Finding Truth Requires 2.0

In 9 days I’m presenting my thesis project to fellow students and Prof’s for practice and constructive feedback so, my mind has been on “the pitch”. I’ll need to clearly state what this project is about and how  it fits within the realm of documentary media. While thinking about how my multimedia project is relevant to doc-media I started to get a bit annoyed. Let me step back a bit and explain:

A Tag Cloud by Markus Angermeier - see cc licence

I always find myself wondering  how subjects and/or public participation can contribute to a media project–be it in film-making, photo-journalism, Web… and, how could I not? Citizen participation has been ingrained in my understanding of documentary media for a long time and most predominantly throughout my work at the NFB and especially on CitizenShift since 2004. We lived and breathed the question of Web2.0–how to aide citizens to speak their mind and share their media online.

The documentary media project I am working on for this program involves four elements that invite comments/participation: this production blog, podcasts (coming soon), an “art”-installation of the stories and media from the blog and podcasts which will take place in a high school classroom and, ideally, a streaming video of visitors to the installation who would like to share their own experiences about high school. Am I concerned about getting this all done for June? Yes…. but I digress… WAIT, NO, I’m not that worried because I’m not creating a finite project here! I’m working on a subject that I’m passionate about and wish to maintain beyond this degree (my concern about sustainability is another issue.) I’m not creating media exclusively for an MFA, instead, this degree is giving me the space and guidance to launch media projects that I want to maintain and evolve with. Why? Because I don’t have all the answers to why our education system is so flawed and how we’re going to make the necessary changes to turn our student-soldiers into happy, relaxed learners who ache to be in a stimulating learning environment everyday (dammit.)

If I’m going to approach the answer to this, find out the truth of what goes on behind each institutional door and represent the reality of how our learners and educators feel about the system they are in, I will need my documentary media to be a door to stories for long time. A film alone will not suffice. Documentary media, in this day and age, needs to extend itself beyon it’s one-sided (1.0) representation of an issue and open itself up for discussion and perspectives from larger communities especially if the creator really wants to put forth a truth-claim. The DM program at RU is excellent at helping its learners to deconstruct the term “documentary”, “truth” and “reality”, and expose methods of documentary representation throughout the last century within photography, film-making and some new-media (Hito Steyerl was a favorite guest lecturer,) but it’s not enough–hence, my stated “annoyance”. We should be asking ourselves how to engage multiple community voices in our work and how uncovering “truth” can be approximated with the tools and knowledge rapidly evolving online.

There is no absolute truth in media creation, this we know. Truth is as unique as the individual who speaks/shares it. The multiplicity of voices that surround us, however, can contribute to our search for reality and they are our best bet to uncovering what’s real. Every documentarian needs to ask themselves what the value and need of conveying reality is within their work. If it’s key, then exposing their work and inviting participation through multiple media forms online should not be an option, it should be a responsibility.

About cayoup

Colleen Ayoup was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. She has been engaged in media creation for nearly twenty years. After attending the Dawson Institute of Photography (Montreal), she worked as a commercial photographer for several years until the craving for different creative pursuits gave way. This desire led to two subsequent degrees in Psychology/Film Studies and Film Production (B.A., B.F.A) at Concordia University in Montreal. Her short fiction films and documentary, Kings (2001), about drag-king culture in Montreal toured festivals internationally. In 2004, she joined the National Film Board of Canada where she coordinated Doc Shop, a program designed to give emerging filmmakers an opportunity to learn trade skills from industry professionals and produce a short documentary for broadcast on CBC. She also contributed to the development and creation of CitizenShift (citizenshift.org), the NFB’s first social-media website that she subsequently coordinated for five years. She is a recent graduate of the Master of Fine Arts program in Documentary Media at Ryerson University (Toronto, ON)