The research conducted within the project was pivotal to both the project report and video practice. The use of a range of sources, in written and visual forms, contributed to the wealth of knowledge attained and helped create a clear direction for not only the project but assisted in which forms of methodology to undertake, due to the absence of certain conclusions in the existing data.
The research collected was structured under specific headings to provide an organised layout, recognise the existing data and identify the areas needed to investigate and analyse in greater depth. The written sources obtained included relevant quotes, theories, opinions or points of interests to pursue further. Whereas, the visual sources were predominantly in relation to the video practice, yet to undertake. These sources included short documentary films that related to the project question and examples of videos that were drawn inspiration from.
The headings and main points of research included :
Historical Relevance – Origins of the word Nostalgia and history of home movies.
Research Groups/ Organisations – Places that focus on the preservation of home movies.
Documentary Films that involve old home movie footage – Known and acclaimed examples.
Analyse of Short Documentary Films – How the documentary is structured
Projects that involve home movie footage – Other forms of media created using home movies.
Psychology based Articles on Nostalgia – The science behind feeling nostalgic.
General Articles on home movies – Varying viewpoints and opinions.
Literature – Specific books or Journals that pose significant points.
Theory – Relevant theories, specifically Roland Barthes.
The literature showcases below were instrumental in introducing theory into the project, while each establishing viewpoints that coincide and differ from each other. Each book, is seemingly directed at a different area with my study, such as Camera Lucida offering insights into viewer responses of nostalgic media, Mining the Home Movie focus on reconnecting viewers with untold history and Mythologies employing semiotic theory to popular culture, in 1950s France.
Roland Barthes, a renowned French theorist and philosopher is a central figure within this project, due to the core points and theories presented in his books, Mythologies and Camera Lucida. Camera Lucida was written in 1980 and focuses on the meaning of photography, in regards to the viewer and also offers Barthes personal viewpoint of his photographs. Although it does not reference home movies, it provides awareness of the emotional responses experienced from viewing other forms of nostalgic media, in this instance photographs. The data produced through his image analysis could be transferable information that corresponds with similar responses to home movies. For example, Barthes acknowledging memories and signifiers related to his mother, when viewing images of her. Within the book, the emphasis is specifically placed on what photographs represent and the conscious nature of nostalgia.
On the other hand, Mining the Home Movie by Professor Patricia Zimmermann was written in 2007 and solely references home movies, before and during the 21st century. This book contains over twenty additional authors, who each discuss their perception of home movies, although Zimmermann is the main contributor. Her purpose was for the reader to start valuing home movies and treat them as an alternative perspective of history. Despite this not being a study, data is provided as to how these academics interact with home movies and the archives or projects they choose to create with them. Significant points within the book include Zimmermann’s analysis of specific home movie examples and the focus on nostalgia as a pinnacle element to rediscovering untold history.
Roland Barthes is a principal theorist in semiotics theory, which played a central role within this project. Semiotic theory is the study of symbols and signs and their interpretation. Barthes examined popular culture in 1950’s France and chose ‘signifiers’, like objects, occasions, activities or words to attached further or hidden meaning to (signified), for example, a ‘signifier’ is a heart and it ‘signified’ love and passion. Even within Camera Lucida and Mining the Home Movie slight references are made to particular signifiers and the author’s attached meaning/ memory to them, which equally shows evidence that nothing holds just one meaning. Within his book, Barthes remarked that signifiers can always produce an additional message, but are often overlook or not critically considered. The examples or ‘myths’ he references are effectively signified based on his own subjective opinion and potentially the general notion of the masses at the time. Semiotic theory can works effectively in this project, as it can be applied to contemporary media formats, such as home movies, to understand what signifiers people identify and what it particularly means to them.
The visual sources showcased below, are examples of videos and documentaries that best reflected the research question and subsequently helped decide the intentions for the video practice. My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes is a short, illustrative documentary that uses home movies, as a means for the director to explore his relationship with his father. Evelyn is an explorative documentary that captures a physical journey taken by a family, 10 years after their brother’s suicide. No Home Movie only uses home movies to form the documentary that surrounds the relationship between a mother and daughter. Cut is a very popular channel on social media sites and each video asks 100 individuals one specific question.
