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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 3 An Essay on Editing



Editing is a power wielded in filmmaking that is often under-acknowledged. Despite the collaborative nature of the production process for the Tongues of Heaven documentary, I wrote the script and edited the work. Therefore, I find it valuable to disclose in some form and degree, what documentary director Frederick Wiseman calls the ‘private debate’ editors have when assembling a film. Most notably, early film practitioners Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov and Maya Deren have used their works to illustrate and support their theories on editing. Contemporary filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha has detailed her creative and intellectual processes for certain editing decisions. In writing about the editing of Tongues of Heaven, I have chosen the essayistic format because it lends itself to self-reflexive engagement with topics that usually relate to some forms of socio-political crises or aporias. Editing an experimental documentary about language, identity, and culture involves complex negotiations around issues of decolonization, recognition, essentialism, marginalization, inclusion and exclusion, theoretically and in practice. These negotiations are often wrought with anxieties, ambivalences, discontent and anger, as well as potentialities. Thus, the essayistic allows a relationship to form between the self and the public in such contested situations of (post)coloniality.

While in the previous chapters I have laid out the various social, methodological and discursive terrains from which the work had materialized, the following essay on editing assays or weighs my personal reflections as filmmaker/editor during the editing stage, along with ←79 | 80→the writings of...

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