digital media

Parcival Goes Digital: New Media as Part of a Gesamtkunstwerk

We describe the results of an evaluation concerning the spectator's reception of and experience with digital media within the interdisciplinary performance Parcival XX–XI of the dance Company urbanReflects and the University of Bremen. According to the qualitative interviews conducted, the audience experienced participation as 'disruption'. Four reasons can be registered: language, rhythm, limited exploration and shift of the spectator role.


Once upon a time...

there was an Arthurian hero called Parcival who was searching for something called the 'Holy Grail'. But what has this story of an old cup to do with us? The Company urbanReflects in cooperation with the University of Bremen associatively bases the new transdisciplinary dance performance Parcival XX–XI (2011) on the medieval legend of the search for a better world by showing quests for the redeeming Grail in the 20th century and by portraying their own version(s) of utopia.

Striving towards a new means of dramatic narration, Parcival XX–XI incorporates contemporary dance and digital media into a non-linear narrative with social implications. Not to bear up against but to converge with more traditional media such as dance, digital media shall be altered to an equal protagonist within the frame of theater. Designing digital media as an interactive experience allows not only the dancers to cooperate in the creation of Parcival XX–XI but also the audience. This paper describes results of an evaluation concerning the spectator's reception of and experience with digital media. One major finding of the evaluation is that the audience experienced participation as 'disruption.' We have analysed the following four reasons for it: language, rhythm, limited exploration and shift of the spectator role.

Parcival XX-XI

What is it about?

The narrative of Wolfram von Eschenbachs Parcival provides the frame for our interactive search for a better world. Analogous to the knight Parcival, we are on a quest for what is called utopia. Over time, humankind has discarded many ideas formerly held to promise a new world – the egalitarian ones of communism as well as the elitist ones of fascism. Interpreting capitalism as yet another 'wrong grail', the production tries to delineate current visions of utopia. It becomes a hatchery of ideas for a 21st century quest for a better world by questioning the concept of the Grail. The performance is built as a non-linear collage of atmospheric tableaus and structured into three acts: the first act 'celebrates' the breakdown of capitalism, the second act is a retrospective on totalitarian systems, and the third act envisions our very personal utopias.

Why the audience shall play along?

Central to the production's interactive quest for a better future is the use of digital media. Talking about political systems and our personal visions of new human communities, audience participation is of principal interest in Parcival XX-XI. Parallel to our main subject, the individual in society, we thus design interactive experiences, in which the audience can witness the limits and rules of a system in a very basic way.

Digital media carries out a double role in Parcival XX–XI: On the one hand it is incorporated dramaturgically and aesthetically in form of interactive and / or live video sequences and on the other hand it is used as a 'tool' to allow interaction. In the latter case, Nintendo Wiimote controllers were used for various reasons. (cf. [1]) With the help of this tool, passive spectators are invited to merge into active performers to collaborate in designing the experience of the play for themselves and the other spectators. As technology-based interfaces always come with certain restrictions, also do the Nintendo Wiimote controllers. In this paper, however, the focus is not set on discussing these practical boundaries but rather on its major dramaturgical impact to Parcival XX-XI.

Designing Interaction

While designing Parcival XX–XI and its participatory moments, the two following questions were our constant tutor: First, how to design such opportunities in order to make the audience's action and its effect for Parcival XX–XI understandable for all 'players', and second, how to communicate the fact that the audience shall participate in the play and when. Talking about the first, a differentiation into three major tendencies of understanding can be summarized: understanding on a technical level, where one learns how to command via Nintendo Wiimote controllers, on a consequential level, where one understands the causal relations between command and consequential performance, and on a dramaturgical level. Thus, designing participation appears to be a rather complex task which comes with various demands. (cf. [1]) As for making the use of the 'tool' understandable to the audience, we designed a pre-performance which is described in the next paragraph.

Learning to Swim

In reference to J. Murray who in [2] describes that "in a participatory medium, immersion implies learning to swim, to do the things that the new environment makes possible", this paragraph explains how the audience of Parcival XX–XI was taught a lesson.

