i-Docs, Transmedia & Co-Created Assemblages
In 2020 I was invited to teach at Seneca’s filmmaker-led Documentary and Non-Fiction Media program (DNM), where I focus on “i-docs” – often mistakenly thought of as short for “interactive documentary,” but more accurately any type of technological or social innovation used to update the documentary form, including but not limited to (proto-metaverse) XR, AI, immersive theater, interactive audio, even prototyping climate “futures” at MIT’s Unity-sponsored WORLDING workshop. I spent hundreds of hours researching i-doc theory and practice in preparation. Two milestones that really stood out for me were The National Film Board of Canada updating their Challenge for Change initiative in the mid 2000s with emerging i-doc innovations (from Katerina Cizek and others) and MIT’s Open Documentary Lab branching out in 2016 into the Co-Creation Studio, with “co-creation” broadly defined to include collaboration with non-human systems found in nature and artificial intelligence. To balance theory with practice, I give my DNM students a behind-the-scenes look at NUCLEAR DISSENT, SONS OF GALLIPOLI and CHANGE GOUT, three of the interactive experiences I co-created during my four years at Jam3, adding to the digital studio’s long list of award-winning i-doc credits, from the NFB’s seminal BEAR 71 to BIIDAABAN VR, both of which we also spend considerable time on in class.
In addition to i-docs, my students and I explore Henry Jenkins and Jeff Gomez’s transmedia theory, which focuses on cultural dialogues between major franchises like Harry Potter and their fans – but rarely address documentary film. So in class we brainstorm ways to use transmedia to support indie docs with zero-cost social media tools and community-building strategies – without having to create complex and expensive bespoke i-doc experiences still largely controlled by gatekeepers like the NFB and the CMF.
This teaching experience has my renewed my passion for research, strategy and production – both transdisciplinary and co-created, powered by emerging social and technological innovation, and supercharged with philosophy, especially the assemblage theory of Deleuze and Guattari and phenomenology of Heidgger and Merleau-Ponty. Some of these insights were implicit in my prior work – especially in unreleased passion projects I’m still developing – but only in half measures. So now as theory meets practice, it feels like rubber on the road – and it’s off to the races!