Making Waves: Intra-actions with Educational Media at the National Film Board of Canada from 1960-2016
Walford Steele, Carolyn
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation aims to excavate the narrative of educational programming at the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) from 1960 to 2016. The producers and creative staff of Studio G the epicentre of educational programming at the NFB for over thirty years produced extraordinarily diverse and innovative multimedia for the classroom. Multimedia is here understood as any media form that was not film, including filmstrips, slides, overhead projecturals, laserdiscs and CDs. To date, there have been no attempts to document the history of educational programming at the NFB generally, nor to situate the history of Studio G within that tradition. Over the course of five years, I have interviewed thirty-four NFB technicians, administrators, producers and directors in the service of creating a unique collective narrative tracing the development of educational media and programming at the NFB over the past fifty-six years and began to piece together an archive of work that has largely been forgotten. Throughout this dissertation, I argue that the forms of media engagement pioneered by Studio G and its descendants fostered a desire for, and eventually an expectation for specific media affordances, namely the ability to sequence or navigate media content, to pace ones progress through media, to access media on demand and to modify media content. As new waves of mediated practices emerge throughout the time-period here covered, the complex interconnections between media innovation and pedagogical practice are revealed to be deeply interwoven within the political, social and economic pressures of particular historical moments. The first of these waves focuses on the media produced by Studio G primarily during the tumultuous 1960s to the mid-1980s. The second wave (early-1980s to mid-1990s) marks the shifts in practices and social expectations with the rise of the PC computer. The third wave (mid-1990s to 2004) recognizes yet another shift as Internet technologies and the privileging of consumer expectation eclipsed what were by then seen as dated practices. In the fourth wave (2004 to 2016), the NFBs focus on interactivity is co-opted as a strategy of audience engagement in an ever-more competitive media landscape. The four affordances are realized to a greater and lesser degree in each of these waves. The narrative of the NFBs production of educational multimedia provides an ideal lens through which to identify and more deeply understand the nuanced and complex intra-action between technology, practice and society in which the interface is revealed to be far from neutral.