My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes is a short documentary film created by Charlie Tyrell, ten years after his father’s death. Throughout the documentary, he investigates his father’s complex character and the distant relationship they shared. Despite the title, the ‘porno tapes’ are a metaphor for the possessions he left behind and the secrets he did not share. Old home movies are featured in regular intervals to highlight pivotal moments for the family and to give the illusion of who the father was. The incorporation of this footage, while Tyrell’s relays family stories, adds further insights into the personality of this dad and the dynamic of this family. This documentary feeds into my project’s outcome, as it utilises home movies to keep this character alive and creatively drives forth the narrative with nostalgic material for viewers to recognise and resonate with. This project equally intends to creatively use home movies to further a viewers understanding of who the participants were in the past, compared to the present.
My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes – https://youtu.be/eLhctg8j5kI
Evelyn, produced in 2018, follows one family’s journey, as they walk and discuss memories of their brother, who took his own life twelve years prior. Orlando von Einsiedel created this documentary, so his family could reflect on fond memories of Evelyn and begin healing. The home movies included were filmed during their childhood and capture a more precise impression of Evelyn, as he operates the camera and supply’s most of the commentary. A pivotal approach in this documentary was re-walking the trails they hiked in their childhood, as it caused them to link memories to this familiar landscape. Equally to this documentary, my project’s outcome intends to inspire participants with a multitude of signifiers within home movies, to provoke an open discussion and allow participants to connect. The focus on the rediscovery of the past is also a theme the video practice intends to present.
Evelyn Trailer – https://youtu.be/n_CPWU1REaM
Chantal Akerman’s film, No home movie is a self-produced documentary that, unlike conventional approaches, uses home movies to form the story, as the only filming technique. Despite, being produced in 2015, she uses a handheld video camera and a blackberry, technology that does not reflect the period it was filmed. This plays with the idea of nostalgia, as compared to the other practices, her home movies were filmed in an environment very similar to the present. The documentary follows the relationship between Chantal and her mother, as they discuss memories of their lives, religion and trivial topics, such as what they are eating. This explains the use of the compact video camera, as it observes without infringing on their conservation. Akerman’s approach re-introduces home movies in a contemporary setting while relaying the past through their reflective discussions. This documentary has helped form my project’s outcome, through the portrayal and explorative nature of the discussion they shared. Thus providing ideas of how to create a successful dialogue, based on what home movies are introduced to the participants.
No Home Movie Trailer – https://youtu.be/ivuuUVk-1wU
The Youtube channel ‘Cut’ featuring the series ‘Keep it 100’, presents a hundred people with one question, in which they need to reflect on a moment in their lives to answer it. A significant episode within this series was ‘100 People Recall Their Middle School Mischief’. Within the video, a hundred people recount a rebellious memory of their childhood, with similar and varying responses given. As there are a hundred participants, each response is delivered in short clips, although it would still be compelling to hear the subjects expand on their memories to a larger degree. This source does not include home movies but revolves around causing nostalgia, through adults reflecting on moments from the past, which is a central concept within this project. This video helped formulate my project’s outcome, as it utilises multiple participants to gain an array of varying viewpoints, by incorporating fast pace editing to link or juxtapose the range of responses. This project’s outcome equally hopes to create anticipation for the viewers, as they will want to know how the multiple participants will respond and what material they will see. The project intends to resonate with the participants, as well as the viewers.
Cut ‘100 People Recall Their Middle School Mischief’ – https://youtu.be/mM7pkv7ewqY
The methodology consisted of three different approaches of data collection, all of which were gathered via primary research. The absence of secondary research is the result of the lack of existing data, in this particular field. The proposed research strategies were implemented to yield the best results and explore different avenues for answering the research question.
