Stefania Bercu is a Sociology graduate from Bucharest, currently located in Amsterdam and doing a masters in New Media.

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Session Title: Dialogical Platforms: Autopoiesis and Collaboration in Web Documentaries

The aim of my paper is to build a new framework for the analysis of web documentaries. The first section examines the scholarly writing on “interactive documentaries” in the past decade and shows how academic focus so far has been on building taxonomies of this new genre based on elements of interactivity and user experience, by relying heavily on documentary film theory. The second section argues that the term “interactive” is irrelevant in building the web documentary as an academic field of study and suggests the use of the term “collaborative documentaries” instead, which allows for the conceptualization of the user not just as active explorer of the documentary, but also as content creator and, to a certain extent, co- author.

By framing collaborative documentaries as platforms for content distribution and creation, a picture of the constantly created relations between creator, content, software and audience emerges, leading to a greater understanding of the changing nature of the documentary genre.
Taking a media ecologies approach, the paper draws on Felix Guattari’s discussion on ecosophy and Bruno Latour’s theory of Dingpolitik to frame collaborative documentaries as socio-technical and cultural assemblages, giving voice to an audience gathered around matters of concern.

The three case studies (Gaza/Sderot, Highrise: Out my window and Prison Valley) investigate the distribution of agencies and employment of the affordances of the media in order to foster the audience’s social and political engagement. The study concludes that although collaborative documentaries still find their tradition in cinema and linear narrative, they allow for the mediation of multiple subjectivities and the articulation of new forms of interrogation of existing political, economical and social systems.

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