All posts by josephs

DocShop meeting 01 Spring

I. Intro

  • Welcome back and check-in.. we met many times during January, but I will include notes from the most recent meeting.
  • Group gave hugs
  • Welcome Heather Craig! She is joining DocShop!!
  • We applied to i-Lab Dean’s Cultural Entrepreneurship Challenge.. we should hear soon.

II. Progress and notes from the field

Tina– at Global Voices in Manila, Phillipines. Balanga Elementary school> museum in the back. Memory and ethnography.

Lara– Showed pieces of BackStory timeline in Egypt, built a kitchen

Matthew– group with Peter Macmurray focused on archive and humanities, other connections for DocShop/Vox Populi

Valery– continues work on N. Dakota oil boom project

Dan– continues work on spatialized archive, show at Kirkland gallery with Magic card and sledding parties

Cris– talked about premiere of Cold Storage and launching of webdoc, good turnout of architects, humanists, and other interesting folks. Group gave their initial impressions, more detailed workshop soon.

Joe– continues to be interested in memory and narrative in tackling archives

Heather– MIT CMS, Datalore Hackathon, interest in storytelling and currently working on interactive doc about pebble mine

III. Lara (MIT OpenDocLab Fellow we are incubating) went into more detail on her ideas for Vox Populi this semester:

Her need from us will be:

  • Production/Exhibitions (what prototyping and production needs we can meet, vs. farm out)
  • Methodology (the field guide and some pedagogy reflections, focus groups)
  • Proposal (a more refined proposal to send to institutions, orgs, museums)
  • Documentation (video, ethnography of the events, interviews, etc.)
  • Pedagogy design (practice of the ‘socratic circle’ and other workshops we could run related to Vox Pop and DocShop’s goals/skills)


Next meeting Thurs. 2/19.

#DocShop meeting 10

What we worked on This week we met  in Gund 522 to start figuring out the exact ‘stations’ that will be part of the spatialization of Lara’s Tahrir Square archive. We also talked about various data visualizations and tools (such as Gephi, Roundware, and BackStory) we will utilize in the buildout of this prototype for DocShop’s pilot event. We have one or two venues we are deciding between and we are looking at the evening of Thursday December 11th as a launch date. Here are some process documents/photos from today: Tahrir_map_3sld1xhk   2014-11-23 20.51.22 2014-11-23 16.44.36       2014-11-23 17.21.25   2014-11-23 15.13.53 2014-11-23 14.34.15











What went well

Dividing aspects of the archive into different ‘stations’ and dividing up tasks and ownership. The tasks include PR and outreach, media, event planning, physical layout, printing, and documentation.

What was challenging

Narrowing down the scale of this project to something attainable within two weeks while being faithful to the ideal form this embodiment of the archive will take.

What’s up next

We will meet twice in the week following Thanksgiving. Once in Gund 522 for a working meeting, and once in the space where we will be projecting/performing the archive to start blocking out the stations and media in real space.

#DocShop meeting 09

What we worked on

This week, we met with Lara Baladi, (OpenDocLab Fellow) to start making a plan for how to frame the different stations of her spatialization of her timeline and archive. The goal of DocShop’s project is to help artists realize how to animate an archive in real space and how to architect experiences that will bring artists and audiences together. Lara expressed her interest in metanarratives and that the archetypal emerges out of the multivalent.

Here is an article on the project that was in Guernica mag. You can also see a three channel buildout from the archive, along with two articles written by Lara on CreativeTimeReports. Lara had also attended the MIT Infinite Record conference and highly recommended we all see that. This is prescient in terms of her practice as this year was focused on archive, memory, and performance.

Additionally, Rachel presented to the group this week a module on interactivity and learning design, along with a project that she made on a class that examined pedagogy design, specifically around constructivist pedagogy. The readings included ‘Designing Interactions’ by Bill Moddridge and Joh Sweller’s writings on Multimedia Learning and Cognitive Load Theory. Her project is called ‘Alright Eros’, which was modeled after OK Cupid, where the user becomes complicit in giving personal information to the program, whether in the form of quizzes or actual sensitive data. At the end, you get an error message and there is a small string of text that says ‘Did you need to give your credit card information?’ Ian Bogost’s Cow Clicker came up as an example of deconstructivist or subversive social games.

