Keeping Up With The Stalkers

By Josie-Amber O’Neill, Veronica Clavijo, Amanda Karaoulis and Kim Valkanis 

 

‘Keeping Up With The Stalkers’ is the outcome of four university students being asked to only collaborate online and come up with a video narrative based on the idea of a surveillance society. Decisions on genre, script, filming locations, character roles, equipment usage, and who to Snapchat were all taken very seriously by the four participating group members Josie-Amber, Amanda, Kim, and Veronica. Many obstacles were thrown in the students’ way including the major obstacle of one group member living and studying in another state entirely.

‘Keeping Up With The Stalkers’ is a mockumentary that depicts and outlines both dystopian and utopian views about surveillance within society, particularly with social media. The narrator/presenter, Dr Clavijo, starts off with a calm and professional tone, speaking about ideas of what society may think of surveillance. The mid shots and centring position perhaps indicates that authoritative individuals are in a situation of power, to monitor and source out information from everyday people. The everyday people would be the cuts to settings, showing mock-ups of young individuals responding and using social media in relation to surveillance. Towards the end of the video, the narrator panics about her own social media accounts being ‘stalked’, as illustrated through her anxious body language and facial expressions. This demonstrates the ideology that people have of surveillance already, which is to be worried about who is ‘secretly’ watching them and panic about how much of their personal information is being shown for the world to see. Furthermore, the end cut of the video that portrays a blue screen with ‘PLEASE STAND BY’ written, may exemplify that surveillance technology doesn’t really end, but awaits to continue to watch everyone’s daily life.

Embarking on this collaborative project was something new for all of us. We had never met or spoken before and some of us had never used a lot of the online programs we explored to collaborate. Our group delved straight into discussions on genre before even deciding on a storyline. With the creation of a Twitter group chat, a Google Document, and an interesting attempt at Google Hangouts, we decided that narrowing down some genres would be the best starting point for us. We discussed the possibilities of horror, comedy, documentary, television commercial, soap opera and finally mockumentary. These, in particular, were our top picks because we felt they would be the most entertaining to watch, and also to script and film.  We thought about how surveillance could fall into each genre and explored the types of storylines that could be followed. We all liked the idea of horror initially, however, felt it may be an obvious dystopian choice when tackling surveillance society. During the Hangout, we came to the conclusion that a mix of utopian/dystopian views could be explored through a mockumentary style clip. With some research explored, we found ‘The Engagement Scam’ mockumentary was an excellent guide to structuring our surveillance film. Therefore, we believed a mockumentary would be the best way to express our collective thoughts on living in a surveillance society, as well as providing a somewhat comedic view whilst still  delivering an important message.

We took to our Twitter group discussion to hash out some ideas and themes that could be explored within this genre. We began to brainstorm and collaborate through our Google Document, using it as a launchpad for our ideas. That and the use of our Twitter group discussion proved easy for all of us to communicate at any given time. Even if we were in a different state! The next online adventure we embarked on was a group Skype call in order to narrow down the storyline and script writing process for our project. We decided to play with the idea of Social Media surveillance for our storyline, taking a look at how normalised it has become in today’s day and age to surveil anyone and everyone’s actions through various social media platforms.

As the scripting process began we used an online collaborative program called Celtx to draft our script, as well as the continued use of our Google Drive and Twitter messages. We quickly came to the realisation that we would have to strategically plan and write scenes in order to incorporate everyone into the video. One major challenge was that Veronica, our off-campus student was based in an entirely different state. Choosing mockumentary as our genre proved to be the wisest choice! We decided to make Veronica the narrator/presenter of the video, which allowed for her to individually film footage without the need for other people in the scenes with her.  Kim, Amanda, and Josie-Amber would then meet up and film the rest of the required scenes together. We decided that Snapchat would be the best way to keep in contact with our long distance filming quests and used a group Dropbox to upload and share footage with one another.

We decided it best to allocate editing to one person so as to keep it consistent. Josie-Amber was tasked with this job, quite happily so, and she also created some original music for the mockumentary. Josie would edit as per our script and would upload to YouTube as ‘unlisted’ so all group members could easily access and watch the clip to provide any advice and feedback for changes. Dropbox was great for getting big files across to each other, as was another program called We Transfer, however accessing the clip through Youtube was the quickest way to view it on demand.

All in all this collaborative assignment was an interesting experience, one that will no doubt be beneficial in each of our professional lives, as there will most likely come a time when an online collaboration with co-workers is necessary. Each one of us within Group 28 feels as though we collaborated in an effective and efficient manner with one another across several means of digital communication, factoring in our geographical locations to one another, especially Veronica. We feel as though we managed to put together an assignment we can look back on and feel happy with how it  turned out and reflect on what we’ve learned along the way- in particular, collaborating collectively as a group to produce a single work, as mentioned previously, and learning to communicate with other group members effectively.

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Screenshot taken from our Skype conversation by Kim Valkanis, 22/9/2016