From Content to Experience – how ‘new’ documentaries are utilised as an artistic networking tool #ARTS3091

26 May

‘New’ digital forms of documentaries don’t just simply tell or show the audience content, they “singularise expression” via artistic means (Munster 2013 p. 105). Singularising expression means communicating a message through artistic and aesthetic forms, creating an experience, which involves the audience, rather than simply injecting them with information and facts. As Max Schleser, experimental mobile documentary filmmaker, said:


“…documentary is understood as a creative genre rather than a form of news journalism”(Schleser 2012).


Schleser uses his camera on his phone to create art and encourage action rather than simply exposing content. His documentary ‘Max with a Keitai’ explored Japanese metropolitan centres and derelict shopping malls through the lens of a mobile phone to highlight the failures of techno-culture in one of the most technologically advanced cities. Rather than following traditional-style documentary making, he uses sound, repetition and blurred images to communicate with his audience – in hope that they will relate rather than simply watch his documentary. As he said,


“Mobile media provides a license to break the rulebook of filmmaking and explore new film formats” (Schleser 2012).


Furthermore, since camera phones have made it possible for anyone to be a documentary filmmaker, as Kate Nash emphasised, “…we all write about ourselves in various ways, we all post images, we all create a narrative of our lives and the things we’re passionate about”,(ABC Radio 2012)audiences are no longer static participants in the documentary making process. Arguably, the receiver of a documentary is now a networked participant. YouTube and Mobile video-making platforms encourage us to play a responsive role to the world around us, to document feelings and “everyday moments” (Munster 2013, p. 104).‘New’ documentary forms breaks down the ‘top-down’ network of professional documentary making. Today, anybody can express themselves and communicate with others by creating, publishing and networking documentaries online.


The question must be posed, however, whether digital documentaries have shifted society away from the real world issues and into a realm of self-absorption? Have we forgotten about the importance of content and become too obsessed with capturing artistic expression and pointless daily activity?


Comparing the following documentaries, it will be evident that traditional, story-telling style documentaries have a lot of educational value as well a lasting impression to motivate social change.


1. Traditional style documentary – ‘The Surgery Ship’ Directed by Madeleine Hetherton


2. New’ digital style documentary – ‘Max with a Keitai’ Directed by Max Schleser


Even though Schleser’s artistic documentary – using digital form in an “immanent sense” (sense as it is brought together in the immediate situation), may impact individuals in a longer-lasting way than the conventional story telling documentaries, the following two videos present how society has become unhealthily obsessed with documenting moments within their own lives:


1. ‘Hahaha’ – A mini-video documenting a baby’s laugh


2. ‘Help Kaelyn Shop!’ – A short documentary of a little girl going shopping


We must not under estimate the skills of professional documentary-makers to inform us of past and present political, social and culture issues. Although, as Katerina Cizek said, digital documentaries enable us to, “…work together in a much more democratic way to tell a story” (Funnell 2012), we must be wary not to become too self-absorbed in documenting every-day moments. Lack of listening to others within a network will inhibit productive communication and arguably de-value the artistic and interactive power behind digital documentaries.



Funnell, A 2012, ‘The documentary in the digital world’, ABC Radio, 16 September, accessed 26 May 2014, <;.


Munster, A 2013, ‘Going Viral: Contagion as Networked Affect, Networked Refrain’, Aesthesia of Networks: Conjunctive Experience and Art and Technology Cambridge, MA: MIT Press: 99-123.


Schleser, M 2012, Vague Terrain Digital Art/Culture/Technology, accessed 26 May 2014, <;.


Youtube 2014, accessed 26 May 2014, <;.



One Response to “From Content to Experience – how ‘new’ documentaries are utilised as an artistic networking tool #ARTS3091”

  1. bitmorebutter May 26, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    Fantastic post as always!

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