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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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Chapter 2 Digital Documentary Praxis


A Place

Demonstrating the need to transform the discourses of authenticity, ethnography, salvage ethnography and autoethnography, the previous chapter presented some exemplary cases of how minority and indigenous media artists have experimented with various techniques of documentary self-representation. Alongside these works, this chapter details how the one-hour documentary Tongues of Heaven (2013) case study further elaborates on these experiments in self-representation. What conditions enable minority and indigenous media artists to pursue experiments in representation? How does process, content and form figure into how these experiments are carried out? What kinds of critical media practices might give rise to a third digital documentary?

To provide historical context, Tongues of Heaven arose from colonialism’s wreckage caused by successive colonial regimes in Taiwan, most notably from the early twentieth century to today. Several centuries of colonial violence included forced assimilation, more recently during the Japanese (1896–1945) and Kuomintang (1949–1987) rule, which included the compulsory adoption of their languages, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, respectively. Starting with the lifting of martial law in 1987, marking Taiwan’s entrance into a participatory democracy for the first time in the island’s history, Taiwan’s indigenous peoples have steadily gained more recognition and influence in state-level matters, including education. While the early days of bentuhua [best translated as ‘Taiwanization’] were Han Chinese-centric, the main opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), saw the need to downplay the prevalent dichotomy between Hoklo Taiwanese and the mainlanders (settler autocratic Chinese rulers ←41 | 42→from...

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