Accepted Paper:

The interactive village: a re-configurable digital ethnography  


Terence Wright (Ulster University)

Paper short abstract:

The Interactive Village is an accumulated digital, interactive archive that makes it possible for users to discover, select and recombine information. The paper offers critical discussion of ethnographic film and the promise, potentials and possibilities of interactive documentary media are examined in this context.

Paper long abstract:

The rationale behind the "Interactive Village" is represented by reference to historical and contemporary ethnographic film and the different narrative strategies used by documentary filmmakers. For example, J. Hoberman, film critic for New York's 'The Village Voice', has referred to ethnographic film as 'documentary's avant-garde'. With this sentiment in mind, the paper maintains that visual ethnography should play a central role in exploring and redefining documentary practice in relation to the new media technologies.

While the theoretical basis for The Interactive Village production is firmly situated within the discipline of visual anthropology, it makes reference to documentary film and feature film (e.g. the Czech New Wave of the 1960s). In addition the use of new media technologies aims to question the dividing lines applied to the existing genres of news, documentary and ethnography. At one end, the production can be viewed as a 'soft' news human interest story; at the other, it can provide an in-depth study of human life with scholarly sophistication. Indeed the three central approaches traditionally provided by the visual ethnographer: Observational - Didactic - Journalistic are now subject to the viewer's choice. Respectively the viewer can decide whether to: watch and listen; hear the anthropologist's commentary explaining, guiding, informing; or access a particular point of view on a subject or issue e.g. threat to rural transport issues - viability of train service, village communication. The ethnography was produced as part of the NM2 (New Media for a New Millennium) research project.

Panel W049
Audio-visual representation and cultural diversity