With the help of the pre–performance, everyone was given the chance to learn how to handle the provided interface, in our case Nintendo Wiimote controllers. These events included a 'Wii fairy', a jingle, a dancer on a diagonal wall, projections, and the audience. Every five minutes, the audience would be requested by a jingle, saying "it's time for intervention!" Miming, the Wii fairy would now show the audience how to use the controllers and sort out difficulties. Ultimately, the audience was taught two ways to use their Nintendo Wiimote controllers during the performance of Parcival XX–XI.

The first gesture (mote being moved down) would introduce a new clothing item to the diagonal wall. The performer would then adjust her body accordingly. The second gesture (mote steadily in front of the body) would remove all items formerly applied. Repeatedly practiced in the pre-performance, these two gestures would reappear in the main performance, only with different implications. The two scenarios of Parcival XX–XI, in which the audience is asked for intervention, are described in the next paragraph. Further discussions about to what extent the audience reached not only the technical but also the consequential and dramaturgical level of understanding follow in chapter 'Qualitative Research'.

To Swim

The first scenario includes four audience members, each charged with dressing one dancer and (therefore) undressing another. The catch: Only three clothing items are available for the four dancers – always leaving one dancer naked. Participants can use their Nintendo Wiimote controllers to either steal an item or securing their own item, sometimes resulting in inactivity of one or the other participant. The second scenario includes three audience members charged with controlling an avatar. These avatars fight against the dancers. Participants can use their Nintendo Wiimote controllers to either let their avatar attack or defend themselves. Whilst no text is used during Parcival XX–XI, the audience interaction operates with words. It is introduced by the jingle "it's time for intervention!" and the starting point of the interaction is marked by the projection of "3, 2, 1, go!". During the participatory scenarios, the words "Steal/Keep/You are already dressed!" (1st scenario), and "Defend/Attack" (2nd scenario) come along with the projections to deepen the understanding of the interaction.

Substantial to the dramaturgical aim of the participatory scenarios is the aspect of interaction within a closed and prescribed system. As we deal with social systems in Parcival XX–XI, such as communism or fascism, we wanted to design an experience for the audience, which makes them feel as a social subject. Our scenarios are thus created as an analogy to society – both constitute a closed system in which citizens are allowed only a limited amount of freedom of action, since they are given only a limited amount of options for action: 'dress/undress' and 'attack/defend'.

Qualitative Research

30 short guided interviews have been conducted with ten females and 20 males between 24 and 63 years old. Most interviews were held in German and are here translated by the authors. Interviewees were chosen by chance. For statistic purposes, name, sex, age and occupation were also collected. Each interview took between five and 20 minutes and implied the same three short questions:

  1. Which aspects especially caught your eye?
  2. How did you perceive the use of digital media?
  3. How would you rate the use of Nintendo Wiimote controllers?

To Sink

Evaluating these first 30 interviews, one decisive term recurs again and again: disruption. Regardless of their professional background, many recipients describe that they experienced the two participatory scenarios not as part of the performance but as disruption in form of a "a break-entertainment" (interviewee 1: int 1). According to the audience, these two sequences do not seem serious, more like an "audition" (int 2), or like „physical education” (int 3) – "a gimmick." [3] One woman even stated that – contrary to what the jingle presupposes – she does not experience the interaction as a real intervention but as "being degraded to a robot" (int 4). It thus seems, according to Benford et al., that the "performance's continuity is at risk," [4] during the participatory moments for several reasons. As paper length is constrained, we cast only a short glance on the following four: language, rhythm, limited exploration and shift of the spectator–role. Contrary, there are a few interviews of which we assume that disrupting the flow of a performance can also be seen as a promising design strategy, as here: "It was different to the rest, with the jingle, text etc., and this is exactly why I remember those moments best" (int 5). However, in this paper we will not provide an in–depth discussion about it but indicate that this topic leaves space for future work.


"(...) out of the sudden there is text and the jingle. It is confusing. It appears to be more separated from the rest of the performance than it was planned, right?" (int 6)

Various interviewees remark that first, the jingle „it's time for intervention!“ and second, the written text of "3, 2, 1, go!", "Steal/Keep/You are already dressed!" and "Defend/Attack!" has set the participatory scenarios aesthetically apart from the rest of the performance. According to the audience, by using language, an emphasis is produced which does not find its analogy on the content side. Using text elements in our piece without language was an attempt to make the interaction clear, quick, and easily understandable for the audience.


