Moments of convergence and innovation between documentary film and interactive media: Decade 1980-1990

by Arnau Gifreu Castells.

To formulate a relevant concept for the interactive documentary field we need to explore some aspects of the two key areas: the documentary genre and the interactive medium. This new series presents a combined, parallel, and comparative historical chronology of these areas up to the present moment of confluence. The two stories we are following here begin, to a certain extent, in the seventeenth century. It should be noted, however, that a number of theorists, scientists, inventors, and entrepreneurs had already developed a handful of theories and experiments that led up to what happened a few centuries later. We will focus our analysis on the seventeenth to the nineteenth century and place special emphasis on the twentieth and early twenty-first century. In this post we will discuss some points of convergence and innovation which occurred in the twentieth century.

The 80s was a very fruitful decade for both fields analyzed. For the documentary, new documentary trends (film essays, found footage film, reconstructed documentary, personality films, etc.) began to occupy a relevant position and even become cult films, such as Sans soleil (Chris Marker, 1982), The Atomic Cafe (Kevin Rafferty, Jayne Loader and Pierce Rafferty, 1982), Reassemblage (Trinh T. Minh- ha, 1982), The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris, 1988), and Roger and Me (Michael Moore, 1989) . The vast majority of these films were produced at the end of the decade and coincide with the interval in which the companies created a decade earlier, around 1975, began to market products that had taken a decade to develop (1975-1985): Microsoft, which launched the first version of Windows 1.0, and Apple, which created a system called HyperCard, which allowed the user to program web pages without much computer knowledge.

 

1_Sans_Soleil

Figure 1. Sans soleil, Chris Marker, 1982

Source: Wikipedia:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/ca/Sans_Soleil.jpg

It was also the decade in which IBM sold the PC; the TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol) was defined; the Internet was born, as it separated from the military network ARPANET; Philips and Sony created the CD-ROM for computers, etc. All these factors came together: new trends in documentaries, and audiovisual and computer technologies began to anticipate a reality that would result in the emergence of the offline interactive documentary form during the next decade. The ingredients were already developed and now they had to be merged in such a way that the new field would not be lost in a failed attempt.

2_tcp ip

Figure 2. TCP/IP Model

Source: Wikipedia:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3b/UDP_encapsulation.svg/250px-UDP_encapsulation.svg.png

 

Arnau Gifreu Castells (PhD)
Research Affiliate, MIT Open Documentary Lab
agifreu@mit.edu

 

References

Gifreu, A. (2012), The interactive documentary as a new audiovisual genre. Study of the emergence of the new genre, approach to its definition and taxonomy proposal and a model of analysis for the purposes of evaluation, design and production. [Doctoral Thesis]. Barcelona: Universitat Pompeu Fabra. Communication Department.

Gifreu, A. (2013), Pioneros de la tecnología digital. Ideas visionarias del mundo tecnológico actual. Barcelona: Tic Cero. Editorial UOC.

Jones, S. (2003), Encyclopedia Of New Media: An Essential Reference to Communication and Technology, New York: The Moschovitis Group.

Lee, J.A.N. (1995), Computer Pioneers. Los Alamitos, California: IEEE Computer Science Press.

Norman, J. M. (2005), From Gutenberg to the Internet: a Sourcebook on the History of Information Technology.Vol. 2, Novato California: History of Science.

 

Further readings

Research Forum | Arnau Gifreu Castells on Documentaries and Digital Media, Part 1
Research Forum | Arnau Gifreu Castells on Documentaries and Digital Media, Part 2
Research Forum | Arnau Gifreu Castells on Documentaries and Digital Media, Part 3
Research Forum | Arnau Gifreu Castells on Documentaries and Digital Media, Part 4
Research Forum | Arnau Gifreu Castells on Documentaries and Digital Media, Part 5
Research Forum | Arnau Gifreu Castells on Documentaries and Digital Media, Part 6
Interactivity technologies, key factor for the interactive documentary (i-docs)
The evolution of the Internet, key factor for the interactive documentary (i-docs)
The evolution of the Internet, key factor for the interactive documentary (II) (i-docs)

The interactive documentary during the evolution of the Internet: giving examples of the different phases. Assumptions about the technological future. (i-docs)