On Snapchat, you can view “Stories” about specific events or locations that consist of a sequence of snaps from different users. Some Stories are curated and carefully composed by Snapchat’s staff, like the Live Stories about Trump’s inauguration and the Women’s March the following day. Others are automatically generated, and and be viewed by browsing the SnapMap or doing a text search.

In this talk, Jill Walker Rettberg discusses these stories as documentaries, as narratives and as public yet ephemeral media on a closed, proprietary platform. While there has long been talk of collective or crowd-sourced documentaries, Snapchat’s constantly generated Stories are a significant mainstreaming of this concept. Rettberg will discuss the way they work as narratives, and as narratives told in the first person plural, and hopes to discuss with the group to what extent these Stories can be viewed as documentaries.

Jill Walker Rettberg is Professor of Digital Culture at the University of Bergen. Her research focus is storytelling and self-representation in digital media. Her recent books include Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves (Palgrave 2014; open access) and Blogging (Polity Press 2014). She is currently writing a book about Snapchat, and creates Snapchat Research Stories as @jilltxt.




MIT Open Documentary Lab E15-318

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