"These participatory moments are interesting, too, but not as smoothly integrated into the rest of the performance as it could be." (int 7)

Many people judged the participatory scenarios negatively as not fitting into the rhythm of the performance. The interviewees thus communicate an important element of contemporary dance: timing. From a dramaturgical point of view, the first participatory scenario is scheduled to an appropriate point in time. Before talking about the totalitarian system in the second act of Parcival XX–XI, we offer the following experience to the audience: The political system we live in does not happen to us but is chosen by either confirmation or non-rebellion. But choreographically, the first participatory scenario is scheduled to an inappropriate moment in time as it follows after a quite long scene without music and projections, focusing on the materiality of the styrofoam cuboids. At this point, the audience expects something very dynamic and energetic to follow. Instead, the jingle as an introduction for the first participatory scenario intensifies the stagnation to a break. Further, members of the audience have to step on stage, take their Nintendo Wiimote controllers and get in position. This all takes a while in which we often 'lost the audience'. To overcome this problem, we are considering rearranging the participatory scenarios in order to find an appropriate timing for Parcival XX–XI.

Limited Exploration

"I was disappointed about the fact that only two gestures would cause any action!" (int 8)

The two gestures are often described as too simple, not opening any kind of freedom of action. Interestingly, nobody reflected upon the fact that we wanted to produce exactly this feeling of restricted action in a set system to further encourage individual solutions. In none of the performances of Parcival XX–XI, a spectator sought for solutions beyond the prescribed system to overcome the constraints: For example, for the second scenario one could have denied to fight, as a test person did in the general rehearsal or as interviewee 9 says, "we all could have acted more impulsively by e.g. falling down to the floor, as the dancers did". But they didn't. As the participants follow our rules, there is no other solution than 'playing' against each other.

Interviewee 8 and many others seem to not come across the technical and consequential level of understanding: Even though participating in the play, they can not produce further meaning for the context of Parcival XX–XI. They appear to be frustrated and disappointed about the limited freedom of exploration offered by the controller itself. In order to release the audience from this rather sidetracking technical aspect of how to handle the controller, we are considering changing the technology from Nintendo Wii-controllers toward a more self–explanatory option (such as camera–based tracking solutions, motion capture suits or Microsoft Kinect). However, all suggested options come with various other challenges which are, in fact, of a rather practical nature. (cf. [1])

Shift of the spectator-role

"It is very boring to watch people in their winter coats, doing the same action over and over again!" (int 10)

Although the declared aim of the authors of Parcival XX–XI was to not create a traditional audience situation of 'leaning back in the seats', the audience described the participatory scenarios as a disturbance to the (seemingly!) previously established traditional way of watching. According to the spectators, on the one hand, they were pulled out of their coziness by the possibility to go on stage and 'play' with the Nintendo Wiimote controllers, and on the other hand, they were supposed to watch other spectators (non–professionals) to act on stage which resulted in different reaction such as e.g. schadenfreude [cf. 5] or boredom (int 10). Similarly, Benford et al. [4] suggest that "beginnings must be designed to introduce the narrative, brief participants (…). It should be designed to be an integrated part of the experience." For Parcival XX–XI, we might have failed in taking the chance of the pre–performance to not only brief the audience how to handle the controllers etc. but also to introduce the main subjects of the play. We only teach the mechanism of the interaction as such and do not communicate relevant hints to the audience by means of dramaturgical impact for the experience of the play itself.

Benford et al. [4] further define traversals between physical and virtual worlds and temporal transitions between episodes as moments in which the flow of the play is on risk. These points clearly bring us to the major issue of our participatory performance as we invite members of the audience to not only progress from spectator to active participant and finally performer, (cf. [1, 6]) but we also expect them to fall back into their seats and lean back again after "they have done what we expected them to do" (int 11). One can say, we prepared the audience for the shift from a passive spectator to an active performer in the pre–performance but we 'forgot' to design the back–shift from a performer to a spectator. [7]

By the use of participation, we cause different categories of audience at the same time: passive spectators and active performers. This results in the fact that there are various opportunities to miss parts of the performance as one is moving between the passive physical world and the active virtual world. As Parcival XX–XI does not provide a linear narrative but works with fragmented atmospheric tableaus which are then free for interpretation to the audience, one could think that the above mentioned aspects are of no consequences (and we partly thought so). But one major problem here is that most people expect to be served a story with a beginning and an end. And as they do not get 'the explanation', they feel baffled. All other challenges, such as 'participating', seems to be the icing on the cake.

