iMovie Workshop: How to be bold by learning the basics!

I attended the Publics Lab’s iMovie workshop, led by Mike Mena. I’ve never used iMovie or even owned a Mac, and I was nervous about how much I’d be able to follow or even apply after. However, Mike’s pedagogical approach and extensive experience giving this type of workshop for a wide range of audiences made phenomenal workshop. And not because I left feeling like an iMovie magician, but because I felt I had concrete skills I could see myself using, in addition to feeling less intimidated. Specifically, Mike did three critical things that made a simple workshop simply perfect: (1) he created an inviting environment; (2) he talked about strategy and prep work that would maximize our experience with the software; and (3) he set appropriate expectations and stuck to those guidelines throughout the seminar.

First, Mike started the seminar by dispelling myths people have about themselves being “bad with technology” and discussed how small, everyday interactions with technology intimidate and frustrate people, dissuading them from trying new things. He used the example of entering a password on a tiny phone and acknowledge that can be difficult because of design limitations—not the user’s abilities. This made me think about the readings from this semester that cautioned DH practitioners from making assumptions about user’s experiences and history of accessibility. It also made me think of the self-fulfilling prophecy I was discussing with my students in Intro to Sociology, and how stereotypes damage or even rob marginalized folks from accessing and innovating DH and tech. It inspired me to develop intentional moments to acknowledge and deconstruct these barriers in my future teaching opportunities and DH projects.

Second, he began the workshop by talking about the organizational steps one take’s before opening iMovie that make editing and experimenting less frustrating. Looking back on my experiences with QGIS, almost all of my frustrations can be traced back to ignorance or lack of intentionality about all the different files I would need. He also talked about the different spaces that held the files you’ve (maybe intentionally) organized would show up and where old files the software holds onto would reside. One of the things that became clear to me, as a non-Mac-user, that there were sometimes multiple shortcuts for certain functions, even when the direct method was easily accessible or straightforward. Having an expert advise new users how to navigate these decisions based on extensive experience, I believe, prevented me from going in circles and figuring out what worked through trial and error.

Finally, Mike set appropriate expectations for what the one-hour workshop would cover, kept his demonstrations focused on the basics, and didn’t distract the audience with interesting or complicated features. I think a lot of experts struggle to stay focused on the mundane aspects of their field, or to avoid going off on interesting tangents that go over their audience’s heads—I know I’m guilty of this when I teach. I was also worried because I had to leave the workshop 30 mins early, when the Q&A portion would take place; however, the workshop was straightforward and well moderated in the chat, so minor clarification questions were answered along the way but other Publics Lab staff, which created space for the more advance users to ask questions during the Q&A.

This workshop made real the invitations from DH scholars we’ve read throughout the semester who are looking to democratize DH as a field and as a praxis. I feel confident I could return to my notes over the next several months to successfully import media, identify and correct volume issues, and trim the video files for tight narratives and smooth transitions.