Digital Documentary

New Media Documentary (PDF Doc. 1.7 Mb)
Explorations in the Changing Form, Theory and Practice of Documentary.

A paper written for course: Computer as an Expressive Medium.
Georgia Institute of Technology, Fall 2001. Professor Steven Mamber and Professor Eugene Thacker.


It is unquestionable that the future of media gathering, production, and distribution, be it text, sound, still or motion imagery, is digital. Digital media offers incredible advantages. Already computer-based word processing is ingrained within our daily lives. Our music is stored in ones and zeros on neat little disks. Digital image manipulation dominates the print industry and is increasingly common at the consumer level. Non-linear digital editing is rapidly replacing linear editing in professional video production and is also making inroads into the consumer market. Digital special effects dominate commercial movie making and soon digital technologies might become the primary recording and distribution medium for big-budget Hollywood releases. The explosion of the internet via email and the world wide web represents one of the most rapid adoptions of a technology in history. The ability to convert any media item into a digital file offers media makers an incredible tool for the creation and distribution of their work.

These technologies are often dubbed "New Media." Are they really new media forms or are they just new tools for creating older media forms? While many of these advances make old jobs easier, there is more to New Media than just new ways to write a letter or edit a sitcom. New tools very often beget new thinking, and serious re-evaluations of the existing media forms, both by intention and by accident. The discrete nature of digital media has a potentially profound effect on the very way we understand the structure of such art forms as cinema. Instead of a medium of temporal montage, which has dominated filmmaking since the days of Eisenstein, we are moving into an era where the composite is the fundamental visual construction (Manovich, p .155). The representational questions of the differences between the continuous nature of analog capture and the discrete nature of digital capture are fascinating, but unfortunately they must be saved for another essay.

There are other elements of New Media that distinguish it from many of the previous forms. Particularly important are the notion of the network and interactivity. The concept of the peer-to-peer network arrangement is a monumental change, not just for distribution but for the concept of what defines a media “work.” Interactivity is another fundamental shift. The need to allow some element of user control is dramatically different from the top-down product oriented model that has dominated music, television, and film for decades.

The varied nature of the presentation forms of New Media leads to a compelling question regarding the definition of what constitutes the “real” final version. Is it the website? Is it the book? Is it the video? Is it the database that stores the files? Is it the act of interaction between participants?

A Random Walk through 20th Century

Online Articles
Documentary in the Age of Digital Reproduction
docu_datamentary: Steve Dietz
Picture Projects
Picture Projects: Information
Viewpoints on Demand: Tailoring the Presentation of Opinions in Video
An Experiment in Form: The Merging of Cinema-Verite Documentary and Narrative Filmmaking

Representing Reality, Bill Nichols
Cinema Verite in America, Steven Mamber

Experiments and Explorations
Experimental Database Table
Bronc Busters, Bomb Designers, and Me - Masters Project

Georgia Tech Archive