To be continued

Summarizing, we can say, that part of the audience does not experience our interactive quest as 'real' but as 'fake' by calling it a disruption of the 'real play'. Reflecting on why they felt disrupted in the flow of the performance, they name reasons such as the use of text in a fully textless performance, the wrong timing, the limited freedom of exploration with the Nintendo Wiimote controllers, and the shift of the spectator role in an otherwise traditional piece. Still, there is a small group of people that felt encouraged to participate and got caught by exactly the disruption as it appears contrariwise to what one would expect of the 'common flow of a performance'. We might need to ask ourselves how to establish a rather smooth frame of expectation to find the right moments to break with it again. In this context, and what comes for us with surprise, our advertisement campaign seemingly promised the audience a 'proper' story and more 'real' interaction. We thus have to look into the need of helping the audience to trust themselves in their reception – to strengthen them in being an emancipated [8] and postdramatic spectator.


This work was funded by the Klaus Tschira Stiftung. We further like to acknowledge the support of the Ministry for Science, Research and the Art and Federal Cultural Foundation of Germany, Senate for Culture Bremen, the Landesverband Freier Theater Baden-Württemberg, Sparkasse Freiburg, Landesbank Baden-Württemberg LBBW, Cultural Office Freiburg, and FOND Darstellende Künste e.V.

References and Notes: 
  1. Gesa Friederichs–Büttner, Johanna Dangel and Benjamin Walther–Franks, "Interaction and Participation – Digital Media and Dance in Interplay" (paper presented at the Conference on Interactive Media Arts, Copenhagen, 2011).
  2. Janet H. Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck. The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1998).
  3. Marion Klötzer, "Interdisziplinäre Visionen Odysee," Kulturjoker, June 2011.
  4. Steve Benford, Gabriella Giannachi, Boriana Koleva, and Tom Rodden, "From Interaction to Trajectories: Designing Coherent Journeys Through User Experiences" (paper presented at CHI '09, Boston, 2009).
  5. Gesa Friederichs–Büttner, "Don't Duck Your Head! Notes on Audience Experience in a Participatory Performance" (paper presented at the International Symposium on Smartgraphics, Bremen, 2011).
  6. Jennifer Sheridan, Alan Dix, Simon Lock and Alice Bayliss, "Understanding Interaction in Ubiquituos Guerrilla Performances in Playful Arenas" (paper presented at the BCS HCI, Leeds, 2004).
  7. Stuart Reeves, Steve Benford, Claire O'Malley and Mike Fraser, "Designing the Spectator Experience" (paper presented at CHI '05, Oregon, 2005).
  8. Jacques Rancière, Der emanzipierte Zuschauer (Wien: Passagen, 2009).


    I am interested primarily in how the new paradigm shifts in digital technology and the democratization of the filmmaking process allow filmmakers to connect to an ‘expert’ global niche audience with more immediacy through the internet, engaging virtual communities, crowd funding and fan building initiatives and a variety of social media landscapes.




     With the new paradigm shifts in the film industry, cheap digital technology and the democratization of the filmmaking process, filmmakers now can connect to an ‘expert’ global, niche audience with more immediacy through the internet; engaging virtual communities, utilizing crowd funding support and fan-building initiatives through a variety of social media landscapes.



    My own work has revolved around two kinds of practice; the first, a traditional methodology invented by the Hollywood studios, which, from a small independent filmmaker stand point proved futile at best. With little to no resources to pull off a production like the big studios do, with their huge studio budgets, political backing, global media support and accounting practices, today it seems a waste to pursue an independent film production in this manner. The second practice is participatory filmmaking. This method enables others to articulate their experiences through my artistic vision via cheap digital technology and social media. It is through this process, they have just as much (or little) control as possible as the filmmaker. But, why you ask would filmmakers want that?

