Digital technologies, social media and emerging, alternative documentary production methodologies

Nelson, Jodi (2015) Digital technologies, social media and emerging, alternative documentary production methodologies. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

My research is a practice-based project involving documentary production and theoretical
analysis of emerging forms of documentary and online co-collaboration, exploring paradigm
shifts in digital technology particularly in the web-based feminist activism and feminist social
praxis. The practice-led research explores new forms of production practices outside
traditional methodologies and dissemination. Specifically, by utilizing cheap digital
technology tools and working within online social networking platforms the research
theoretically analyses what means were available towards online participatory media
practices to create new documentary forms. My research aims are therefore to investigate
how the new paradigm shifts in digital technology and the democratization of the filmmaking
process, through online, collaborative practice, can allow women documentary filmmakers to
connect to a global marketplace outside the traditional filmmaking channels. Further, looking
at the history of the documentary form, as well as the feminist movement, I am interested in
which of the key themes and debates that have characterized their intersection are still
important at this moment of changing and emerging technologies.

Can new technologies, access to cheap digital tools and collaborative modes of practice help
or hinder the creative process of making a digital documentary? In examining the history of
feminist filmmaking and the emerging documentary shifts in production offered the
opportunity to position my own practice within these traditions and experiment further with
online forms of modality. This experiment allowed me to gather empirical data using new
media practices (i.e. creation and curation of online and repurposed content, use of new
production tools within online spaces) to create a first person, auto-ethnographic narrative on
the subject of feminism and online activism.

Additionally, my research looks at the theoretical and historical underpinnings surrounding
feminist filmmaking, new documentary practices and its implications within new
technologies, and the emerging forms of collaborative online modes of practice. Each of
these areas will intersect within the three key areas of debate surrounding documentary
filmmaking; those of 1) narrativity, 2) witness and 3) ethics. My practice investigates these
interactive, participatory modes created with emerging technologies and online audiences and how this is shifting narratives, audience reception and producing new ethical debates around ‘truth’ and ‘authenticity’ as these lines are continually blurred.

Rethinking documentary in the virtual space brings about new challenges to the old debates
around evidence, witness and ethics, as it is the product of a more democratic attitude
towards practice, distribution and dissemination of its stories. New participatory audiences
are now also helping to create the very product they are witnessing. Therefore, creating media within the public sphere can bring about a wealth of new tools, wider contributions to media making and a more global awareness of its dissemination. But it is not without its controversy and challenges.

Further, my research looks at how working within this co-collaborative mode, the position of
filmmaker as the ‘sole’ creator or ‘auteur’ comes into question. It discuses the advantages
and/or the disadvantages to this approach and in doing so looks at what contributions and
challenges an online audience can provide to support the filmmaker that cannot be gained
through historical and traditional production and exhibition forms.

What once was a higher barrier to entry into the film business is now a more open and online
accessibility where anyone can wield a cheap camera or mobile phone device, make a movie
and share it on the internet. These newfound democratic practices could potentially disrupt an already complex system of communication practices. However, it could also supply it with a much-needed collective idea bank for tackling global issues and finding sustainable solutions. Within the scope of participatory practices, a first person filmmaker can experience the greatest of democratic freedom within the confines of this process and delivery.

The research is supported and conducted through a practice-led film project, web support
platform (including blog and social media sites) and published case study. The final output
film project around which these questions are posed is entitled: “Single Girl in a Virtual
World: What does a 21st Century Feminist Look Like?”1. The film’s purpose is therefore to
engage an online global audience of participants and contributors to the film’s narrative
thread by asking for contributions within the production, creation and financing of the
documentary film. The practice utilizes social networks, crowd funding initiatives, web blogs, viral video, virtual chat interaction and traditional modes of documentary practice in
its methodology in an effort to collect data surrounding activity and attempt to answer my
research questions at large. The overall objective is to create an online documentary film that exemplifies feminist activism in a new frame through application of documentary modes and new emerging digital media practices.

1 Single Girl in a Virtual World: What Does a 21st Century Feminist Look Like? (Nelson 2013)

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion pictures > PN1995.9.A-Z Other special topics, A-Z > PN1995.9.D6 Documentary films
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 18 Jun 2015 11:48
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2015 14:16
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/54595

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