Summer Research

Over the summer I have read the following books, some just the relevant chapters but others entirely to broaden my view of the topic I am considering.

‘The people’s platform – taking back power and culture in the digital age’ by Astra Taylor

‘The net effect’ by Beth Porter

‘Analyzing Social Networks’ by Borgatti, Everett and Johnson

The New Media Theory Reader’ by Hassan and Thomas

‘Share This!’ Deanna Zandit

‘New Documentary Ecologies: Emerging Platforms, Practices and Discourses’ by Kate Nash, Craig Hight and Catherine Summerhayes

‘The Documentary Film Book’ by Brian Winston

‘The Interactive Documentary as Living Documentary’

Initially I intended to explore the topic of Interactive Documentary: what are they, what makes them successful, how do they play an important role in social change?

However, after reading Sandra Gaudenzi’s essay ‘The Interactive Documentary as Living Documentary’, I found that interactive documentary has a variety of different meanings. Most of the research I found looks at the technologically interactive aspect – gaming, html3. My personal interest is in the participatory nature of interactive documentaries.

In Jon Dovey’s essay in ‘New Documentary Ecologies’ I read about his argument which questions whether these styles of documentary actually exploit the participants.

This is a point which I wanted to focus on- whether documentaries exploit their participants, or does the benefit of those involved outweigh the financial gain of the producers.

Aspects I wish to touch on in my research and practice:

1.  The idea of ownership: is it ethical for producers to remix other people’s footage and benefit from their work, e.g.

‘Life in a Day’ (2011)

– Pharrell Williams’s music video for ‘Happy’ (2014)

– Media sites like ‘Vine’ which encourage users to remix other people’s videos and put slight changes, and Mozilla Popcorn, again encouraging people to remix existing videos.

2. Participation: Are people in documentaries exploited?

– Examples include reality programmes and reality-dramas (mixing reality with partly fictional story lines). People who participate in these programmes often receive fame, but also may get abuse for how they are (often inaccurately) portrayed by the producers in order to increase viewings, and profit.

– Documentaries which portray the main characters/participants in a negative way e.g. Benefits Street (2014, Channel 4), ‘The Men with Many Wives’ (2014, Channel 4). This highlights the issue of consent – would these people be happy to participate if they knew that those creating the film were setting out to portray them in a negative light? How do you negotiate this ethically within a contract.

– Films which have successfully worked in a collaborative way to ensure that those participating receive due credit and benefits from working with the documentary makers. E.g. Hollow (2013, Elaine McMillon) Dark Days (2000, Marc Singer) , 4thought (2010, Channel 4).

– Films which may be harder to define whether they benefit the participants or the producers, e.g fly on the wall – ‘Educating Essex’ (2011, Channel 4) – ‘One born every minute’ (2010, Channel 4)  – ‘Goggle box’ (2013 Channel 4).


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