I’m a Senior Research Fellow at the Digital Cultures Research CentreUniversity of the West of England in Bristol, UK. My practice-led research looks at the intersection between documentary and the Social, Semantic and Open web. I’m investigating the role of the producer as context provider, catalyst, curator in documentary projects. I’m interested in the social, political and cultural potential of participatory and collaborative forms.

I reflect my research interests on the CollabDocs blog.

My involvement with DIY and alternative media goes back to the 1970s. I was one of the founders of COW Films, a women’s film distribution group, worked with the punk band The Slits and at Four Corners Film Workshop in London’s Bethnal Green, and was one of the editors of Emergency Magazine.

I’ve been working in participatory media since the mid-nineties.  I was co-founder and producer of the BBC’s “mass observation” camcorder project – Video Nation (94-2000) and Executive Producer of Capture Wales (2001-2007), a pioneering digital storytelling project in the UK.  I’ve developed and overseen a number of other innovative participatory projects for the BBC including  Voices (2004) – a major pan-platform collaborative exploration of language, accent and dialect across the UK (Webby nominated website ) and  
MyScienceFictionLife (2006) (Webby Honoree) – a collective history of British science fiction.

My current practice-based research, The Are you happy? Project revisits Jean Rouch’s seminal documentary “Chronicle of a Summer” in the context of global collaboration and the web, and will be exploring the potential of HTML5 for the “creative treatment of actuality” (Grierson’s early definition of documentary).

Session Title: Documentary, Open Space, Citizenship – “Making Publics”?

Documentary is a cultural form with a special relationship to the public sphere, a “vocation” as Michael Chanan has called it. As Chanan has argued this vocation derives from the dialogic nature of documentary; it is a project through which experiences and knowledges can be represented, contrasted and shared, and which acts as a catalyst for reflection. This dialogic quality has come to the fore within the collaborative documentary practices emerging in the context of digital media.

Helen de Michiel and Patricia Zimmermann have coined the term Open Space Documentary for the dialogic, iterative and generative projects that we can now see emerging. In this context documentary can be seen as a “relational object” (Gaudenzi) in a process involving makers and audience/users in multiple encounters and communicative interactions.

This presentation will consider Global Lives and Mapping Main Street as examples of projects which reflect open space and relational qualities. I will ask how these works develop documentary’s “vocation” in the public sphere? Can we see these collaborative practices as forms of DIY citizenship, as participants come together to deliberate about common concerns? (Habermas) What might we learn about participation and about citizenship from thinking about these examples?

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