It’s happening again. The documentary, long underappreciated for its transformational impact on film form, is again offering new ways of representing and intervening in the world. Only this time, rather than simply using new technologies to represent social change, the documentary form is itself the subject of social and technological change. Documentary marks the place where our representational endeavors come face-to-face with reality. Little wonder that Vertov’s attempts to position film as part of a social network remain so relevant, and that Direct Cinema and Cinema Verite’s efforts to redefine the filmmaker-subject relationship had such a large impact. Today, at a moment where location-aware HD video cameras are nearly ubiquitous, where networked computers have broken the distribution bottleneck, and where game play, crowd-sourcing and the social turn have redefined media practice, documentary makers have been quick to respond. For example, projects like 18 Days in Egypt enable participants in Egypt’s ongoing revolution to upload and tag their views, giving access to the people in the streets and giving users the opportunity to interact at will. The talk will explore the implications of these new voices; of new, playful, interactive organizational logics; and the new social and political enablements of the documentary form.
William Uricchio is professor and director of Comparative Media Studies at MIT, where he is Lead Principal Investigator of the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab http://gambit.mit.edu (with labs in Cambridge and Singapore) and the new MIT Open Documentary Lab http://opendoclab.mit.edu . He is also professor of Comparative Media History at Utrecht University. Uricchio’s work has been supported by Guggenheim, Humboldt and Fulbright fellowships, and he has held visiting professorships at Stockholm University, FU Berlin, Marburg, and China University of Science and Technology. He is currently completing manuscripts on the concept of the televisual from the 19th century to the present and on the algorithmic turn in media culture.