In 2012, Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies held a video contest in which entrants were asked to describe what diversity meant to them in a two minute video. Several other Engineering Education PhD students and I entered the contest with a video describing one perspective on what we consider diversity to mean. It was a significant challenge to identify a concept for the video that could effectively communicate our views on diversity within the two-minute time constraint, but we worked effectively together to create what ended up as the second place entry in the contest. Below is our finished video:
During our brainstorming session, our ideas fell in to two main categories: description of diversity through a metaphor, and filming individual narratives. The metaphorical ideas centered on a way to communicate that diversity goes beyond the external appearance of diversity often depicted in stock photos of a multi racial group of individuals. The first idea that we considered was the use of different colored Easter eggs, showing that even though they appear to be different they are all the same on the inside. We eventually rejected this idea because while it might be an effective critique on the stereotypical depictions of diversity, we thought that it was more of a statement about what diversity isn’t rather that what diversity is. The other main idea to come out of our brainstorming session was to interview students on campus and ask them to define what diversity means to them, and how they experience diversity in their lives. We initially settled on this second idea.
When we met to begin filming student interviews, we had all had a couple days to reflect on the concept that we had chosen. In this time, most of us had lost enthusiasm for the concept. We thought that communicating a meaningful message through interviews would be extremely challenging within the time constraints of the video; we thought that a metaphor would help us deliver a more powerful message. Returning to the idea of using food, we came up with the idea of showing how when even a relatively limited number of individual ingredients (a metaphor for a diverse group of individuals) come together, they can create an almost infinite variety of foods (a metaphor for the multitude of ways that the individuals contribute to a project or idea). The key to the variety of foods and flavors we showed was the diversity of the ingredients. The important take away for me from this shift in concept was that even when you pick what you think is your best idea, it makes sense to take some time to reflect on that before starting.
An important decision in the style of the video was to crop out our faces and to limit the amount of screen time that we spent on people. The purpose of this decision was to draw the audience’s attention to the foods as a metaphor for people and not distract them with actual people in the video. I think that it worked effectively, but after we finished I thought of a potential problem with the decision; it is possible that the audience will think that we were trying to hide the fact that we are an all white group making a video about diversity or be otherwise distracted by the cropping.
Overall, I thought this was a really good experience both in reflecting on the meaning of diversity and in creating a video for the first time. I learned a lot about things I should consider for the future with video projects.