public space design and research

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Participatory Documentary [and the city]



The recent emergence and accessibility of new media technologies brings with it new opportunities for professions not traditionally associated with media production. The potentials for the use of documentary practice in urban research and design projects goes much further than the traditionally formatted video production. This research project examines this potential, from both an aesthetic and working process viewpoints. The work looks at five participatory and interactive films that focus on urban issues. From this analysis it establishes working methods for how documentary practice could be integrated into urban research and design projects.

We will see how interactive and participatory documentaries are not only about the final finished product. They are as much about designing a storytelling process that engages with the voices of people, their communities and the places they live in. This process can often become a catalyst that empowers and engages the communities involved. While online interactive documentaries can encourage this participation by combining a range of media; photography, maps, soundscapes and data visualisations into one compelling experience for the viewer.

Participatory documentary itself is a form of film production that directly involves people and communities in a collaborative and inclusive filmmaking process. Here the process is of producing the film provides a platform which brings people together to explore issues, voice concerns, listen to and tell stories. The role of the filmmaker is to facilitate and shape this process and to develop the content into a coherent narrative that can allow the community to reach a wider audience. The participatory process can be a highly effective tool to engage and mobilise communities, particularly in dealing with direct tangible issues about their town, district or neighbourhood.

From the basis research a list of working methods for approaching different scenarios have been defined. The research basis was a compilation of interviews with directors who have used these methods in their work, essays and archive films:


Case Study: