I was a pioneer in the UK’s emergent interactive media industry in the mid-1980s, working as a new media producer with Cambridge University and the BBC, and have worked across academia and industry ever since. Much of my work has been around using the aesthetics of multiple windows, database architecture and dynamic system thinking to develop new possibilities for the documentary genre. I have a particular interest in exploring the potential of the interactive documentary as a means through which to represent multiple points of view and to encourage intercultural dialogue.

Holding a PhD in computer-related design from the Royal College of Art and a Masters degree in the social sciences from the University of Cambridge, I have always taken an interdisciplinary approach to my work. My practice involves developing poetic approaches to interactivity – ones which move beyond the point and click world of information design to the creation of meaningful experiences that are fluid and tactile, and which can act as triggers for bringing people and communities together.

I was responsible for bringing new media teaching to the Media Practice programmes at UWE, Bristol and was also heavily involved in the development of what has now become a lively postgraduate teaching and research community. As former Programme Leader for MA programmes in Digital and Interactive Media, I am now consolidating my teaching expertise in cross-platform documentary production and developing a range of interactive documentary projects through the Digital Cultures Research Centre and Pervasive Media Studio.

Session Title: Modes of participation in i-docs

One of the key themes that emerged from i-docs 2011 was around the idea that interactive documentaries are gradually evolving into dynamic and participatory texts, in which the single authorial voice is being replaced by a logic of shared authorship created through a process of collaboration and participation. When questioned about his work and where it fitted within this trend, Alexandre Brachet (e-producer and CEO of Upian) was quick to retort that there is no one model to fit all and that different projects demand a wide range of approaches to participation. For him, participation around a text can be just as valid as participation within a text, as it depends on the integrity and intentions of specific projects.

Drawing on examples from my own work and from that of my students and peers, this proposal will develop this provocation, in order to suggest situations where an authored approach, which is not predicated on participation and collaboration as an integral part of the i-doc itself, might be an appropriate basis on which to proceed. Just as some might argue that there is little point in owning a Ferrari if one intends to keep it locked up in a garage, the question will be asked whether it is a mis-use of the technology not to make the dynamic and genuinely interactive possibilities of computers a central part of an i-doc’s logic. As part of this discussion, the publishing opportunities for the documentary genre created by tablets, such as the i-pad, will be considered. Are dynamic touchscreen interfaces making tablet based ‘hypertext documentaries’ more engaging or is this publishing model gradually being superseded, as our understanding of the potential, logic and dynamics of the interactive documentary grows?

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