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Where Truth Lies: Political Documentary Film & Digital Media, 2000-2010

  • Fallon, Kris
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2013
eScholarship - University of California
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Recent scholarship treats the transition to the digital format in documentary film as a straightforward change in production practices or distribution channels, ignoring the deeper implications of digital technology for non-fiction moving image media. Far from a simple transition in the technology used to shoot and produce these films, however, digital technology has altered, and been altered by, documentary film to a far greater extent than any previous period in its history. The first decade of the twenty first century gave rise to dramatic technological, aesthetic and political revolutions around the globe, dramatic events mirrored in the rapid evolution of documentary form across the same time period. This project focuses on the emergence of digital documentary in the context of the ideological shifts and social conflicts of the early 21st century. As blogs, social networks and mobile technologies became the connective tissue of political dissent and social mobilization over this period, these technologies utilized documentary's unique synthesis of visible evidence and rhetorical argument, while pushing its traditional form in unexpected new directions. In the polarized climate surrounding contentious events such as the war on terror and the invasion of Iraq, new modes of visual representation became both viable and desirable. Data visualization and virtual environments began picturing the world alongside, and even within feature-length films. Beyond simply providing visual content on newly digital platforms, documentary film now provides a conceptual framework for understanding much of the social impulse of political activism today. Conversely, computational forms of representation and social organization radically undermine the privileged if problematic role optical media once claimed in representing reality. By identifying the moments of rupture where prior forms of representation and persuasion were discarded or discredited, I demonstrate that `truth' now lies in a new set of discursive practices emerging and coalescing over the last 10 years, standards which implicitly shape the documentation of everything from widespread social movements like Occupy to isolated, viral phenomena like the "Kony 2012" video.

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