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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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Thoughts about my latent first language, my mother tongue and my heritage language, drift in and out of my consciousness each day. Working on this activist transmedia art project is my own personal calling out to others who are in a similar predicament. When I began this project in 2008, the crisis was deeply felt and articulated by young people in Taiwan, particularly young indigenous peoples, who reached out to participate and commit their time and energy to make the documentary Tongues of Heaven. Their motivations translate to the kinds of biopolitical acts that Hokowhitu argues is the essence of Fourth Cinema or Fourth Media efforts. I position myself as someone who has lived as a non-indigenous person and who acknowledges my various privileges (and sadness) due to the circumstances of my birth and to the violence of colonialism that compelled my parents to adopt an assimilationist survival mode both in Taiwan and the U.S. Many Taiwanese, like my parents, are currently rediscovering their ethnic and indigenous heritages. It is an act of decolonization, but one that I pursue with caution and hesitation. If anything, these historical connections bring another dimension to my desire to ally with my collaborators from a place of inside and outside in relation to them. I am not a native to anywhere in the geographical sense. Yet, I feel emotionally connected to what I consider my native land of Taiwan and my native language Minnanese. Working with my collaborators in a context where...

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