DATABASE DOCUMENTARY: creative paths, open questions

Database documentary / webdocumentary / interactive documentary / dynamic documentary / multimedia documentary /multimodal documentary

Audiences/users / viewers / participants / shooters / gamers / partners / visitors/ interactors / spect-actors

All these terms were used at today’s workshop. Database documentaries, or whatever you wish to call them, are escaping and exceeding our categories. They challenge our concepts, take us out of our comfort zones.

This morning (Saturday, August 13) at Hunter, some of these new unidentified objects were presented by their makers:

Sharon Daniels’ work with incarcerated women, questioning the industrial carceral complex :

Blood Sugar

Public Secret : an interactive interface gathering testimonies of incarcerated women

Liz Miller’s Queer is in the eye if the newcomer, an interactive oral history project about experiences of refugee youth in Montreal

Michelle Smith’s Ota Nda Yanaan, a living archive to celebrate and validate the meti culture that the Canadian State has tried to assimilate forcefully)

Florian Thalhofer is the creator of the Korsakow system, an open source software to generate non linear, semi-aleatory generated films.

The discussion that engaged right after the presentation lasted well into the lunch break. Its length and intensity shows how engaging and puzzling an age it is for documentary. Here are some of the issues hotly discussed:

- participation: participation is an integral part of the medium, but it should be thought out so that it does not become a meaningless token.

- ethics : how to ensure that the subjects are preserved when the project goes viral, or in the dynamics of participation?

- accessibility : not every audiences are Internet-savvy. How to reach out to those who are no access, or are not familiar with the web (who might well be the very subjects of the film?)

- audiences : who are the audiences of webdocs ? How they react to non-linearity, and choose certain paths, needs to be explored more.

- design : how to best design the interface of the webdocumentary? It plays a crucial role in how the individual meets the work, and engages (or not) in a community. How to design interfaces according to values themselves significant to the work?

Just as the discussion had to be cut short for lack of time, this list does not exhaust the issues at play. They will be at the heart of the documentary reflection for years to come.

—Claire Richard

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