Just reading on MIT Open Documentary Lab about Arnau Gifreu Castell’s research project COME/IN/DOC. This should prove to be an invaluable resource for teaching and research into the field on I-Doc.
In the first section of the interface, ‘Start-off’, we hear a series of experts try to define ‘interactive documentary’. The recurrent narrative is one of openness (in the story structure, in the meaning of the documentary), and of active engagement (versus the so-called passive engagement of film). However, many of the experts show also a certain unease with the prospect of dislocating i-doc from documentary film altogether.
Indeed, as many other media forms, some films are passive experiences, but some are definitely not. Films can incite to direct action, in the compound of events they can just be the right communicational device needed to stir a given moment. To claim that interactivity as we know it on the web is more engaged seems an illusion, and we all know that often clicks do not necessarily translate into meaningful action in the world. I find much more appealing the idea of an on-offline continuum where the documentary as a form of address adopts the various resources at its disposal.
A film such as Jean Rouch’s “Cronique d’un été” was certainly interactive…
However, Sandra Gaudenzi provides the key distinction in the section, what do we mean by interactivity? For her, in this case it is exclusively about digital interaction. This seems key to really start looking at the specific challenges and opportunities of documentary when experienced through a computer.