In March, the Center’s creative director Caty Borum Chattoo traveled to Los Angeles to speak at Media Impact Focus: AIM and Shoot, the latest in a series of discussions on cutting-edge media impact analysis methods. The discussions are sponsored by Media Impact Funders, a network of funders working broadly on media and technology issues in order to create social change.
Together with Chad Boettcher, Participant Media’s Executive Vice President for Social Action and Advocacy, Borum Chattoo presented new developments in The Participant Index, a media-impact measurement system created by Participant Media with consultation from the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center’s Media Impact Project. The Participant Index combines public opinion data, social media metrics and audience viewership data in a customized algorithm that assesses the social impact of a piece of entertainment media on its audience. Media Impact Funders Project Consultant Jessica Clark reports:
Borum Chattoo has been working on the TPI pilot survey process, which polled 7,500 people from across the country about their responses to a range of productions, including documentaries, narrative films, TV shows and online videos. This initial foray has allowed the team to develop initial working typologies of different sorts of activists—passive, casual, engaged, and passionate—as well as a set of viewer clusters: nearly nones, blockbuster buyers, periodic primetimes, film fanatics, often onlines, sofa surfers, and voracious viewers.
These distinctions allow the researchers to think through different ways to target particular groups, especially those “beyond the choir,” she said. They are also examining the relationship between “narrative transportation” and action. Emotion is not enough, Borum Chattoo observed. A production has to be relevant to an audience member’s life to move him or her to take any action, from sharing, to voting, to organizing, to changing perceptions and habits.
Another session at AIM and Shoot featured comedian Hasan Minhaj, the host of the new KCETLink documentary program Stand Up Planet, for which Borum Chattoo is an executive producer. Stand Up Planet uses comedy as a lens for examining pressing issues in global development. At AIM and Shoot, Minhaj spoke about why comedy is an important tool for change:
He spoke from his own personal experience about how comedy can help to highlight issues and cast a light on things that are—or should be—different. Comedians can “call B.S.,” he said, and don’t need to do so from the perspective of advancing an agenda. Any joke is fair, Minhaj said, as long as you “punch up”—that is, don’t attack those with less power.
The conversation also addressed the specific impacts of documentary photography and went behind the scenes of The Power of Photography: National Geographic 125 Years, an exhibition currently on display in the Annenberg Space for Photography. The exhibition commemorates how photography can explore, educate, inspire, and preserve the world around us.