What went well

We had a number of ideas to share. The group gave wonderful feedback and issues from our readings came up during discussion of interaction and in talking about Lara’s project. The most effective thing we did was articulate what we (DocShop) wanted to get out of this collaboration. Lara expressed her aims/goals/desires of this process, and each group member individually said why they wanted to do this.

What was challenging

Making sure we get the scope breakdown schedule right, to deliver this prototype by December 11, which is only 3.5 weeks away.

What’s up next

We will meet next week on Sunday in Gund 522 to keep working with the material. Lara, the group, possibly Halsey Burgund (developer of Roundware and OpenDocLab fellow) and the metaLAB team will be there.

#DocShop Meeting 06

Midterm Review 

We got a good idea of people’s familiarity with interactive documentary and gauged the interest in the topic. As was brought up during our previous meetings by group members and the metaLAB team, folks wondered how we capture process and audience responses to media.

On the whole, we definitely made some nice connections and got great feedback… we also might get some lessons learned documentation from Wendy Fok, one of the winners of last year’s Dean’s Design Challenge, on our entry into the i-Lab Cultural Entrepreneurship Challenge.

What we worked on

The group met Tina Pamintuan, Nieman Fellow from CUNY Grad Center, who introduced herself and sat in on the discussion. Dan and other group members shared their experience of the Sam Green show at the ICA, but much of the conversation was about Ragnar Kjartansson’s piece The Visitors and the overall success of troubling some of the ideas of how to show multi-stream work in a museum setting.

Dan continued his conversation with Lara Baladi (MIT OpenDocs Lab) and Dalia Othman (Berkman), and we hope that they can join our next meeting. Perhaps a build out of Lara’s project on Egypt would work well for our kickoff event! We hope they can attend the meeting 11/7.

What went well

Idea jamming and talking about architecting different kinds of interaction between time-based media and audiences/authors. It was really productive to think of the spatialization of documentary as an , from the ground level (in a gallery or museum space), as opposed to combining top-down approaches with narrative seen in mapping, or the ‘choose your own adventure model’ that is viewed in a browser or a device, still being a single stream experience.

What was challenging

Pinning down the terms we wish to use in our proposal and charter. How do we break out of the ‘black box’ in a cinematic or dramaturgical environment? Perhaps it is a black cube?

What do we call this group and event series? An incubator or seminar/workshop series, a school, an interactive doc film festival? Perhaps a new term– a CoLABoratory. This implies that a number of different stakeholders across disciplines are collaboratively designing solutions to the problems of interactive documentary.

What’s up next

A number of group members were at the Illuminus Festival, so it will be productive to talk about what worked about that. Start work on our narrative, scope and process schedule, budget, and milestones for 2014/early 2015.

Halloween field trip!!! At our last meeting we decided to hold our next session in Lawrence  to view the location-based documentary, The Path: Fall of the Pemberton Mill made by Dan Koff in 2010.  

#DocShop meeting 05

What we worked on

We defined our problematic and came up with a first iteration of our event. This event will serve as a proof of concept for the need for conversation around i docs and the need to create community and engage a greater diversity of audiences in documentary modes. The immediate goal would be to secure funding to plan at least three events over the 2014-2015 year, with a culminating showcase toward the end. Beyond that, this project could be a seminar/workshop/screening and event series that seeks to engage new audiences in various modes of storytelling and documentary arts. One long term plan (after pilot year) would include a school for adults and young adults, as well as an artist in residency program. This would test out ideas of horizontal learning, via the networks engaged in the project. Connections would be made across disciplines and media, between online resources and real world affinity spaces.

Plan: Reach out to makers working in the interactive doc realm (across institutions, including The New School in NYC, CUNY Grad Center, MIT, Harvard, MassArt, SMFA, BU, and Emerson). Continue workshopping interactive docs. Engage a variety of stakeholders during the pilot event.

