In this section we focus on how CodeSafe’s process of making and disseminating videos involves the constitution of a collaborative learning environment focused around the use of digital and visual technologies. We structure our discussion around the narrative of the making and use of videos as they were played out in our video ethnography, and as they emerged from our analytical sessions with the materials.
During our research on construction sites, David the founder and CEO of CodeSafe, workers, safety managers and video makers collaborated to plan, script and film insulation work and scaffolding as shown in Video Ethnography Clips B and C. Please click the following link to view the video clip:
Video Ethnography Clip B: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGPIUpRP23w
Video Ethnography Clip C: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_dCiBfHV_M
As we viewed the videos we came to understand all of these aspects of the process as part of the making of a digital material environment, from which new forms of learning were continually emerging. That is, as the shared objective was to make digital videos, which would be posted online, the collaborative learning process began. These collaborations were not rapid, but emerged through planning discussions that panned out over time as the workers and CodeSafe staff contemplated the material and sensory elements of the environment and task, in the actual location where it would be video recorded. This can include discussions of a range of aspects of the existing building and how it can be physically navigated safely, the weather and the equipment to be used (see Video Ethnography Clip C). During these discussions questions of safety were debated, moments of learning and awareness emerged, and were connected with the question of how to video record a safe process. The following video example of the process of planning demonstrates this and aims give readers/viewers a sense of how this learning environment becomes constituted during the planning stage. As is evident, workers and the CodeSafe team were learning from each other, and drawing in relevant experiences and knowing from other sources to form a collective interpretation that they would later demonstrate in the videos they made. Please click the following link to view the video clip:
Video Ethnography Clip D: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5bKd2zBz8E
In Video Ethnography Clip D we see how learning in a particular environment is important for the beginning of any task, as this involved accounting for the specificities of that environment in relation to a series of generic issues that were pulled together by the team, and sometimes reveal gaps in knowing that show the importance of the collaborative process in the planning stage.
The scripting processes were equally collaborative. As we see in Video Ethnography Clip E, digital learning was embedded in how scripting was conceptualized, with workers showing a clear vision of who their audience would be. The detail of the video recorded discussion is significant here, since the worker changed terminology to make it accessible for the audience and in ways that directly contested the conventional formats in which safety regulations and procedures are presented. The spoken and visual/embodied/emplaced elements of the videos produced offer alternative modes of communication to workers, beyond the printed word. They account empathetically for the situatedness of the potential viewer, and communicate verbally and visually in narratives that are relevant. Significantly they are produced in such a way that directly contests the authority of conventional forms of textual communication and representation in the industry towards embodied, emplaced sensory and affective accounts of how safety is performed and why it matters. Please click the following link to view the video clip:
Video Ethnography Clip E: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JppG1d3BZ74
The learning process continued through the actual video recording process itself. Here the collaboration brought together a series of different forms of expertise, including David drawing from his professional experience in construction, and making the CodeSafe videos, and the workers and safety managers who became involved. This is significant to keep in mind because it brings to the fore the role of actually enacting a task in the production of new ways of knowing that emerge through what is learned in its performance (and in this case collective learning). As such we can understand these videos as recording not simply a task as a static and fixed procedure, but as being a representation of a moment in a continuous process of learning in progress as it emerges in a particular environment. The videos in this sense are not final texts that contain knowledge that needs to be transmitted, but are documents that emerge within a process of worker learning that others can refer to as part of further processes. This understanding acknowledges the limits of written texts as fixed statements and enables us to account for the situatedness of knowing and learning as emerging from particular environments and configurations of things and processes. The CodeSafe videos are made in ways that acknowledge this contexuality and situatedness, and are always used in ways that are similarly situated in different environments. This understanding however also enables us to shift the idea of what a CodeSafe video is, and that it not as a video of a procedure that can be abstracted to being the procedure. Rather it is an example of how a procedure was recorded when played out safely in a particular set of circumstances, which will be similar to other future situations. However when viewed again in a new environment it is already part of that new digital material environment itself. Following the theoretical discussion outlined above, it is integrated into the digital materiality of that everyday world.
The workers discussed with us viewing the videos in the everyday world of the construction site, and offered what are perhaps some of the obvious benefits given our discussion above. For example, one worker said: “you see people doing it, see what has to be done or [what] you shouldn’t be doing so it’s better than reading.” Another commented: “I think it’s a better way than verbally or writtenly trying to tell someone safety methods…I think a visual is definitely the best way to get your point across.” Other workers commented that workers would be more likely to engage with and understand the content of visual procedures than written procedures. In describing the potential benefits associated with visual communication the workers indicated that, while written communication can tell people what is required, visual communication shows them how to perform the work safely. One commented:
“It’s a lot easier to show someone what we’re trying to say. We could just to sit here and verbally speak about it but if you put your verbal words into a video, people are going to sit back and go ‘now I know what he’s actually trying to say.’”
“see how I can talk about stuff, this and that, and in your own head you’d get your own visual perception of what’s meant to be going on, rather than someone actually going there, showing you, going ‘okay look, I’m going to put this in between this and this and if I was to shoot a pin there’…so yeah, I reckon it’s definitely a better way of getting your point across. Visually showing someone.”
The difference between knowing what (or what not) to do and knowing how to do it was reiterated by another worker who commented: “I just think it’s a lot easier to visually show that you’re not to shoot a pin into this area, as to 500 words or something to describe the same thing.”
During our research process we encountered various instances of workers not knowing, or not having learned information that they identified as being crucial to safe working, but that could be simply embedded in a video. However there was an added element to this, which again brings to the fore the specific nature of digital video and the impact on learning that the constitution of a digital material environment might enable. While some of the CodeSafe videos are accessible only through the specific platform that is used by the company that has commissioned their work, others are freely available online. Examples of some of the methods that CodeSafe has video recorded in collaboration with the Master Builders Association in Australia, can be viewed on the Association’s web site, here http://www.mbav.com.au/vplink.aspx?ID=8998 (accessed 23rd November 2015). As it states there, ‘The procedures demonstrated in these guidelines were developed by undertaking an appraisal of safe systems of work for each topic, consulting with workers who regularly undertake these tasks and refining these processes for demonstration’. However it is not only such associations who are involved in sharing videos, but rather, as one participant described, such systems also enable workers to share videos amongst themselves, by sending an sms link to a colleague who has asked how to perform a task. Significantly however, worker sharing begins to constitute more than their empowerment through knowledge sharing in the video making process. Rather the possibility to share videos in a context where sharing written regulatory documents is not feasible, enables workers to possess and adhere to authoritative accounts of how to undertake a task safely in contexts where they might have been asked by a manager to work in a less safe way as discussed in Video Ethnography Clip F. Please click the following link to view the video clip:
Video Ethnography Clip F: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iU2zrdqDlo