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The short history and long future of the i-doc – Meet Jon Dovey in a keynote conversation

In All posts, i-Docs 2016, Research Articles, Symposium by Anna Wiehl

We are very glad to welcome – once again! – Prof. Jon Dovey, Director of REACT (Research and Enterprise for Arts and Creative Technologies) and co-investigator on the AHRC Connected Communities Creative Citizens Project as one of our keynote speaker at i-Docs 2016. In his ‘keynote conversation’, Jon will look back to look forward. Revisiting the “short history” of i-docs, he is going to develop thoughts on its “long future”.

However, things are intricate, as Jon Dovey already warns before his presentation: there are several questions so far still open to be considered: “How are we to understand media futures in the age of permanent upgrade culture?” and “Are the methods developed for the history of legacy media of any use in understanding the prospects for the many emerging forms of interactive documentary?”. And these are only two crucial questions to be asked and answered!

What indicators would we turn to assess the state of development of the interactive documentary ? How can we understand where we have got to? What resources are available to chart our moment in history in such a way that we might reasonably hope to understand the future?

Although at first glimpse, there seem to exist ready-at-hand models as for example Gartner’s Media & Entertainment Hype Cycle, a model designed to support technology investment decisions, to answer such questions Jon argues that cultural forms are not predictable according to such simple formulae as we can learn from media archeological considerations – even if the “history” of ‘i-docs proper’ is a short one!

One of the roles of scholarship in these debates might be to mobilise cultural history against a technologically determined and enthusiastic advocacy of novelty.

REACT projects 2Thus, Jon understands the role of academic discourses and debates about the “long future” of i-docs in “mobilising cultural history against a technologically determined and enthusiastic advocacy of novelty” in order to “really understand where the i-docs field has got to”, and in order to speculate on where i-docs might go to, he advocates a better theoretical perspective on the various ways technology and cultural forms and practices are interdependent.

As it is obvious that interactive documentary formats and practices keep diversifying as still most often experimental practices in particular cultural zones on the one hand but that they seemingly still fail to ‘pay-off’ and to develop a sustainable market on the other hand, we need long-mode analysis to understand long-term change over time. Thus, reductive and simplifying formulae – as convenient as they might seem – won’t do justice to i-docs as cultural forms and practices, and it certainly cannot help us to look into possible i-doc futures.

REACT projectsSo waiting in suspense for more of Jon’s thoughts on alternatives, let’s look forward to his presentation at i-Docs 2016 which – as he has already ‘warned’ us – won’t be a classic keynote lecture; rather, it is set up as “a conversation” in which Jon together with conference delegates will discuss the “key barriers” and “key opportunities” for the development of i-doc’s “long future”.