What went well

Simply defining the problem and what we are interested in actually doing. We will create a manifesto, then during the pilot event, make it open so that all stakeholders can edit it (basically wiki it).

What was challenging

Articulating exactly what it is that we are doing (is it a festival? a happening? a charette? a performance? a showcase?) What is our one-year plan and five-year plan, etc.

What’s up next

Presenting to the midterm group. Secure funding and start securing resources for the pilot. Next week we will divide and conquer with a detailed scope, and timeline with milestones.

#DocShop meeting 04

What we worked on

Mentors and group members contributed their ideas for problems/research questions and initiatives to address these. Our group looked at funding sources, including the Harvard i-Lab Dean’s Cultural Entrepreneurship Challenge, and did an analysis of whether our particular problem would fit this.

What follows are the ideas brought by group members.


Dan’s main question was ‘How do we expand the audience of interactive documentary and introduce filmmakers to these new audiences?’ An iteration he brought up to address this concern was to create an immersive theatre environment, in the vein of Sleep No More, or another setup where there is a low barrier of entry (cheap door $) and then the value is added inside by selling other experiences, in order to raise money for the arists and filmmakers who are showing their work. How to make it an event or happening, that will connect new audiences to the work? Dan also met a fellow at the MIT Media Lab who has a bunch of footage and archival media, she is interested in collaborating with the group.


Rachel had a question of how to connect filmmakers with resources, such as a platform for funding and other technical resources that artists need. How can we connect the voices of the filmmakers with audiences? How can we use top-down approaches combined with content we generate to make meaningful changes for the users?


Léa became excited at the prospect of working with footage and material from a documentary filmmaker or journalist, perhaps with the aim of building out  a prototype of an interactive doc, whether it be webdocumentary, interactive or immersive doc, or another extralinear form, including geosophic mapping combined with narratives.


The main problem that Joe brought concerns the desire for this project to continue beyond this semester and academic year. The questions of interactive documentary cannot be solved, but they are here to stay and should continue to be examined by stakeholders including filmmakers, technologists, journalists, historians, humanities scholars, and audiences interested in the form and content of the docs.

Cambridge/Boston is a fountainhead of documentary filmmaking and there are many opportunities to enhance opportunities that exist here, in terms of artists, institutions, audiences, and entrepreneurs. Is there a way between public-private partnerships and bringing together audiences and filmmakers by way of workshops, seminars, and screenings?

Here is a proposal for one potential solution:


Valery’s main concern was the question of authorship in docs that employ the collaborative and participatory modes, especially with regards to aesthetic and film language (montage, duration, composition, mise-en-scene). Do the traditional forms of pictorial representation, dramaturgical film form, and textual analysis apply to interactive docs?

metaLAB team

Cris and Matthew brought some interesting concerns, including how to document our process and how to showcase the work (such as a design guide or field guide), how to scale up the project, and how to visualize our problem as a venn diagram where docs, platforms, and events could intersect.

We met Sherri Wasserman, metaLAB fellow, who has worked extensively with museums and digital storytelling. With metaLAB, she primarily focuses on the development of multiple interactive documentary projects, new paradigms of publishing, and the intersections of storytelling, mobile technologies, and physical space. She brought some wonderful problems of how to define the users and audience and how to engage larger publics with questions of interactive doc in both real and virtual space.

What went well

Generating many ideas, . The group is still on board with functioning as a workshop for documentary artists, journalists, and other creative technologists working with media. Potential visiting folks would include Jessica Landerman, Rebecca Richman Cohen, the filmmakers of Living Los Sures (by UnionDocs), and Michael Kleiman, who is the director of Web the Film.

What was challenging

Choosing among the myriad problems of interactive documentary that we have outlined and narrowing the scope to fit this project. With so many amazing ideas, it will be hard to choose, but perhaps there is a way of combining some of the questions.

What’s up next

We have to decide on one question or set of questions that we will go about solving. This will include a potential program, prototype, or product that we will work on, along with process documentation of the creation and deployment. Once we create an initial prototype or event, we can capture some narratives of users and stakeholders to test the validity of our question. We hope to build a showcase for the DPSI project showcase that can be installed in GUND 522 and will serve as a pilot.

