The newly found Association of Visual Pedagogies held its inaugural 2016 conference in Zagreb on June 18-19. The association was setup to support the Video Journal of Education and Pedagogy, a unique and first of its kind journal that specializes in peer reviewed video articles in educational research. Many of the papers in the conference testified to the fact that this was uncharted territory: the use of video in education saw an unprecedented increase within the last decade or so, but the contextaulization of such developments in terms of pedagogical theories were inadequate in comparison to the variety of practical applications. There were, however, promising thoughts emanating from the conclusion of the conference: keynotes that conceptualized video as a dynamic educational tool that permits a potential for authentic, performative assessment tasks, and calls for evaluating the ways in which students, as well as the public, could engage with such technological innovations.
The conference began with keynote presentations from the founders of the association, Professors Michael Peters and Jayne White from the University of Waikato in New Zealand. Both speakers emphasized the digital shift in contemporary culture and society and the ways in which increased engagement with digital culture resulted in the primacy of the visual over all else. There was somewhat confusion over the ways in which scholars spoke of the digital and the visual as if they were interchangeable terms, and perhaps one of the key aims of this learned society should be to offer a clearer demarcation as well as to elucidate the ways in which digital technology has supported the visual. Professor Peters stressed that despite our evolutionary predilection towards the visual, we were still at the beginning to fully understand the concept of visual literacy, which in education relied on art history, film and video studies, and photography, or disciplines that have been around for quite a short period of time. In order to develop visual literacies, suggested Peters, we would need to adopt an interdisciplinary approach, establish dialogues with scholars working in these areas, and incorporate conversations with visual artists to enhance and improve our understanding of what the visual means today.
Professor White’s talk similarly highlighted the journal’s capacity to exploit video beyond the constraints of the text, and that we should embrace the whole spectrum of possibilities afforded by video (ranging from accompanying commentaries to performances, from interviews to split-screen demonstrations) as opposed to what is made available through the written word. For what seems to be the first video journal in education and pedagogy, there was a lot of provocation and calls for action, but little systematic thinking around this newer paradigm called visual pedagogies. Indeed, the programme of papers demonstrated that visual pedagogies were still very much in its infancy. There was very little research around the impact of video-based learning, but more talks around experimentation with video or integrating the use of video in the classroom. But one thing was sure, that video as a visual medium had a unique power in relaying knowledge and demonstrating skills, and that given the circumstances of video production, more of it can be used and disseminated through social media.
The most interesting and perhaps the most methodically provocative keynote was delivered by Nenad Romić, alias Marcell Mars, a cultural programmer, activist and a campaigner for free software and open access knowledge based at Zagreb’s Multimedia Institute. His lecture navigated through the dense and complex debates around the regulation of the Internet and intellectual property, and suggested that the Internet had the potential to become a 21st century public library, freely accessible and open to all. His exploration of the role multinational corporations played in the shaping of digital communications had profound implications on academic publishing for the rest of the century, some of which were hinted, though not sufficiently explored in the following round table discussion. As a whole, there were a lot of fragmented, disjunctive ideas articulated throughout the event, but such non-linear questioning is, and should be, common practice in any academic conference, perhaps especially so for those aiming to break new ground.