Project

Polyphonic documentary is a collaborative and practice-based research project convened by Judith Aston and Stefano Odorico. Its aim is to explore the potential of interactive documentary for promoting interdisciplinary dialogue and exchange in a context of climate emergency and increasing polarization. Our starting point is to re-visit the work of Bakhtin and look at the relevance of what he has to say about the polyphonic novel in relation to evolving documentary forms and practices. As part of this, we are also looking at other relevant theorists whose work intersects with and builds on ideas about co-creation, polyphony and transformative narratives.

Whilst polyphony can be found across a number of documentary forms, we are mainly interested here in focusing on earlier debates within interactive documentary around narrative/non-narrative/anti-narrative and its relationship to the database form. What happens for example when the human computer interface enables us to create spatial, multi/non-linear and more open-ended organisational strategies, as opposed to the more sequential, linear and fixed approaches found in the age of cinema and print?

To avoid technological determinism, we are keen to look at power dynamics and at the situated nature of all forms of knowledge construction, by looking at the pitfalls as well as the benefits of interactive documentary as a means of promoting polyphonic thinking. We feel that now is a good time to be returning to these debates, as the computer-based aesthetic of the multiple is being made ubiquitous by interfaces such as that of Zoom, high profile interactive narrative projects that have started to emerge on channels such as Netflix, and many of us are engaged with using interactive tools for on-line learning.

We also feel, in line with our co-creation colleagues linked to the Park Center for Independent Media in New York, that now is a good moment for a re-set, for a questioning of received ways of doing things, in order to develop new approaches and strategies which can help us to embrace complexity, navigate uncertainty and celebrate diversity.

We invite you to join us in this journey of discovery!

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