Collaborate to the creation of a Web Documentary Manifesto!

If you are reading this post, the chances are that you know what a web-doc is… and yet… are you sure you do know?

If you had to give a definition, if you had to be specific about what it is and what it is not… what would you say?

Welcome to the club… we are all in the same shifting space… and there is a good reason for it: web-docs are living forms, they change and they evolve as we speak so it is hard to define them. But at the same time, this space is consolidating in front of our eyes… so by trying to grasp it we’ll might gain a clarity that will useful to all of us. So here is our proposition: join the discussion, engage with the work that Brett Gaylor, Zeega and MIT OpenDocLab have already started: participate to the Web Documentary Manifesto!!!

In 2010 Andre Almeira and Heitor Alvelos, from the University of Porto, had already tried a similar experiment. Talking at the Third joint conference on Interactive digital storytelling they had published a paper called “An Interactive Documentary Manifesto”. Now… more than a Manifesto their paper was essentially a description of the state of affair in 2010 – devised by categories (Subject and Framework, Input Devices, Interface, Navigation Structure, Tools and Attitude) and offering some best practice advise. Their concluding sentence is the following ” The filmmaker becomes more the designer of a pattern of trails through a landscape of images, less the tour bus driver, which inevitably forces us to think if the filmmaker is set aside from one of its crucial purposes on the production: point of view. Only the future will tell, but it’s definitely worth trying”.

So here we are: nearly three years later creators have experimented with several web-docs routes and authors are still debating if they see themselves more as bus-drivers or experience facilitators. Effectively, as the number of projects that we would call web-docs has  exponentially risen,  the definition of what a web-doc is has blurred even more – melting in between the transmedia docs, the game docs, the cross platform docs, the collab docs, the augmented docs  and all the other possible “docs” that might use the web in one way or another.

It is in this confusion land that a workshop was created at the Mozilla Festival 2012 to draft a Web Documentary Manifesto. But, as you can imagine, a one hour workshop only opened the discussion. This discussion was then continued a month later at the MIT OpenDocLab… and what came out of it is an even larger set of ideas! Since both Brett Gaylor and Jesse Shapins (the originators of this Manifesto idea) wanted it to be opened to all to participate, I thought we ought to open it up to the whole i-Docs community!

If you follow this link you will directly land in a Goggledoc that I have crafted out of Brett and Jesse’s original one. This document  offers you the possibility to add your definition of what a web-doc is and to come up with maxims that might help us all to clarify the field. You can obviously also see what others came up with! The best sentences in this document will then be added to the Zeega  that has already been created – but that looks a bit thin right now. So… here is your chance to craft the future of web-docs! I have already added my own comments in blue… com’on, add yours too and lets shape it together!!!

Sandra Gaudenzi