     “What defines the documentary genre is also at the root of its limitations…here, I shall call for a different perspective on documentary form: not with a view to discussing what documentary is, but to make some suggestions of what it could be.” (Knudsen, p. 109)

     In creating the participatory film project and case study entitled: Single Girl in a Virtual World: What Does a 21st Century Feminist Look Like my practice aims to engage multiple social media communities such as; Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Wordpress, YouTube, Kickstarter and IndieGoGo and ask people to participate in the film project itself with a sense of creative input. During the production, I have asked the communities to read the film site’s blog, watch podcasts, comment on news feeds and follow me on Twitter. These efforts are the practicalities necessary for audiences to participate in the film project itself – either creatively, financially or both.

     The project’s content has begun to emerge and appears in its raw shape as a video diary of sorts, with participants weighing in on the topic of the week, freely giving their insights, thoughts and feedback through the multiple social networks – either in video, textural or both. For the filmmaker, this serves as a rich valley of resources that can be integrated in the film’s narrative. However, when attempting to construct a narrative thread by gathering content in this way, it brings up many potential problems. “Recording a video diary, if you don’t want it to become public, is a risk; perhaps more so than a written diary, because the medium of video implies a mass audience.” (Rothwell, p. 154)

    One of the exciting things about these new possibilities for filmmakers and audiences alike, despite the potential ethical pitfalls, is the creative flow of information, access to resources and sharing of content. Independent filmmakers who are limited on budget, time and production technologies can gain a tremendous amount of quality production value by sourcing content in this way. 

     Whichever way they came into the community, the goal is to keep them there, involve them in the production efforts and keep them just as excited as you are about the project. And to do that, there must be a transparency between the creator and the fan-base participating in the project itself. This covers a multitude of scenarios such as; copyright issues, ethical boundaries, life-rights, video-audio rights and original content ownership. By simply asking for their permission seems to be fair enough for their participation. “Key to the success of that relationship is that it demands a responsibility for the consequences of the filmmaking that go beyond the film itself.” (Rothwell, p. 155)

     When I started this case study, I had an overall fear of intellectual property thievery; which stemmed from my traditional, Hollywood studio practice experience. “Rather than oppose this “illegal activity,” we welcomed the pirating and began distribution directly to the pirates at production cost value.” (Blagrove, Jr., p. 176)  Delightfully, once I began my practice in this participatory way, I could begin to see it actually had many benefits of being ‘stolen’ and shared virally. The more I blogged and podcasted calls-to-action the more activity my social networks would see, more members would sign up for my news feed, follow me on Twitter, ‘Like’ me on the Facebook page, and read my Wordpress blog. Then of course, the whole idea of this process was once they were fans within my social networks, they would participate and share content I could then use freely in my film.



     “The on-going conversation with your audience can be a source of inspiration, motivation and ideas. It’s this powerful new link with the audience that the old power players don’t understand.” (Kirsner, p.4)  I can no longer imagine going back to a traditional filmmaking practice hoping to make a modest living, or even attempt to have a sustainable career by playing by the old rules of the studio production and delivery system. The windows of financing and distribution are just to complex, too expensive and too long of a cycle to have any hope of quick returns on investments or to gain access to huge marketing budgets for global exposure of film product.

    “By empowering ordinary people to speak as experts, they question the basic assumption of dominant ideology, that only those already in power, those who have a stake in defending the status quo, are entitled to speak as if they know something” (Juhasz, p.304). It is with this notion that is measuring how social media, digital technology, alternative production methodologies and various new delivery strategies are providing information on the impact of the film’s message and its creative process. Does this mean the film is suitable for a theatrical release?

     My practice is showing that audience participation does, in fact, impact both the audience and the filmmaker inherently by creating art in this way. Instead of outsourcing functionalities to other resources in a traditional sense, I had to become an all-encompassing expert. But, one now asks the question - who is in control? Who is the ‘auteur’ with the vision? What happens if the film’s narrative thread goes off-track? Who are the performers and what ethical considerations are at stake?

