To Create Live Treatments of Actuality: An Investigation of the Emerging Field of Live Documentary Practice

The field of documentary is undergoing a transformation as it collides with digital technologies. A new arena of Interactive Documentary production is thriving, and critics and scholars are taking note. Within this field, there is less attention to new opportunities and new theoretical challenges for live practices within the documentary sphere. This thesis argues for a fuller conceptualization of Live Documentary practice. First, it questions the current state of assumptions about documentary, as a form related to the ‘document,’ as a particularly film-leaning form, and as a lasting and historicizing form of discourse. Next, it examines the historical underpinnings of two forms of live documentary practice and exemplar projects of each: Live Performance Documentary and Live Subject Documentary. The former is situated in the media category of live theater and performance, and the second, the author will argue, is an instantiation of television in its earliest configuration as a device for two-way audio-visual communications and not just unidirectional broadcasting. The study concludes by positing a third medium-specific form of live documentary native to the computer, the Live Data Documentary. This final, more speculative form is defined by drawing on the meanings of ‘liveness’ examined in the previous chapters and the history of real time computing to generate a suggested framing for computer-native live documentary practice.

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Julie Fischer

About Julie Fischer

Julie Fischer is a skilled and adaptable researcher with expertise in story development for major media projects. Her credits include researcher for documentary films The Unknown Known (2014) and Tabloid (2010). Her current work focuses on the strategic integration of live video technologies in documentary media, and the potentials of WebRTC to transform interactive storytelling. She was a research assistant at the MIT Open Documentary Lab, a group dedicated to building the field of interactive documentary.

Thesis: To Create Live Treatments of Actuality: An Investigation of the Emerging Field of Live Documentary Practice