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Being an Unperson

24 April, 2007

I saw this video on PurseLipsSquareJaw recently. Have to admit, it was an amazing piece of film. It does, I think, what much ethnography of institutions aspires to do: capturing and conveying the subjective effects of institutionalisation on the people affected by it. As such it counts, I think, as a powerful piece of ‘autoethnography’.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kate G permalink
    30 April, 2007 2:49 am

    Interesting and insightful video. I’d like to show it to students, as it addresses a lot of issues of marginalization and ‘Othering’ in an intensely personal way. It also raises issues of the nature of communication and the ways in which technology can shape, open up, and restrict communication. Of course, the key element is that communication is always dialogic. It’s about being something shared. It seems, then, that there are barriers of shared understanding for people who don’t communicate in the usual culturally-prescribed ways.

    I know my students will ask — and I want to know, too — what’s the technology being used by this woman? She doesn’t appear to be hitting the keyboard, although a keyboard is shown. Is she communicating via her hand movements (as Steven Hawkings does with slight movements in his facial muscles)? How widespread is this technology? How long does it take all participants in communication using this mode of communication to establish shared understandings? I’d sure like to know more about this.


    Kate G.

  2. 30 April, 2007 9:20 am

    Not sure if I can answer your question Kate. It does seem that she is using some sort of technology similar to the one Hawkings uses but I don’t really know for sure. I had the impression that the narrative as presented in the film was pre-recorded and played back in conjunction with the video. This might explain why the keyboard wasn’t being used in the film itself.

    Maybe it’s possible to find out from the the film-maker herself. She posts to YouTube as silentmiaow, so it might be possible to contact her through that site and ask her how she does it.

    I would also love to know more about the technology being used, so maybe if you find out some more you could let us know.


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