     How can I draw an audience into the reality of the situations being dramatized, “to authenticate the fictionalization?’...what are we to make of films where real people apparently ‘play themselves’ (or variations on themselves), or hybrids where a combination of actors and non-actors improvise in a documentary-like scenario?” (Ward, pg. 192)  It is the originator’s role to ensure that the participatory environment also abides by the community rules of transparency, honesty and attributes of authentic form. “Notions of performance in documentary are therefore potentially controversial – accusations of people ‘not being themselves’ or ‘playacting’ are rife, and are deemed to be a central problematic for a film’s documentary status or credentials.” (Ward, p. 192) Otherwise, not seeing these participants in person; looking them in the eye – how is the filmmaker to know what is factual or fictitious?

    A greater embrace of innovation and experimentation in this method is needed in leveraging these projects with the ability to fail without showing loss of value. Technological knowledge and new creative approaches to build communities and better business models that filmmakers and artists alike are needed. It is possible to achieve a quality film production with inherent.

     By engaging in filmmaking practices in these fundamental ways, a shift of power away from the larger powers of the studios, and back into the hands of the creative filmmakers and their loyal fans should be embraced, not feared. “The question for makers, consumers and scholars of moving images are what distinguishes documentary online from documentary made for other channels, and whether the internet has any distinct, useful or unique characteristics that offer documentary anything more than just another means of distribution.” (Birchall, p. 279)  A process of creative flow, execution and community outreach is a necessary part of this practice and to maintain a sense of shared community.



    A profound new shift in mindset was needed to set off on a new course of practice; even though outcomes are uncertain.  “First, in organizing geographically diverse individuals around a common interest in watching or making documentaries, there are new forms of community; second, new means of creation and seek to change people’s minds or reinforce a viewpoint; third, we have increased access to ‘dirty reality’ in the form of footage of current events and violent conflict; and fourth, video diaries and other moving images give us an increased range of intimate access to the lives of other people.” (Birchall, pg. 179) Differences in workflow patterns, a means of gathering content, and a creative approach within high production value considerations, compromises and technical limitations stretch limits on what is possible.

    Thousands of entries, news feed comments, tweets, sharing of videos and user-generated content (UGC) from YouTube and other rich video sites by community members fill the coffers of content. Skype interviews became a relevant resource of production activity for capturing remote interviews, even though the media is still not high value. During this process, I discovered because I was developing a rich social network, people I knew in my personal social circles; friends, family, co-workers, business associates, etc. suddenly became keenly aware of the project I was making and were eager, or at least willing when pressed, to participate in the project.

    User generated content (UGC) has been the most pervasive amount of content, shared and streamed by my community members so others can comment, share and watch within the framework of the film’s websites.  “By contrast, the easy availability of material to work with online is matched by the ease of remixing and redistributing.” (Birchall, p. 280) This aids the independent filmmaker who need open-source, archival clips in order to create a film narrative. There are ethical and intellectual rights considerations, however that must be mentioned.

     It is also important to note, because technology is cheap, social media pervasive and artistic democracy entering the creative fold, doesn’t mean the value of the art or the filmmaker behind its creation should be valued any less. “People made information about themselves available on the internet in such a way that theoretically anyone could see it, but in practice few did.” (Birchall, p. 281)  The reality of the new entrepreneurial filmmaker is not only making just a film project, but rather building a community of like-minded people who want to support a film project and future projects – in essence building a sustainable brand. This takes an inordinate amount of time, effort, management and technical trouble-shooting. Not to mention, technological requirements, necessary to connect all of these networks in a functional and significant way - once they are functional and put in motion, should self-perpetuate.  This is an ongoing resource of time and labor that must be considered.

    The benefits in making art in this way far exceed the amount of time and effort it takes to build an online brand and identity. Other filmmakers too, are building sites with the intention of creating a sustainable business model, as well as attracting a built-in fan base that can’t be bought with traditional advertising and press campaigns by the larger studios. The case study of Four-Eyed Monsters by Arin Crumley was a forerunner for this social media movement. Films are now being made everywhere and there are audiences out there who are looking for them. Audiences, however, are fickle, but entrepreneurial filmmakers have a distinct advantage over the big studios by creating art that is meaningful and creatively autonomous, while building a loyal fan base, which will enable the artist to self-sustain.



    Does the ‘audience’ participating in the early stages of a creation raise expectations for the audience? What about for the filmmaker? Does it impact the artist’s methodology of creation itself?  

