Educational film practice in Austria

Project partners: tfm | Department of Theatre, Film and Media Studies at the University of Vienna (research institution), Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Digital History, Vienna (LBIDH) (national research partner); Austrian Film Museum, Vienna, Österreichische Mediathek, Vienna, Austrian Archives for Adult Education, Vienna
Project leader: Joachim Schätz (tfm)
Project team: Christian Dewald (LBIDH), Nico de Klerk (Amsterdam), Vrääth Öhner (LBIDH), Katrin Pilz (LBIDH), Marie-Noëlle Yazdanpanah (LBIDH)
Term: 01.07.2019–31.12.2022
Funding body: FWF Stand-Alone Project (P 32343-G)
Project advisors: Thomas Heise (Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna), Kay Hoffmann (Haus des Dokumentarfilms, Stuttgart), Mats Jönsson (Department of Cultural Sciences, University of Gothenburg), Eef Masson (Media and Culture, University of Amsterdam), Rick Prelinger (Prelinger Library; University of California, Santa Cruz), Christian Swertz (Department of Education, University of Vienna)


Project description

The moving image has challenged and modified established notions and procedures of education until today, with film being used in a variety of educational contexts after World War I. Yet, there is no comprehensive research on educational film in Austria so far. This project aims to fill that gap, investigating the history of educational usage of film in Austria between 1918 and the late 1960s. The examined uses range from classroom projections and screenings for popular education to academic teaching and occupational training.

The object of research is educational film as a practice. This concept of practice encompasses not only the screened films, but also the institutions that commissioned and distributed them, the legal provisions enacted to regulate use of films in educational contexts, and the venues and set-ups of screenings. Educational screenings could take place in classrooms or commercial cinemas, in lecture halls or factory assembly rooms. The set-ups could include accompanying lectures by educators, tasks for the audiences, or the halting of a film strip in mid-projection. We use the concept of dispositif to describe how these different elements interacted with each other and with a screening’s intended goal(s). The main thesis of the research project is that educational film practice materializes in the linkage between institutional policies, screening situations and the form, style, and content of the films screened. This emphasis on practice is still rare in film studies and has implications for empirical research (combining films with printed documents, like instruction leaflets and lecture scripts, that have been traditionally stored in other repositories), as well as interpretation of the collected information (stressing how a film’s meaning was affected by screening circumstances).

Research will be divided into two consecutive phases: In the first two years of the project, comprehensive research will be conducted in order to systematically collect data on the institutions, individuals, regulations, and venues involved and assess extant prints of educational films shown and/or produced in Austria within our timeframe. A database and media collection holding all gathered data and (intellectual property rights permitting) media objects will be published online open-access at the end of the project. In the third year, representative case studies are more thoroughly researched and analyzed.

Apart from the database and media collection and the dissemination of results in peer-reviewed publications and academic conferences, we are also planning an educational outreach program, discussing our results on the history of educational film in Austria with educators, high school students and stakeholders in popular education. As the moving image keeps challenging ideas of instruction and pedagogy—in the form of online how-to’s and explainer videos, for instance—we expect our results to be instructive for the present day as well.