1. Discourse Analysis – Video and Audio Responses
The first form of data collection was recorded video and audio responses of participants reacting to several photographs and home movie clips. The purpose was to have them engage with the nostalgic material and thus identify specific signifiers or symbols that they have attached meanings or memories to. This derives from Roland Barthes interpretation of semiotic theory, which was central to this project. Throughout all the response videos, raw and first-time reactions are given to photographs/ home movies, whether they have not been viewed for many years or collectively have never been viewed at all. A factor that changes in each video is the differing sample sizes, allowing for a varying range of engagement. In comparison to one participant, more participants can discuss what they are viewing and prompt memories from each other, as well as the opportunity for shared nostalgia to be more directly observed. The data collected from this methodology was categorised into sections depending on what signifier was identified and brought about nostalgia. These sections included family, friends, locations and many more. All videos below are available to enlarge and watch on the screen or via the Youtube link.
Video Response – 1 Participant
The first video response used a single participant responding to different home movie events, between the years of 1995 to 2005. The footage is projected behind the participant to provide further context to the viewer, while also filling up negative space. Despite, not infringing on the participant while she was speaking, to provide an uninterpreted flow of speech, cuts were clearly made due to unnecessarily prolonged pauses. This video effectively gathered the intended data and created a useful starting point for the final project practice.
Video Response – 2 Participants
The second video used two participants, who are married and retired. In this instance, they were shown both photographs and home movies that they were included in, but also events in someone else life that they were aware of. The video includes photographs and home movies orientated around one person, as this video was originally planned for a specific individual. However, more opportunities to gain responses presented themselves and a bigger sample size was created. I opted to have 2 participants involved in this video, as it created more moments for the subject to discuss the content they were viewing and thus highlight shared nostalgia. Although the participants were aware that they were being filmed, the camera was placed as not to infringe on their conversation or distract them.
Video Response – 5 Participants
The third video featured 5 participants, despite the camera being solely focused on one person. The small video being shown is identical to the video response above, however, as the content primarily applies to the man on screen, he is largely featured. The photographs and home movies span from 1972 to 2012. The other participants are featured later in the small video, although they can be heard commenting throughout. I felt as if a bigger group would present more chances to share memories and recognise moments of shared nostalgia. As this video is being shot on a Phone, it is quite low quality and is shaky at points. However, in post-production, I tried to resolve some technical issues, such as the faint audio by adding subtitles above the participants head. As the other participants were spread across the room it was harder to always pick up what they were saying, due to the lack of professional audio equipment.
Video Response Transcript
The image below is a small section of the transcript, transcribed from the video response featuring 5 participants. This was the only video response that required subtitles, due to the faint audio and thus was provided for clarity. I transcribed all 6 minutes of the audio heard in this video response and then added the text at the correct timing so that it appeared in line when the speech that was spoken.
Audio Response – 1 Participant
The first audio response features the same participant from the first video response. Whereas the video response captured the initial responses of the participants, the audio responses record the second time they are consuming the content and pick up on signifiers or memories they could have previously missed. The material shown in this video were home movies shot in the early 2000s that involved the participant. In post-production, a black backdrop was added behind the home movies to allow them to appear clearer and adopt a more cinematic quality.
Audio Response – 2 Participants
The second audio response equally features the same 2 participants from the video response. Within the video they appear frequently, most notable at the start and as the video progresses, in different years. Upon reflecting on the video involved in the methodology, I should have held the images for a longer period so they could be taken in at a slower rate. However, the original intention was to include many images to show the clear progression over the years. In the post-production stages of adding the response audio to this video, the volume was altered to a higher pitch to appear clearer.
Audio Response – 5 Participants
The third response features the same 5 participants from the video response and uses the same photograph and home movie video, as material to respond to. The use of both video and audio responses allow for different information to be presented, such as the video responses highlighting specific expressions or mannerisms and the audio responses communicating changes in tones, which signals emotion. This approach also helped inspire aspects of the video practice, due to the impact placed solely on words. In this video, subtitles were employed, due to the faint audio and so feature in time with the spoken audio.
