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See Something, Say Something


University of Maryland, Baltimore County



Course Level

Foundations level 4D/time-based media, Beginning Video

May also be adapted for Intermediate and Advanced courses.


Conversation points for instructors

In this project I ask students to draw on the history of performance and early video art, as well as contemporary art and contemporary popular media forms to make a short “How To” video.


I want students to make correlations between the historical context of various media (especially early video and performance art) and the kinds of media they consume daily (YouTube, TikTok, Instagram) and to see the possibilities for social critique in these forms.


In Spring 2020, I used it as a way to ask students to activate their current circumstances, whether it be under “shelter in place” or socially distanced learning and living.


This assignment may be taught fully online, or in a hybrid or in-person context.


I initially developed this for the early days of the pandemic, as an end of semester project for a time-based media class that has a large video production component.



Project Prompt / Challenge

In The Electric Mirror: Reflecting on Video Art in the 1970s, author Robyn Farrell says: 

“Representing the first generation that grew up with television, the artists included in this program were keenly aware of a viewer’s social and psychological experience while watching TV. Their collective works encompass the interests of  this “TV generation,” and at the same time, the post-war, post-pop proclivities of a changing art landscape that ranged from minimal representation and captured action, to technophilic inquiry and appropriation. Together these videos represent artistic efforts that rechanneled a medium and its vapid promise of normative reality or neutral viewing.” 


You are part of the first fully digital-native generation, who grew up with richly formed YouTube content and Social Media personas. As you watch the assigned videos, consider the context of the artists, including what media may have been available while they were making their work. Pay special attention to how those forms may be critiqued or changed by the artists’ work. Most of these artists are both critiquing a genre and pushing the medium’s boundaries while still trying to convey real, earnest information and experience.



After reading, watching and discussing the assigned materials, you will make a “How To” video. Using the assigned videos, along with contemporary YouTube, TikTok and other Social Media Videos as inspiration, make a creative and experimental “How To” Video.


As members of the first fully digital-native generation, you are uniquely positioned to make this kind of work! Your “How To” video should engage somehow with your current status as a person stuck at home, waiting out a shelter-in-place order and should answer the question “What do we need to know “how to” do right now?”


Your video can be a parody, it can be science fiction, it can be very simple, but it should be critical of the form.


Think about what might be the “Quarantine Version” of these potential forms and subject matters: A YouTube “unboxing” video or make-up tutorial, an Instagram influencer's travel video, instructional videos on washing things, making masks, rearranging your home work space, scheduling your day, etc.


Do we need spiritual guidance? Perhaps you want to create a persona from the future, or the past, or to give us practical or emotional advice?


What would YOUR quarantine version of Semiotics of The Kitchen look like? What would it mean to insert yourself into these forms?


Whatever you decide, take inspiration from the videos we have watched! Be creative and take inspiration from your real daily life!


  • All forms, including animation and found footage are possible for this video. You may use cell phone and computer cam footage, scanned images, quicktime screen recordings, and found images from any source etc.


  • The soundtrack, as usual, may not be a single song, though you may use songs throughout as background. You may also use sound effects, found recordings, or your own voice over, or interviews recorded via Quicktime or on your phone, etc.

  • Titles: You must have a title (name) for your video. The titles should contain the video name, your name as director and any others appearing. Credit any found media or audio, etc. You can decide how your credits look and whether they are at the beginning or end, etc.


  • Write 100-250 words explaining why you are using the method you chose and what your subject matter will be. Describe how your idea relates to or was inspired by one of the videos we watched.

  • Make a list of all of the media/shots you think you will need and describe how you plan to make or find them (e.g.: found clips of cats, interview with grandmother, recorded voice over, creaking door sound effect.)

  • Make a timeline describing when you will complete each part of this project.

  • Export this proposal as a PDF that you will upload to your Peer Review Discussion Board.


DSLR Video camera or cell phone camera, computer to make screen captures or download found videos. Video editing software.


3-4 Week project


Week 1: 
  • Read/Watch and engage in guided discussion about the ways each video offers social and cultural critiques. This might include an in-person or synchronous online discussion or structured online discussion forum response. 

  • Write Proposal. 


Week 2: 
  • Get peer review (from small groups) and instructor feedback on proposal. 


  • Include any tech workshops needed. (e.g. Lighting, Audio)


  • Start production. 


Week 3: 
  • Continue Production. 


  • Rough Cut critique in small groups if needed. 


Week 4: 
  • Share and Critique.

  • I find that time-based critiques work well if we share links to work (from BOX, Google Drive, etc.) on discussion boards, provide a day or two for structured written feedback, then discuss the projects synchronously.


Online / Video Resources:


The Electric Mirror: Reflecting on Video Art in the 1970s, Curated by Robyn Farrel


Watch the following videos:






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