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Third Digital Documentary

A Theory and Practice of Transmedia Arts Activism, Critical Design and Ethics

Anita Wen-Shin Chang

This book offers a theory and methodology of transmedia arts activism within the technocultural and sociopolitical landscape of expanded documentary production, distribution, reception and participation. Through a detailed analysis of the author’s transmedia project on indigenous and minority language endangerment and revival that consists of the feature-length documentary Tongues of Heaven and the companion web application Root Tongue: Sharing Stories of Language Identity and Revival, she reveals the layers and depths of a critical arts practice when confronted with complex sociopolitical issues while working with multiple communities across territorial/national boundaries. In the context of the growing field of transmedia documentaries, the author discusses the potentials and benefits of a critical design practice and production ethics that can transform this field to pilot new collaborations in documentary and digital media platforms towards a third digital documentary.
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Introduction

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Given the increased options of multiple digital platforms available to practitioners of social issue documentaries, what kinds of new considerations are required during research, production and distribution? We often think of social justice–driven documentaries as articulating some form of oppression that requires awareness, and the subsequent alleviation of this issue. Some documentaries foreground the systemic problems of the issue to get at its root cause, contributing to the continued discourse of neocolonialism, and potentially to the growing robust acts of decolonization. Within the highly visible milieu of digital activism from those seeking a more just existence, this book argues for the potentials and benefits of a critical research design practice and production ethics to pilot new collaborations in documentary and digital media platforms toward what I call a third digital documentary. My concept of a third digital documentary takes its intellectual legacy and inspiration from Third Cinema, a new form of communication theory and practice articulated in 1969 by Argentinian filmmakers Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino that responds, and continues to respond, to neocolonial oppression.1 Like Third Cinema, a third digital documentary is an audio-visual experience, a theory and a way of practice that utilizes a decolonizing framework in order to simultaneously arrive at a new consciousness and carve out spaces of freedom, whether physical or psychic – spaces needed to imagine, invent and construct new realities, identities and futures.

In describing what a third digital documentary is and does, the book begins with the decision-making...

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