How to change 100 minds in 15 minutes. 

 November 21, 2012

By  Pascal Depuhl

Moving photos, film, video, motion work – what ever you want to call it – is a powerful medium, but it’s not easy to objectively measure it’s impact in an objective, empirical way.  I had the opportunity to present a short 15 minute documentary film with a professor friend of mine the other day, as we showed it to about 100 students on the north campus of Miami Dade college.

Live polling via text and twitter of studio and virtual audience

In addition to showing the film to a full auditorium we streamed it online at live.depuhl.com and were running a Twitter Q&A session, text and tweet polling the audience before and after the movie, in addition to a focus group that, was interviewed after the event – a cornucopia of tech and data, which allowed us to measure the impact that the story we were telling, was having on the audience. And boy where we surprised, when the results came back.

The live poll driven Wordle, displaying the size of the word in proportion to how often it was used in the students answers.

We asked the students questions that where answered by text or tweet, the most interesting question was “What is your impression of Afghanistan?” No one was really surprised by the answers we got, since very few members of the audience had been in that central asian country and created wordels of their responses.

Wikipedia says Wordels  are “a visual representation for text data, typically used to (…) to visualize free form text”, where the more often a word gets used, the larger it appears in the word cloud. It’s an easy way to visualize data quickly.

Dangerous and Hostile practically leap out at you as the students current impressions about Afghanistan, which is probably what most of you would think as well, given the current media coverage of that country over the past decade.

We also asked “Would you like to visit Afghanistan” as one of the poll questions and an overwhelming 84.13% of answers where not yes – why would you want to go to a place that you thing is dangerous and hostile anyway? So that answer made perfect sense.

Then the documentary ‘On wings of angels‘ was screened. It tells the story of one humanitarian organization that provides flight services to other NGO’s and tells the story of one medivac flight, involving a 5 year old boy, who had suffered traumatic brain injury after being hit by a motorcycle in a snowed in Afghan village.

This is were it gets interesting. We asked the same questions again “What is your impression of Afghanistan” – look at the wordle from those answers: You’ll have a hard time finding dangerous – it’s still there, but no longer prevalent and hostile is totally gone – not one mention of it.

Instead of a country that no one wants to visit, suddenly you can feel empathy for the people that live there. People have made an emotional connection to this place through the story of one little boy. As to the question “Would you like to visit Afghanistan“, the number of people that answered yes almost doubled to almost 1/3 of all respondents. If you add in the ‘maybe’ answer 68% of the audience did not answer ‘no’.

In the end I was listening to the focus group answer questions and one of the students said “I have a very different perception of Afghanistan, after watching the documentary”. All it took was 15 minutes some moving pictures and a good story.

To make one student change his mind.

It changed 100 minds.

In 15 minutes.

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    Pascal Depuhl

    Miami product photographer, video producer, cinematographer and chief mindchanger at Photography by Depuhl I love to share the knowledge I've gained over the past two decades. Catching light in motion.