Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Reality Bytes: Reclaiming the Real in Digital Documentary
by Landesman, Ohad, Ph.D., New York University, 2013, 374; 3557010
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation offers a preliminary survey of different documentary practices in the digital age. I recognize and discuss several recent modes of filmmaking where documentary and fictional spaces collide and coalesce, modes which existed long before the arrival of the digital, but have been rejuvenated and made more prominent in the digital age. I point to how such a collapse of boundaries is celebrated rhetorically via digital technology to produce a contingent documentary argument made of ontological, epistemological and aesthetic contradictions. The impact of digital technology on the development of such current documentary rhetoric is explored by placing it within the historical context of earlier technological assimilations in documentary (particularly 16mm film and video cameras). By countering dominant arguments about epistemological doubt in the age of digital manipulability, I show how new digital technologies are currently refining the documentary aesthetically and sharpening its argumentative rhetoric.

I begin by challenging the dominant scholarly tendency that regards the introduction of digital technology into documentary practices through a binary, sensationalist prism. Thus, in chapter one I propose to treat digital technology not as a radical novelty in film with either utopian or dystopian results, but as a transition that forms a complex network of continuities and hybridities with previous technological assimilations and earlier documentary traditions. Chapters two through four illustrate this by describing how the digital refines or extends earlier documentary practices and traditions, whether these are observational, participatory, reflexive, performative or hybrid. Chapter two focuses on the emerging form of the doc-fiction hybrid, and focuses on how digital cameras have contributed to the formulation of a challenging interplay between fiction and documentary for almost two decades. In chapter three, I explore the meeting point between the digital and the essay film tradition, arguing that the former revitalizes essayistic tendencies which have existed in cinema for years, and which were instigated time and again with the arrival of different technological innovations. In the fourth I turn the focus from the photographically-indexical digital image to the computer-generated animated image by discussing the long-lasting tradition of the animated documentary.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Landesman, Richard
Commitee: Kahana, Jonathan, Lebow, Alisa, Polan, Dana, Renov, Michael
School: New York University
Department: Cinema Studies
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 74/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Film studies
Keywords: Animation, DV, Digital, Documentary, Realism, Technology
Publication Number: 3557010
ISBN: 9781267995889
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