     Participation between audience and filmmaker enables each to develop a relationship that goes deeper than merely one from a consumer or isolated artist’s point of view. It becomes a two-way process; although being auteur and the creator of the project, driving the subject matter, its pacing and narrative criteria, provided an overall control and direction for the project. It is important to note, that its subject or method itself wasn’t diminished in value, nor did it have the perception of being an amateur product. In fact, it’s been the opposite, which emphasized stronger value for both the filmmaker and the project being created with the audience.  The process has allowed a more authentic, accessible and transparent relationship to develop amongst the community, which makes the film’s subject, and experience, more tangible. Having the film aimed specifically towards a key, niche audience, seems to make them keen to be involved and stay invested for future projects.   It is the script or narrative and production value which must be the best possible so there is a perception of professionalism throughout the production. 

     The community does, in fact, communicate amongst themselves and will certainly ‘police’ any activity that does not acquiesce within the group. This ‘policing’ by the community assures transparency, trust, authenticity and protection against spam and unwanted advantages a filmmaker or other community member may seek to squeeze information and/or money out of its community for personal gain. “The immediacy of new online forms should not be mistaken for a lack of mediation…authenticity is highly prized by audiences.” (Birchall p. 282-283)

     There are certain sacrifices that must be made outside of the normal filmmaking agenda; such as engagement in crowd sourcing campaigns, new technological learning curves and social media training, traditionally hired out (i.e. media partners, technology programmers, sales/fulfilment houses, marketing firms) must be learned. There are many perceived benefits, as well as challenges in this new era of digital technology and social marketing tools that are advantageous for both the filmmaker and their audiences.

     Measurable changes in production practices must also be adhered to by utilizing these online tools and cheaper production technology. How does this change the storytelling process?  

      Technological considerations must be made for the lack of financing and a large crew. The entrepreneurial filmmaker is now essentially a ‘one person crew' where every single shot, direction, post-production/ editing, writing, producing, marketing and digital online development and management can be achieved with the sole artist. Aesthetic compromises are also at stake. However, it is worth noting that with small cinema, mobile and online video distribution choices that are growing every day, there are many outlets of distribution that do not require a 35mm or HD production aesthetic to tell a story. Ultimately, the script is still at the heart of every film – it is only the methodology and system of delivery that has changed.  “The film business remains a single product industry. The product may be available on many different platforms, but it is still the same thing.” (Hope, 2010)

    With the attraction of crowd funding sites such as, Kickstarter and IndieGogo, financial resources are now available for filmmakers, who don’t have access to rich uncles, mix with the Hollywood investor crowd, or can fund their projects across a mass of credit cards. “Expectations have changed considerably, probably completely. Buyers and audiences behaviors are different, those that still remain that is. Products are valued at different levels. We live in a new world. Our strategies must change with it.” (Hope, 2010)  The production and fundraising of a film in this style is beginning to produce a more valuable, sustainable, niche-market product and is changing the traditional market structure of distribution and delivery for independent filmmakers outside of the Hollywood system. It is also providing a platform for artists in countries without the support of film communities, government subsidies or fundraising activities. This enables a global access to films and stories that might otherwise never be told. “On the face of it, Kickstarter is pretty harmless, and I think the founder's intentions are good. It's great that people can raise money for cool things from the crowd. It's hard to raise money, especially for the arts, and there have always been a lot of gatekeepers in the way. Now, the people can decide what gets funded.”  (Newman, 2011)

     Still, further questions for scholarly and industry debate continues. Will it be profitable? How can a filmmaker, who makes a film online for free ever hope to see a profit, much less sustainability? For Hollywood, what affects the bottom-line ultimately, is the question they [studios] are waiting to see emerge profitable.


    If it is profitable, how will this change the open democracy of the ‘wild west’ we see now in this new trend? Will it continue to be available and ‘free’ to all or be monopolised, packaged and sold as IPO to the highest bidder forcing filmmakers to go through yet another middleman to make their films? Will these online, participatory, transmedia interactions incentivize the audience to buy the finished product and any subsequent ancillary products associated with the creative product? What about future projects the filmmaker produces? Can there be added sustainability in this model?  These questions and more that arise through research and practice will continue to merit further question and research. With arts funding continuing to dwindle, such as the reduction in grants and lottery funding, filmmakers have turned to crowd funding to finance their livelihoods – but will the audiences enable that to become a reality, or will the studio systems in place prevail?

