Interactive Documentary: towards an aesthetic of the multiple. (PhD)

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2012 Sandra Gaudenzi

Sandra Gaudenzi teaches at the MA Interactive Media of the London College of Media (part of the University of the Arts London) and she does a part time PhD on Interactive Documentaries in the Cultural Studies department of Goldsmiths University of London. She's also one of the conveners of the i-Docs symposium in Bristol (the first conference to be totally dedicated to interactive documentaries!).

The working title of my PhD is “Interactive Documentary: towards an aesthetic of the multiple”.

I am doing it in the Centre for Cultural Studies (CCS) of Goldsmiths, in London.

The core hypothesis of my research is that digital interactive media affords, and therefore pushes, towards documenting reality in an enactive and situated way, rather than in a representative way.

Taking a constructivist approach of reality I can see how participative, situated and locative media can enhance a view of reality, where “doing” is a way of being and of perceiving.

I particularly use cybernetics theories of enaction and structural coupling (Maturana and Varela) to illustrate the mutual relationship that we have with our environment. Later I also use assemblage theory to describe the interactive documentary as what I define a “Live documentary”- a form that is interactive, can be seen as an assemblage and has possible levels of autopoietic behaviours (see chapter 4 below).

If we construct reality while perceiving it then how can we claim to simply represent it? If the observer is always part of the system s/he observes, then what does the role of the filmmaker become? Can s/he she just represent reality or is s/he always engaging with it – and therefore transforming it and re-creating it?

If perception is embodied action, then mediating reality must also be a form of action and construction.

The participative options of digital media enhance our acting role and therefore allow us to mediate reality in a shape that is more attuned with our way of being in the world. We create reality while we collaborate in a social forum, we create knowledge while posting on Wikipedia, we document our world while posting on YouTube… It is not the filmmaker anymore that re-orders a reality by editing parts of his/her shooting experience, but it is the users that create a collaborative reality by documenting their own point of view in what then becomes a multiple reality.

The definition of what this multiple reality might be, and how this can be expressed – or visualized- via interactive documentaries, is what I am working on now. This is still very much work in progress…

If you feel like knowing more do check what I have been writing so far… here you can find and download the first six draft chapters that I have presented so far to my tutors and panels. Please remember that they are work in progress – they will change and change again before I submit! Also, please feel free to send comments and feed-back… after all, it is all about interactivity, no?