Interactive documentary at the intersection of performance and mediation: Navigating ‘invisible’ histories and ‘inaudible’ stories in the United States

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Examining four interactive documentaries, this article analyzes how performance and mediation can encourage curosity, empathy, and accountability in relation to complex issues and perspectives that cannot be always represented with any pretense of objectivity or ethics in conventional analogue practices. They can foreground emotional and affective registers as meaningful–sometimes more meaningful than the empirical and rational registers typically prioritized in analogue media. They model a critical engagement with digital evidence, tactile interfaces, and locative experiences to navigate a postcolonial/transnational United States and allow for potentially multi-perspectival understandings of issues. Documentary studies historically focused on visible or audible evidence. It has paid less attention to invisible and inaudible evidence. By activating invisible geographies, interactive documentaries facilitate new ways of imagining relationships and new ways of enacting collaborative solutions to problems that are larger than any one of us. They can instruct in ways to navigate larger processes, such as forced migration and global warming. Rather than the universalizing revolutions of past centuries–industrial revolutions, anticolonial revolutions–the current moment demands micro-revolutions and micro-assemblies. In addition to devoting our intellectual energies and financial resources in 360° VR as a new mode for documentary presentation, we can focus on less expensive technologies that allow underrepresented perspectives to affect audiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-142
Number of pages19
JournalStudies in Documentary Film
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 13 2020


  • Digital
  • United States
  • environmentalism
  • feminism
  • interactive documentary
  • postcolonial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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