UC-Personality: Marty Otañez
Activists use movies to make an impact
Published: Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 17:11
Marty Otañez, assistant professor of anthropology, is making movies, the kind of movies where the students are the characters--and the activists.
Otañez's digital storytelling at UC Denver has been a primary focus since he was hired in the fall of 2008.
"[It's] a first person narrative film or what's called auto ethnographic film," he said. "I was more interested not to tell other people's stories, but to let people tell their own stories."
Bored with the traditional style of teaching, Otañez said he started putting some ideas together.
"I spent three years as a labor organizer while I did my Ph.D. and I found it was a really exciting way to look at what I was learning in the classroom; about anthropology, about power, about resistance, and about social change," said Otañez.
Powerpoint fatigue is something that Otañez said is detrimental to the effective communication of ideas to anyone, especially a student population used to touch screen cell phones and 3-D movies.
"Through my three years of organizing I found media, multi-media, and visual imagery tend to work really well" he said. "Powerpoint fatigue for me is an opportunity to move away from these still, static images…and get [everyone] on the same page by watching a story…because we are all story tellers."
Charles Musabi, human paleontology professor in the anthropology department said that Otanez is bridging various subfields in a way that couldn't happen before that he's pushing anthropology to a new level.
Otañez is busy with another semester full of students as well. Creating their own digital stories is a required part of one of his classes.
"Providing the students projects gets them to take possession of the technology, the process of digital storytelling, and then they can run off on their own and make their own stories through digital media that intervene on the issues they think are important," Otañez said.
Jacob Esquibel, a student in one of Otañez's classes appreciates being able to utilize digital storytelling. "I can feel comfortable expressing my own point of view in his class," said Esquibel.
He said he has also learned from Otañez that it takes more than a dissertation to spread the word about issues that need representation.
"He's very diplomatic and he knows his job--to be a professor, " Esquibel said.
Aside from working with students, Otañez is trying to get the word out about this instructional framework. He said the Coalition for Excellence in Digital Storytelling is an initiative to bring greater visibility to the University of Colorado. "My aim is to encourage faculty and students at UCD to publish video work."
Otañez's and his student's work can be viewed at www.sidewalkradio.net