    “Creators, Distributors, and Marketers have accepted a dividing line between art and commerce, between content and marketing. By not engaging the filmmakers in how to use marketing tools within their narrative and how to bring narrative techniques to the marketing, we diminish the discovery and promotional potential of each film.” (Hope, 2011)  On a larger scale, projects in this realm will emerge answering the question of how this new methodology of filmmaking relates to a wider economic, cultural, environmental and social scale.



References and Notes: 

Danny Birchall, “Online Documentary,” in Rethinking Documentary: New Perspectives, New Practices, ed. Thomas Austin and Wilma de Jong, (New York: University Press McGraw-Hill Education, 2008), 279-82.

Alexandra Juhasz, “Documentary on YouTube: The failure of the direct cinema of slogan,” in Rethinking Documentary: New Perspectives, New Practices, ed. Thomas Austin and Wilma de Jong, (New York: University Press McGraw-Hill Education, 2008), 304.


Scott Kirsner, Fans, Friends & Followers: Building an Audience and a Creative Career in the Digital Age. (CinemaTech Books, 2009), 4.


Erik Knudsen, “Transcendental Realism in Documentary,” in Rethinking Documentary: New Perspectives, New Practices, ed. Thomas Austin and Wilma de Jong, (New York: University Press McGraw-Hill Education, 2008), 109.


Jerry Rothwell, “Filmmakers and Their Subjects,” in Rethinking Documentary: New Perspectives, New Practices, ed. Thomas Austin and Wilma de Jong, (New York: University Press McGraw-Hill Education, 2008), 154-55.


Paul Ward “Drama-Documentary: The ‘Flight 93’ Films,” in Rethinking Documentary: New Perspectives, New Practices, ed. Thomas Austin and Wilma de Jong, (New York: University Press McGraw-Hill Education, 2008), 192.


s0: an audiovisual performance

The author is developing detailed sonic models whose possibilities are explored in an audiovisual live setup. Drawn from literatures of nonlinear dynamical systems, the work seeks to address idiomatic approaches to digital media. Besides the sonic reproduction, the generated digital signals are transcoded into binary patterns and are visualized using a custom-made program.
Thursday, 15 September, 2011 - 17:30 - 18:00
s0 version installation
s0 version installation
s0 version installation
s1 version performance
s0 version performance
yota morimoto

The author is developing detailed sonic models whose possibilities are explored in an audiovisual live setup. Drawn from literatures of nonlinear dynamical systems, the work seeks to address idiomatic approaches to digital media. Besides the sonic reproduction, the generated digital signals are transcoded into binary patterns and are visualized using a custom-made program. The project fetishizes the digital media. It opens up a possibility of a digital aesthetics by using custom-built sonic and visual models which unveil the underlying binary dynamics in electronic media.

Changing Perspectives on Digital Media in Global Age

Theorizing New Media in a Global Context by Soraya E A Murray/ Precarious Flux by Donna Roberta Leishman/ The Return of the Digital: Reflections on the Digital-Cultural Feedback Loop by Romy Achituv
Tuesday, 20 September, 2011 - 17:00 - 18:00
Chair Person: 
Yiannis Colakides
Soraya Murray
Donna Leishman
Romy Achituv

Theorizing New Media in a Global Context

by Soraya E A Murray

Perfection, Error, Sublime

The Nature of Perfection by Kevin Todd/ Error in Audiovisual Apparatus as Aesthetic Value by Alejandro Schianchi/ Pursuing the Unknowable through Transformative Spaces by Maja Petric/ Ambiguity as a Signature of the Sublime in Media Art by Ksenia Fedorova
Wednesday, 14 September, 2011 - 14:45 - 16:05
Chair Person: 
Anna Lena Seiser
Kevin Todd
Alejandro Schianchi
Maja Petrić
Ksenia Fedorova


The Nature of Perfection

by Kevin Todd

The prefix post (as in postmodern) can sometimes suggest the redundancy of ideas that are surprisingly persistent despite the aesthetic changes that come with the new ideology/technology. Looks can be deceiving!

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