Interactive documentary - what does it mean and why does it matter?
2016/03/30
By : Judith Aston at iDocs
Having just convened our fourth i-Docs symposium, it feels like an opportune moment to reflect on what is meant by 'interactive documentary' and why we at i-Docs have always seen it as a way of framing a set of possibilities, as opposed to being a specific medium, genre or platform. This seems prescient in light of the 'immersive turn' with interactive work starting to become more closely defined in response to it. At the heart of this is the current interest in emergent VR technology, a more specific medium or platform, within which more easily definable genres are likely to emerge. This is contributing to a rising interest in 'experiential storytelling' and 'alternate realities' and a potential re-framing of what is meant by interactivity.

Whilst this is all a natural development of the field, which is affording an opening up of new possibilities, our hope is that it won't close things down either, by creating an overly rigid approach to the concept of interactivity. This would run counter to the spirit of i-Docs, whose purpose is to generate interdisciplinary exchange across academia and industry, platforms and genres.

The reframing and repositioning of the word 'interactive' as it relates to the new terms that are emerging is not unfamiliar territory to me, as in the 1990s something similar occurred with the term 'interactive multimedia'. Working with the BBC Interactive Television unit and subsequently with the Multimedia Corporation, I witnessed a wider rush to pin down this new term and create a market for its outputs. As a result, what had been originally construed as an expansive term for a new set of possibilities suddenly became locked down and equated with CD-ROM delivery systems. I don't think that 'interactive multimedia' ever recovered from this, as like the Titanic, it pretty much sank when CD-ROMs became defunct.

So, here is my plea for interactive documentary to not suffer the same fate and my argument for it's use within i-Docs to continue to be an expansive and open-ended term, around which a series of conversations across disciplines and between theory and practice can be convened.

'When I speak of poetry, I am not thinking of it as a genre. Poetry is an awareness of the world, a particular way of relating to reality' - Andrei Tarkovsky


This quote is very relevant, as it offers a good way to frame the discussions that occurred at i-Docs 2016 around the Tools for Thought strand, particularly on Day 1. Referring back to my previous post on 'The linear turn in i-docs', this was in many ways a continuation of a dialogue around complexity and non-linear thinking, which I felt duty bound to re-ignite in response to the 'linear turn' and which now risks being buried again by the 'immersive turn'. With this in mind, I would like to spend some time reflecting on why Ted Nelson's idea that 'everything is intertwingled' continues to matter, on how interactive documentary as a concept can play into our understanding of complexity, and how as a set of possibilities for practice it can help us to explore multiple points of view in a genuinely transcultural and interdisciplinary way.
Bookmark and Share
Page 1
Copyright © 2019 Compathos Foundation unless indicated as Creative Commons.
Compathos is a 501(c) (3) non-profit educational media organization.
Website maintained by Robert's Consulting Service