The Conflict in Northern Ireland Video Course
The Conflict in Northern Ireland course is a selfguided tour through a series of videotaped lectures on the Troubles in Northern Ireland. There is a tremendous amount of material in this video archive—48 tapes are presently posted on the web site. The course syllabus recommends 12 tapes be viewed first since they provide a detailed and rich background on the troubles that should prepare viewers to explore other tapes not listed among the twelve. The tapes are accompanied by the following support materials:
Transcript. Each of the twelve tapes is accompanied by a detailed transcript unless sound on the tape is of sufficiently high quality that no transcript is needed. Many of the tapes have poor sound and Irish accents can be hard to understand. We strongly recommend that viewers open the transcripts and read along as they watch the tapes. This not only will help you catch nuances you are likely to miss if you just watch and listen. The transcripts also help to focus one’s attention and provide a deeper experience and understanding of the material being presented. Like it or not this archive is made up of talking heads and it is often hard to stay focused on video pictures where a lecture goes on and on. Reading the transcripts while watching is important.
Synopsis. Each of the twelve tapes is also accompanied by a synopsis that usually is quite short—25 pages. The synopsis has been prepared by one of the Bucknell professors who directed the Northern Ireland Program and who has watched all of the tapes several times. The synopses not only provide a concise summary that may elude readers who simply watch single tapes. The synopses also put observations contained on the tapes in a broader context of the conflict in Northern Ireland and of the whole body of taped lectures presented here.
Discussion Questions. Each of the tapes is accompanied by discussion questions, usually three or four of them. When we teach this as an actual course we require that students answer one or two questions per lecture and their responses are the material that is graded. If the material is taught as a facetoface course, students may be asked to prepare draft responses before class, present their drafts to the class, and this forms the basis of class discussion about the material. Students then can revise their draft response and submit that for a grade. Usually we ask students to complete six final responses over the course of the semester. This is equivalent to having them answer three midterm essay questions and three final exam questions. While the discussion questions form the pedagogical armature for a course, students value the questions because they provide a guide to viewing. They tell what the professor thinks are the key issues being presented on the tape and often these issues are subtle, hidden, and not points viewers would pick up unless they were prompted ahead of time to look for commentary on points raised by the questions. It is helpful to read the discussion questions before watching the tape and to keep the questions in mind as organizing themes for the materials.
Project Assignments. This course is built around watching and analyzing videotapes that are part of the Bucknell in Northern Ireland video archive. The lectures and personal accounts that make up the archive give a rich and complex account of the sources of conflict, the historical unfolding of political events, and the personalities and strategic actions that led the Troubles to develop, unfold, and finally be somewhat resolved.
Because the context and historical events are complex and hard to understand for newcomers to the events, this course urges students and other new viewers to watch the tapes in a particular order and to make use of support resources that make viewing easier and more meaningful. Transcripts will make many of the tapes easier to understand. Analytic comments give a summary overview of the content of a tape and of the historical meaning of the material included. Discussion questions focus attention on issues discussed in the lectures but that might not be apparent as major themes to new viewers. It is as difficult to watch these tapes as it would be to read texts. The first priority is for people to actually watch the tapes and watch with focus and thoughtfulness. That sounds easy, but if people fail to do that they will not understand what is going on in other tapes. In this course we had students do various kinds of work both to help them develop analytic thinking about the troubles and to have them do some creative research and synthesizing work. We ask students to keep a running blog on their thoughts and impressions as they view tapes. We ask them to complete discussion questions that then can be a focus of class discussions. Student responses to the discussion questions might be graded to provide an assessment basis for the work they do. The major task of this class is a video essay in which students use materials from the archive, from other written and video materials they find, to produce a creative essay presented in the form of a video tape. In the video essays our students produced for this class that are included in the Student Showcase, the authors provided a voiceover narrative giving the content of the analysis while showing pictures that illustrate key events and personalities. We include some intermediate assignments that help students to think about selecting a topic to focus on or to develop their skills at writing the sort of narrative that will form the backbone for their video essay. Outside of the class context, some students did independent projects exploring a major analytic theme and using archive materials to develop and present their ideas. Some of those tapes include voiceover. Other tapes simply assemble fragments of tape to create a coherent story that otherwise would not be apparent to viewers of the archive.