Audio Response Transcript
The image below is a small section of the transcript, transcribed from the audio response featuring 5 participants. This was the only audio response that required subtitles, due to the faint audio and thus was provided for clarity. I transcribed all 7 minutes of the audio heard in this response and then added the text at the correct timing so that it appeared in line with the speech that was spoken.
The second methodology focused on content analysis, through gathering online user comments on Youtube. The comments collected were responses to old home movie footage, between 1990 and 2005. These decades relate to the period of the home movies, shown in the discourse analysis videos. The comments were sourced from Gilbert Arciniega channel, who filmed his childhood and adulthood, in California, through the decades of the 80s, 90s and 2000s. The data gathered was exclusive to comments regarding signifiers and memories that cause users to become nostalgic. This was again informed by Roland Barthes interpretation of semiotic theory. This form of research allows a universal range of comments to be sourced from all over the world, as the anonymity that social media produces allows people to be more open. The comments collected were then arranged into categories depending on the signifier mentioned.
Collecting the Comments
The examples below are some of the comments I collected. As the home movies were shot by an American, a large amount of the comments are exclusive to nostalgic American items and memories. Having responses from both the UK and US, as well comments from many other countries, contributed to the depth of the research and provided information on which signifiers were significant, based on geographical location.
Graviatate Carentibus – “This looks so nostalgic, the wind, the sunset, the cool and relaxed vibe of being with friends… like life is never going to end. I miss those time, I was born in 2002 and my childhood in South America was a little bit like this, people still didn’t have expensive smartphones and kids just went outside to enjoy life. That’s the essence of being a kid.”
Canadian Cheddar – “It was so easy to make friends, “You’re a kid! No way, I’m a kid too ! Let’s play”. My block was next to the ice rink. It was free. All the kids from the neighbourhood would meet their Saturday morning. There’d be one mom everyone wished was theirs, who’d pop by with hot chocolate and brownies. Miss those days”
REE H – “Dang! 94! Do you remember the 90s? Not being funny. I was born in 79′ and around the time you were born we (girls) were dressing like Aaliyah [laughing emoji]. I ask because I can remember a few things from the early 80s like having a Michael Jackson doll when they came out, Purple Rain at the movies, Snoopy Snowcone maker, Glow worms, My Buddy and Kid Sister, Jheri curls and men wore little shorts” [laughing emoji].
Screenshots of all the comments collected can be viewed, via the download.
Categorising the comments
The Excel spreadsheets, shown below, highlight the categories the comments were organised into. As 20 comments were collected from 5 of Gilbert Arciniega home movies in the 90s and the same amount from 5 of his videos in the early 2000s, I had over 200 comments to arrange. The categories included ‘Friends, Location, Family, Season, Food, Possessions, Clothing, Year, Event, Activities, Media Content, Music, the mention of childhood or adulthood, the absence of technology and the comparison to the present’. By reviewing the comments, these signifiers were most frequently mentioned and attached to a memory. However, I also thought it was important to record if nostalgia was experienced also, by referencing the present and thus why the last two categories were added.
The spreadsheets are organised via colour, to separate each set of comments for each video and if a category was mentioned without a specific example. When mentioned, direct examples were recorded to see if there was a specific correlation within the category. The formatting of Excel assisted in making known, if shared nostalgia was evident, through repeated patterns. This research method provided an effective and detailed form of data collection, which attributed greatly to answering the research question while offering great insights into people’s memories and the signifiers they remember from a nostalgic time.
The last research method was a survey, consisting of ten multiple-choice and comment box questions. The questions explored if home movies caused participants to become nostalgic and the reasoning behind it. Semiotic theory will again be explored through questions that ask participants to choose a field of signifiers that causes nostalgia and grounds for their answer. The mention of photographs, with the survey, was suggested by my supervisor as not everyone possesses family films. This allows participants to still experience nostalgia through photographs that others felt through home movie, while also providing the opportunity for a large, more inclusive sample size.