Category Archives: DocShop

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 event invitation: Notes from El Saniyya

Dear Friends,
Harvard’s DocShop and MIT OpenDocLab Fellow Lara Baladi are happy to invite you to Notes from El Saniyya on Thursday December 11th from 3-9 pm, with the main event and artist’s talk from 6:30-8:00, at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Based on a growing archive that artist Lara Baladi has been gathering since the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, Notes from El Saniyya is an invitation to participate in the making of a ‘transmedia painting’ and is part of the interactive history-telling project Baladi is developing at OpenDocLab, called Vox Populi, Archiving a Revolution in the Digital Age.

Tahrir Square was the most digitally documented and disseminated event in modern history. It is the archetype of a global phenomenon that marks the beginning of the 21st century. Baladi’s Vox Populi will act as a tribute to this symbolic event and represent its impact on and resonance with the uprisings and socio-political movements that followed, and continue to do so worldwide.

Notes from El Saniyya is the first in a series that DocShop and artist Lara Baladi will present during the 2014-15 academic year. Experimental and conversational, the event will offer participants the chance to interact with archival media, give feedback, and contribute ideas which will help inform later events in the series. This open lab experience mixing art, history, and digital media will encourage participants to immerse themselves in the creative process of making socially-engaged art.

Notes from El Saniyya will take place on Thursday December 11th, from 3-9 pm in Gund 522 (The HILT room) at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, 48 Quincy St, Cambridge, MA 02138.

Space for this event  is limited, please RSVP here:
Email Joe Steele with any questions.


DocShop and Lara Baladi

Mohamed Mahmud Street, Tahrir Square, 2012

DocShop is an interactive documentary workshop that seeks to engage filmmakers, artists, and storytellers with new audiences. Dedicated to exploring the possibilities of embodied media in ever-expanding contexts of participation, DocShop is part of the Digital Problem Solving Initiative (DPSI) at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and metaLAB at Harvard.

Lara Baladi is an internationally recognized multi-disciplinary Egyptian artist. Baladi applies archives, investigations of myths, and personal narratives to a range of mediums including architectural and video installations. Baladi publishes and exhibits worldwide. Here is a link to her  CreativeTime Reports articles. Her works are part of a number of institutional and private collections. She has been a board member of the Arab Image Foundation since its creation in 1997 and in 2014, began to serve on the advisory board of R-Shief, a historical online archive and media system.

During the 2011 Egyptian uprising, Baladi co-founded two media initiatives, Radio Tahrir and Tahrir Cinema, which served as public platforms to build and share an archive on and for the revolution. Today, much of Baladi’s work revolves around and stems from this archive.

#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 08

What we worked on

We had two meetings this week. During the first DPSI meeting, we responded to last week’s visit to Lawrence to see Dan’s locative media piece ‘Fall of the Pemberton Mill’. We then shifted into project management mode to make a schedule and scope out our first event.

In the second meeting, we met in the HILT Room in Gund 522, where Lara Baladi (Egyptian-Lebanese artist and fellow at the MIT Media Lab) presented her work and posed various problematiques of working with an archive, troubling the idea of the public domain, and how to combine media with data visualization and record narratives from the audience. Lara, along with the group, came up with an idea for a prototype for the first ‘happening’ for #DocShop, which will be in the first week or two of December. More information to come next week.

What went well

It was great to start really digging into the material, with the artist present. We also got to discuss our positioning to the modes of interactivity in documentary arts and storytelling, and what it means to spatialize time-based media.

What was challenging

Planning this event in such a short time and scoping out what we will be able to do by early December. The team is working beautifully, but the challenge comes with working with media in space and planning the event, and the moving parts that go along with it, along with being respectful to the artist’s material.

What’s up next

Booking a space, meeting with Lara at our #DocShop meeting on Friday, and beginning the planning of the installation and event.

#DocShop Meeting 07

What We DidDSC05808

This week we took a field trip out to Lawrence, MA to experience an interactive documentary in situ: The Path: The Fall of Pemberton Mill, produced by #DocShop member Dan Koff.

This multi-modal presentation of 7 videos, played on personal smart phones over the course of a walking tour of the Lawrence mills, featured the narrative of a present-day teenager intertwined with the historical perspective of 2 sisters who had worked in Pemberton Mill disaster, interviews with present-day historians and a relative of the two sisters. Additional media assets included place markers around Lawrence, artifacts such as maps, indentures, and arrest records, as well as the historic mill buildings themselves.

What Went WellDSC05826

The Path videos augmented reality to create a novel experience of place that was connected to historic events by proximity. The maps and instructions provided in the video series led us gently along while allowing enough room for ad hoc exploration of the spaces and artifacts. There was a consensus in our group that the piece would have worked just as well if we had not had Dan to guide our way, and that the overall experience benefitted from the social context of group discussion.

DSC05818 What Was Challenging

While the overall experience was quite positive and thought-provoking, some unanswered questions remain. The piece itself was participatory, but we were not sure if it fits the definition of interactive. The spectrum of interactivity continues to be a concept that we hone and refine. We also discussed the possibility of creating a networked learning experience with the incorporation of audience participation; we brainstormed ways that participants might add content in the form of reflections on present-day industrial accidents and generating their own media that connects the present to the past. This could take many different forms and we weren’t sure which would be most effective for the participant, and most interesting for the larger network of the piece’s audience.

What’s Up Next

For the next meeting, we’ll continue to unpack our experience with The Path in a discussion of location-based storytelling and the limits of interactivity, as not all of the #DocShop members were able to join us in Lawrence.

We also plan to recap and reflect on some of the group members’ experience of Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors and the recent Illuminus Festival.

Ultimately, we’ll work on a roadmap for collaborating with Lara Baladi and the final #DocShop deliverable for DPSI.


#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.