This workshop has been designed to explore the evolving literacies of interactive documentaries (i-docs) and to ask what a polyphonic and multi-perspectival approach can offer to this ongoing discussion.
Polyphonic documentary is a research project initiated by Dr Judith Aston and Dr Stefano Odorico which has developed into a working group composed of currently over 70 people across several continents. This group is exploring the potential of i-docs to create non-linear and interactive means through which to promote intercultural dialogue and exchange, within the general context of increasing polarization and democracy in crisis.
Through this project, we are re-visiting the work of Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin and looking at the relevance of what he wrote about the polyphonic novel to the evolving practices and forms of contemporary i-docs. While polyphony can be clearly found across a number of documentary forms, we are mainly interested in reframing earlier debates within i-docs around narrative/non-narrative/anti-narrative and its relationship to database aesthetics.
The workshop will start with each contributor presenting aspects of the theoretical framework and methodologies developed within the polyphonic documentary working group, including: carnival, heteroglossia and aesthetics. As part of this, it will look at the interactive documentary Question Bridge as a case study which has inspired our method. We will then show how we have used the interactive authoring tool Korsakow to develop our own interactive meta documentary on polyphony.
This meta documentary will be used to elicit further dialogic responses from our audience as part of the Q&A process. Our intention is that these responses will themselves become part of the documentary and that we will reveal, through this process, a set of methods and tools for meaningful engagement with complexity and uncertainty.
Judith Aston is Co-founder of i-Docs and an Associate Professor in Immersive Media at the University of the West of England in Bristol. She has an interdisciplinary background in anthropology, geography, interaction design and creative media practice. As an active member of the University’s Digital Cultures Research Centre, she is also an experienced tutor and PhD supervisor. At the heart of her work is the desire to put evolving media technologies into the service of promoting multi-perspectival thinking and understanding. She has published widely on this and her current collaboration with Odorico on The Poetics and Politics of Polyphony is the latest manifestation of this ongoing endeavour.
Stefano Odorico is a Reader in Contemporary Screen Media at Leeds Trinity University where he is the director of IRIS (International Research Centre for Interactive Storytelling). He has published numerous works on film and media theory and practice, documentary studies, and interactive documentaries. He is the vice-chair of the MeCCSA (Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association) practice network and he is a co-founder and member of the editorial team of Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media. He is currently collaborating with Aston on a project focusing on polyphonic documentary theory and practice.
Franziska Weidle is a visual anthropologist, film/media maker and learning designer. She is currently a Research Assistant in the Learn & Play project at the Brandenburg Technical University Cottbus-Senftenberg. Her PhD was on media software and its role within the theory and practice of documentary and ethnographic filmmaking. As a key part of this, she looked at the Korsakow software and studied its role within different situated documentary practices. This made her question the ways we (as academics, makers and everyday users) interact with non-humans such as technology and how this interaction, in turn, influences the ways we see and engage with the world.
Ersan Ocak is an academician and a filmmaker. He is the head of the Architecture and Urban Studies Master’s Program in TED University, Ankara, Turkey. He has given courses on urbanism, (visual) cultural studies, cinema, documentary, filmmaking, new media at undergraduate and graduate levels. He has publications on urbanism, urban poverty, oral history, memory, documentary, new media storytelling. Ersan also produces experimental video works; makes documentary films; and develops video performances and video installations. His recent core research interests are essay film and interactive documentary (i-docs).
Kathleen M. Ryan is a documentary filmmaker and oral historian. Her works focus on transformations in storytelling due to shifting media technologies. Her hybrid projects deal with issues of gender, self-identity, visuality and user/participant agency. She is an Associate Professor in the College of Media, Communication and Information at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Florian Thalhofer is a documentary filmmaker and the inventor of Korsakow, a software to create a new form of film and a principle to create a new kind of story. Florian’s system allows video makers to create nonlinear and interactive films and to tell stories through a number of links generated by keywords. Thalhofer’s Korsakow films include Planet Galata (2010), Gelt.gr (2013) and Codonaut (2019). Starting from a SNU (Smallest Narrative Units, as he calls them) his interactive documentary films are polyphonic representations of our world.