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The Participatory Panopticon and Human Rights: WITNESS' Experience Supporting Video Advocacy
Unformatted Document Text:  The Participatory Panopticon and Human Rights: WITNESS' Experience Supporting Video Advocacy Sam Gregory. Draft paper presented at the ISA's 50th Annual Convention, “Exploring the Past, Anticipating the Future’, New York City, NY, USA, Feb 17, 2009 Abstract: Video advocacy incorporates the tools of modern moving image media into campaigns for change in policy, practice or behavior. WITNESS ( has been one of the pioneers in this field – working with local human rights groups in over seventy countries to use video and online technologies to open the eyes of the world to human rights violations. The paper reflects on the lessons WITNESS has learned partnering to create advocacy impact around visual evidence, testimony and stories, and using ‘smart narrowcasting’ of video to target domestic and international institutions including governments and decision-makers, UN and regional commissions, the media, an internet-based global public and others. It considers how Web 2.0 functionality and the advent of pervasive video capture devices and distribution options influence the capability and capacity to use video in advocacy, and expand the field of potential participants in documentation and activism. It goes on to consider the broader implications of what has been described as the emerging ‘participatory panopticon' where everyone is watching everyone else, and considers in this light a new project, the Hub (, at WITNESS - an online participatory media channel for sharing, watching and action on human rights media. ”We're functioning ... in the Information Age, where people are running around with digital cameras and taking these unbelievable photographs and then passing them off, against the law, to the media, to our surprise, when they had not even arrived in the Pentagon.” (Donald Rumsfeld, U.S Secretary of Defense, Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on May 7, 2004) 1 Donald Rumsfeld should not have been surprised. We are in the midst of a period of DRAFT NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION The Participatory Panopticon and Human Rights: WITNESS' Experience Supporting Video Advocacy 1

Authors: Gregory, Sam.
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The Participatory Panopticon and Human Rights: WITNESS' Experience Supporting 
Video Advocacy
Sam Gregory. Draft paper presented at the ISA's 50th Annual Convention, “Exploring the Past, 
Anticipating the Future’, New York City, NY, USA, Feb 17, 2009 
Abstract: Video advocacy incorporates the tools of modern moving image media into 
campaigns for change in policy, practice or behavior. WITNESS ( has been 
one of the pioneers in this field – working with local human rights groups in over seventy 
countries to use video and online technologies to open the eyes of the world to human rights 
violations. The paper reflects on the lessons WITNESS has learned partnering to create advocacy 
impact around visual evidence, testimony and stories, and using ‘smart narrowcasting’ of video 
to target domestic and international institutions including governments and decision-makers, UN 
and regional commissions, the media, an internet-based global public and others. It considers 
how Web 2.0 functionality and the advent of pervasive video capture devices and distribution 
options influence the capability and capacity to use video in advocacy, and expand the field of 
potential participants in documentation and activism. It goes on to consider the broader 
implications of what has been described as the emerging ‘participatory panopticon' where 
everyone is watching everyone else, and considers in this light a new project, the Hub 
(, at WITNESS - an online participatory media channel for sharing, watching 
and action on human rights media. 
”We're functioning ... in the Information Age, where people are running around with digital 
cameras and taking these unbelievable photographs and then passing them off, against the law, 
to the media, to our surprise, when they had not even arrived in the Pentagon.” (Donald 
Rumsfeld, U.S Secretary of Defense, Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on May 7, 
Donald Rumsfeld should not have been surprised. We are in the midst of a period of 
The Participatory Panopticon and Human Rights: WITNESS' Experience Supporting Video Advocacy

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