the moment when the challenge of the intellectual effort will alone dispel the darkness. Predictability should never be granted to us, but rather earned through the sweat of collaborative inquiry.
« Terminologies, cultures and cities have changed in such an amazing way. The relationship with religion, morality and war, for example, people are wiser than their rulers. One has the impression that real society is ahead of its institutions. As if the institutions of today were like those stars from which we are still receiving light and which astronomers tell you are dead. A new culture is emerging, a new way of seeing life, new ways to share, talk… A new man is not far. The world is screaming because it is giving birth. »
If as filmmakers we stay aware that it’s from the unexpected and unpredictable that novelty is born, thinking logically all the time is a mistake. This is why cinema should consider liberating narratives, unpredictable narratives, risky narratives, narratives close to the human adventure, because at the end of the day what we are doing is taking patterns and forms from inside and outside of the world to propose a project to Mankind.
Why i should run away from recipe cinema. What is hidden behind those invisible formulas that solicit me? The formula tells me « This Way » yet there is only one path; mine, one formulae, me. Even though it would suit me today, it might not work for me tomorrow. But the format ignores me who is watching, my history, my personality, my injuries. The formula insists on teaching me the way, the single dimension. For me, good narrative should be a narrative that asks me, who are you? What are you doing? Where are you going? What is wrong with you?
Let’s question the scriptwriting formulas of Hollywood gurus, let’s look at semiology as a tool for the semantic production of the language we needs to write a different cinema through which we express our own vision.
Any crisis is calling for the end, the end of the story, the end of time, the end of the second act, the second plot point that propels us into the third act, the act of the end. And then we replay the film backwards, we speak of the past with nostalgia; we remember …
Because Ferdinand Saussure the father of structuralism defines semiotics as a science that studies the role of signs in social life, we should look at how film could be seen as a sign and what that sign plays in social life.
If cinema is a sign, what kind of sign is it? Cinema telling stories with pictures and sound through behaviour.( In the sense of behaviourist semioticians such as Eco, Barthes, Metz).
we are talking about giving meaning to human life, to the things around us and to our behavior.
Because cinema is about narratives, story lines and patterns, structure, characters, behaviour and subjectivity, predictable elements, hidden and embedded information, narrative interpretation and storytelling in general as a comparative study with real life experiences, cinema could be the vehicle /media of resilience stories that can work to liberate the individual.
Elements of Cinema Knowledge
Case of the film Memento
-Memento is an interesting case for our knowledge machine as it is a film that interact with audience through memory and not emotions as usually. Though identification of the main character that has health condition with his memory we as viewers are challenged on the chronology and the logic of events. To achieve that the film is following a non-linear structure.
In addition to this, Challenging the viewer memory is a model
-Memento structure not being linear
Cinematographic learning style in Zoom
-How can we implement the cinema knowledge machine in zoom?
Providing students with better viewing experiences than the lecturer face on the computer screen
Even though online education has been using films, the fact remains that online education on digital platforms have not tamed the medium that is cinema in the sense that it would improve knowledge acquisition.
Viewing and Making
Let’s find a way of reading and writing in zoom, the same way we do with text using a cinematogragraphic learning style.
We need to tacle Zoom as a viewer who is the new form of reading and as an editor who is the new way of writing. In summary we are at the same time a viewer and a maker
Let’s split the screen in two.
One side is the viewing/ reading (viewing), and the other is the editing/writing (wriditing)
Viewding and wriditing
Reading in literature the reading and the writing are part of the knowledge acquisition process, cinema is providing us knowledge in two ways. First as viewers who get informations through the film content and second as filmmakers involved in a process.
So, instead of just use videos and films during lectures, we will be viewing/ reading (viewing) and editing/writing (wriditing) them.
Student will be ask to do assemblages, to order things, to recreate, resolve aspects and contradictions of the subject being studied.
On the editing/writing (wriditing) screen, the student will manipulate film material that gives him a grasp on the real world while on the viewing/ reading (viewing) screen he will be manipulating in a semiotical way theoretical concepts of the subject being studied
Construction vs Instruction
We encourage teachers to apply John Dewey’s construction approach focusing on construction where the learner and the teacher go seek together the information they need to produce knowledge versus the instruction we see in lectures on Zoom where the teacher fires knowledge to the learner. He researches, collects, edit, assembles and criticises himself on each step with the assistance of the teacher.
The two screens viewing/ reading (viewing) and editing/writing (wriditing) are about producing a sense of discernment more than accumulating information. The two screens cinema knowledge machine to be used in Zoom is a sorting machine. It is a tool that will make us become the contrary of an idiot. like Kant said.
The teachers should use that two screens viewing/ reading (viewing) and editing/writing (wriditing) as a controlled environment for experimentations. With viewing/ reading (viewing) for the abstracts and editing/writing (wriditing) for the first-hand experience. Learners can practice or solve problems and situations while conceptualising them. This tool connects the doing and the experiencing.
If the two screens viewing/ reading (viewing) and editing/writing (wriditing) is a construction device where teaching is being done by putting pieces together , mainly images and sometimes words. But while being a construction device, it is also a de-construction machine. Deconstruction for Jacques Derrida is always a double movement of simultaneous affirmation and undoing. This can be done in our double screens, undoing on the editing/writing (wriditing) side and affirming on the viewing/ reading (viewing) side. The learning process includes the breakdown of assembled pieces made of images or text. The material here could be from real life or from films but the point is to editing/writing (wriditing) moments of human activity and edit not just films but real life itself and also be able to break it down.
The objective of this cinematographic learning style editing/writing (wriditing) and viewing/ reading (viewing) is about teaching learners how to produce meaning. What needs to be practiced here is the assembling, the breaking down, the sorting, the links… Learning how to develop and argument or make a point. During this process of the learner creating meaning, he is doing what philosopher do, he thinks.
The editing/writing (wriditing) and viewing/ reading (viewing) dynamique of the knowledge machine that gives teachers and learners a medium mixing theory and practice that can be implemented on a digital platform such as Zoom where learners are assembling material which is knowledge collected from real life experience to produce meaning, therefore to think first and to think critically.
It assists learners to think critically rather than focusing on facts and figures, and to make observations in all disciplines. It makes it possible from those observations, to analyse materials and evaluate information. As the are practicing critical thinking, get learners to recognise different contexts and points of view. And finally interpret information, draw conclusions, and then develop an explanation.