On Friday 10th 2017, Hannah Brasier, Nicholas Hansen, Kim Munro and Franziska Weidle hosted their second Docuverse Symposium at RMIT University in collaboration with non/fictionLab. After a successful series of bi-monthly events in 2016 showcasing and discussing interactive, participatory, performative and installation work, this year’s symposium addressed central issues that had emerged from interrogating the role of new technologies, practices and projects in expanding documentary within virtual as well as physical spaces.
Featuring ten invited speakers and about 45 conference attendees, the one-day event kicked off with a presentation by Dr. Craig Hight, Associate Professor in Creative Industries at the University of Newcastle. Craig’s talk focused on software as a possible entry point towards understanding and theorizing technologies and the dialectical relationship with their usages. As a conceptual framework underlying emergent practices and paradigms, his talk highlighted how documentary experiences were increasingly created through performances of (interactive) softwareand that applications and tools such as Korsakow and Racontr should be examined closely in terms of their affordances and how these are organized.
The following talks by Georgia Wallace-Crabbe and Liz Burke then provided examples of different media and platforms and what they might bring to the ways documentary topics could be approached and represented. While in some cases, technology appeared to be not advanced enough and analogue workarounds had to be utilized for creating interactivity and immersion through testing and prototyping, others highlighted how the spontaneous, accidental and provisional of playing with low-tech on-hand equipment and tools marked an exciting diversion from more traditional film-making processes. The morning session concluded with a workshop by Helen Gaynor in which she explored new strategies of directing in an entertaining hands-on experiment with the audience.
After a provided lunch break, the afternoon session kicked off with a work-in-progress presentation from filmmaker and MINA co-founder Dr. Max Schleser and Associate Professor of Documentary Media at Ryerson University Dr. Gerda Cammaer who skyped in from Canada. Their Viewfinders project illustrates how peer-generated travelling shots combined with AR image recognition could create an interesting new relationship between content and viewers supporting a sense of greater geographical imagination and connectedness.
The preceding project presentations by Allison Nankivell and Ella Colley further elaborated on the challenges and chances arising from participatory and collaborative approaches. The day concluded with a workshop led by Dr. Paola Bilbrough and Dr. Alison Baker from Victoria University in Melbourne who took up the collaborative theme again and scrutinized it in terms of its ethical dimension in cross-cultural contexts. One of the main aspects they pointed out was the importance but also limitations of reciprocity as a basis for co-composing the tellings and retellings of other people’s stories. On top of the two workshop sessions, Docuverse also invited the audience to actively engage in ongoing discussions throughout the day by contributing their thoughts as well as emerging themes in a collective brainstorming attempt on the whiteboard.
From itsinception in February 2016, Docuverse has steadily developed as an open, accessible and participatory space for discussing documentary theory and practice outside of a mainstream industry focus. With interstate visitors from Perth, Sydney, Canberra and Newcastle this year’s Docuverse Symposium not only covered a wide spectrum of backgrounds and approaches but also clearly demonstrated the need of connecting people interested in the expanding field of documentary in Australia. Taking up some of the symposium’s key themes around the connection of new (and old) technologies and documentary practices, user participation and audience engagement in our Snapshots series will be among the main points of our agenda this year.