In 2020, I was invited to create and teach a course on transmedia storytelling and interactive documentary for the filmmaker-led Documentary and Non-Fiction Media (DNM) program at Seneca College. I combined post-structuralist philosophy of technology I studied at McGill with the latest theory and practice from MIT’s Open Documentary Lab and Co-Creation Studio. In class we discuss the future of storytelling, proto-metaverse technologies like XR, co-creating with (and content about) artificial intelligence, transmedia cultural theory and take a behind the scenes look at the interactive documentaries I made while at Jam3. Here’s an excerpt from my course syllabus:
DNM820 will teach students how to apply transmedia and interactive strategies to documentary, by looking at case studies drawn from Hollywood film franchises, bleeding-edge immersive technologies, alternate reality experiences and co-created activist documentaries. While we will examine the ever-changing digital landscape, our aim will be to use transmedia and interactive strategy in support of project goals and never technology for its own sake (even if at times such strategies deconstruct traditional documentary form — and sometimes also technology — literally from within).
So in the spirit of the interactive process, our course will unfold iteratively as needed to support and enhance students’ final documentary projects. Thus the breakdown below should be seen as a guideline only, with the following lines of inquiry helping to frame our explorations during this time of flux:
• What’s the interplay between linear and non-linear storytelling?
• What are the differences between interactive documentary (i-doc) and transmedia storytelling traditions? How are they converging today?
• How do “character”, “story” and “world” relate in transmedia?
• What are the changing dynamics between filmmakers, documentary subjects and the “people formerly known as the audience”? What role does technology play in these dynamics?
• What levels of interactivity, immersion and participation are appropriate for different types of documentary projects?
• How does technology affect our understanding of truth and reality? And why does this matter especially for documentary filmmakers?
• What might emerging technologies like AI, the metaverse, Web3 and NFTs mean for documentary film?