At 9am down a weaving corridor Docuverse held our Behind the Interface: assessing technological implications in expanded documentary practices workshop at the Centro Cultural Borges in Buenos Aires. Franziska Weidle hosted the workshop where she along with Helen Gaynor, Hannah Brasier, Kim Munro, Georgia Wallace-Crabbe and Pauline Anastasiou all presented short five minute provocations about expanded documentary practices. The format was each person presented three slides; the first addressing what we were trying to do, the second what we did and the third what question emerges for us out of this. At the end of the presentation we posed each of our questions back to the audience to be workshopped hoping to find some potential ways in which to navigate these problems. The workshop was broken down into three topics: limitations of existing tools, pedagogical implications and questions of agency.
For limitations of existing tools Helen discussed her project where she is working with the Lighthouse foundation to develop a tool which intersects website design and interactive documentary. While Hannah discussed how the Vine video application generated new documentary practices through it’s creative constraints.
Kim and Franzi discussed the pedagogical implications of getting students onboard with making expanded documentary projects. The problem Kim faced was that while “multilinear platforms allowed a broader engagement with ideas of representation” the desire for “familiar closed and linear forms was difficult to subvert.” Similarly, Franzi talked about the “resistance, frustration and disappointment” ethnographic students experienced when introduced to the Korsakow software as a “more open approach to organising footage.”
To finish the presentation component of the workshop Georgia discussed how her The Earth and the Elements multi-screen installation facilitated immersive experiences “through the spatial architecture of video screens.” While Pauline talked about the tensions between herself wanting to give agency to her participants to create content with mobile phones and their resistance to do this making.
From these brief talks we posed these questions back to our lively audience:
The discussion which ensued largely revolved around pedagogical implications, where we workshopped why students don’t respond to i-docs. Audience member Craig Hight provided a way to navigate this particular dilemma suggesting that we need to make pedagogy closer to the ideology of the software by adapting an approach of getting students to collect fragments without knowing what the outcome is. With Franzi’s response that she had adopted a model within the ideology of the software, what emerged as a tension across universities was that the curriculum is built around traditional film methods engraining traditional ideologies.
Another comment from audience member Helen De Michiel was that with these expanded documentary works we need to be making small works not “sailing ships.” She noted that we need to start with the dialogue we want to elicit and then think about how we can use technology to cultivate such dialogue. She suggested “soluble bites,” small works and small technologies as possible solutions.
The final points workshopped by our engaged audience were around the demand of returnability and the ethics of these projects when you are not provided with a context to engage. A response to this demand of returnability was offered by Adrian Miles who noted that we need to start treating these expanded documentaries as music; as jazz improvisations. Once we do this we won’t have a problem with returnability because when we return we are creating new patterns and rhythms through these bits of the world.
This workshop was the first presented by the Docuverse team to an international audience. These discussions around technology, pedagogy and agency in expanded documentary practices were continued themes throughout the Visible Evidence conference.
Photos by Adrian Miles and Hannah Brasier