Exemplary Video-Based Argument

Last week, I posted about some of the multimedia assessment guidelines we’re developing in the Graduate Multimedia Fellows Seminar. This week, I’d like to try to apply those guidelines to a professional video clearly intended to communicate an academic-style argument.

Mike Rugnetta of PBS’s Idea Channel posts new videos once a week investigating “connections between pop culture, technology, and art.” He starts with a clear, arguable thesis, then uses multimedia as evidence/data that he analyzes en route to supporting his thesis through sustained argument. His videos seem like exemplars for the kind of academic, multimedia work we might ask our students to do. Here’s one about the TV show Community, which he analyzes as a postmodern text:

If we were to evaluate his videos, we might ask:

– How important are the multimedia clips to his argument? Could he make the same argument without this evidence? Could he make the same argument just as powerfully through text only? [These questions refer to Guidelines #7 and #9, which suggest evaluating students on the basis of their incorporation of primary and secondary sources into a clear argument.]

– What are the ways in which multimedia (which includes text as well as still images, video, and audio) make Rugnetta’s argument clearer, not because they serve as evidence, but because they emphasize or enliven the points he makes? [This question fleshes out Guidelines #3 and #4, which focus on purposeful, meaningful use of production techniques.]

– What is “slick” about the video? How useful or crucial are effects and techniques like animation, cuts, insets, text overlay? When does the “slickness” distract from the video’s communicative or pedagogical purposes? [See Guidelines #4 and #5.]

– How important is his personal performance to the final product? Do we care if he’s animated, funny, friendly, as long as he is articulate and clear? [Guideline #8 treats tone and style as assessable features of student work.]

Watch a few more of Rugnetta’s videos, then try to answer these questions. You’ll quickly get a sense for how easy it is to evaluate multimedia work, once we’re asking the right questions. I’ll end with one more: How can we train students to create videos as thoughtful and polished as these?

This post was written by Louis Epstein.

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