Joe will share his notes from meeting with UnionDocs in Brooklyn, EYEBEAM artist colony in NYC, and the DocYard in Boston, including narratives and lessons learned documentation from the beginnings of these organizations. Dan will present his work the week of Halloween, with a trip to Lawrence to see his site-specific documentary.

#DocShop meeting 03

What we worked on

Valery Lyman, DocShop principal, photographer and documentary filmmaker, showed her recent work on Williston, North Dakota published in the Guardian and the LA Times. She also shared some audio (perhaps in the form of a radio documentary?) that was in process and ideas on how to build the photos and audio into an installation in a gallery or alternative gallery space.

The group listened to audio and viewed the images of Williston ND, as well as boomtowns in American West, then provided Valery with creative feedback, praise/critique, and structural feedback on how these ideas could be developed for a physical space.


What went well

We gave Valery a number of ideas for how to proceed with the build out of her installation of her project. It was incredibly productive, and we wondered how to capture this process.

What was challenging

We did not get to look at proposals because a number of folks were unable to make it. Perhaps this was a time management issue on my part. We should share ideas virtually this week in addition to presenting them at the next meeting.

What’s up next

Each group member will bring present his or her proposal for our project this semester (and beyond) for DPSI.  We will also look at Dan’s site-specific documentary if time allots. Our project proposal will be included in next week’s blog post. Stay tuned!

#DocShop meeting 02

What we worked on

Introduction and check-in.

Cris, group mentor and principal at metaLAB, presented progress on their interactive documentary Cold Storage, about the Harvard Depository.

Group members critiqued the work and added to the body of knowledge of interactive doc by defining term and key issues. We started a mindmap that all stakeholders can edit. Here is a capture of it:

mindmap of doc terms

What went well

The critique of the Cold Storage interactive doc, creating the mindmap and defining terms/issues, and generating questions about what problem DocShop will solve.

What was challenging

Continuing the scope analysis of this project– will our deliverable be process based, a scholarly work, a white paper, a program, a design for a workshop or seminar, a pedagogical tool (such as the Beautiful Data toolkit), or a protype of a webdocumentary or platform?

What’s up next

Valery will present her project. Each group member will bring one proposal for our project this semester (and beyond) for DPSI. We will read Kate Nash’s Modes of Interactivity, Alexandre Astruc’s La Camera Stylo, and define Bill Nichol’s modes of observational documentary. We will discuss Valery’s work and Journey to the End of Coal in light of the readings and terms, iterating and refining the mindmap.

#DocShop meeting 01

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 2.00.42 PM #DocShop is a research group that investigates new modes of documentary art and ethnography. These include webdocumentary, interactive docs, and participatory modes and other emergent tools/platforms/questions as they pertain to documentary.

What we worked on

Introduction to metaLAB and last year’s DPSI project, the Lightbox gallery. Matthew Battles (Principal and Associate Director at metaLAB) proposes that we look at Lev Manovich’s text “Database as Symbolic Form” and metaLAB’s ‘Beautiful Data’ Field Guide. We visited the idea of looking at and thinking about Cold Storage (documentary about the Harvard Library Depository) as a way to prototype ideas we have about interactive docs.

The other mentors are Jessica Yurkofsky and Cris Magliozzi, both Principals at metaLAB.

Group members Léa, Rachel, Dan, Debbie, Jenny, Valery. We all introduced ourselves and brought in one or two examples that for us exemplified or problematized interactive documentary/webdocumentary/new narrative modes (extralinear).

What went well

Meeting everyone and getting into the headspace of new modes of documentary filmmaking. It was amazing to hear about the diversity of our backgrounds and experience. People brought some really provocative questions to the table.

What was challenging

Defining such slippery terms as interactive documentary, extralinear narrative, journalism vs. ethnography. The process of figuring out the scope of this project (is it critical research, process-based, a product, or a service?)

What’s up next

Pin down the terms. Discuss Manovich and visit the ‘Beautiful Data’ Field Guide. Cris will present on Cold Storage. Other group members will present their current projects in the following weeks.