Category Archives: Social Media @ Harvard

#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.

Educational institutions & social media (Social Team)


What’s the role of an educational institution in listening to, aggregating, or amplifying individual voices online? This is the question the new digital/social/mobile world serves up to all educational institutions — staffed primarily by digital immigrants — as they engage with digital native student populations. I think of it as the creepy/kosher divide — where is an institution inappropriately inserting itself into social media conversation, and where does it serve as a welcome connector/aggregator/amplifier? What do students appreciate, and what do they fear? What constitutes a student opting in for public participation, particularly when the institution commands a large audience?

Social media also raises questions of who should be paying attention, and where. Two recent articles highlight these challenges: should admissions offices be taking students’ social presences into account? And should schools, and secondary schools in particular, be watching current students on the internet?

We’re lucky to have a group of students interested in these and related topics joining the DPSI Social team. We have social media skeptics, like Lauren Taylor, who questions its ability to foster meaningful dialogue over soundbites. We have heavy social media users, like Zach Hamed, who work in the tech industry. We have insightful policy thinkers, like Chris Farley. And we have people interested in its applicability to both the university community and educational endeavor, like Andrew Reece.

As a first step, we’re pulling together a student survey to better understand current student social media usage and attitudes. After that, we’ll look at both a social media directory and constructive ways that social media can connect people around learning.

It’s early days for this group, with lots of questions and discussion. Many thanks to the team at the Berkman, and especially Sandra Cortesi, for helping propel us forward.

From the DPSI Launch Event –

Perry Hewitt, mentor of team Social, invites us to explore what individual and institutional identity signify in the context of social media, and how we can begin to think about what’s right and what’s fair with regards to communication between institutions and individuals through social media.