Undisclosed recipients: Documentary in an era of digital convergence/Database documentaries and the Internet

Dale Hudson, Sharon Lin Tay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As part of ‘two essays in dialogue’ with a piece written by Dale Hudson, this article advances critical discussions of the documentary film given the context of, and challenges posed by, digitality. Specifically, it analyses ‘the digital’ in Michael Takeo Magruder's transcription and [FALLUJAH. IRAQ. 31/03/2004] and Christina McPhee's La Conchita mon amour as a means to advance discussion of documentary beyond claims to realism and documentary truth towards what Trinh T. Minh-ha calls ‘boundary events’. Tay argues that digital video, editing and compositing expose the limitations of visual evidence to represent trauma. This article argues that new media disrupt the linear structures conventionally ascribed to documentary, emphasizing spatiality and relationality. On the Internet, ‘database documentaries’ facilitate selection and recombination of ‘documents’ (audio-visual evidence) through user acts, hypertext, algorithms and random access memory. Specifically, the article examines two pieces that address the controversial subjects of globalization and war. As database documentaries, Eduardo Navas's Goobalization and the collaborative Permanent Transit: net.remix by Mariam Ghani, Zohra Saed, Qasim Naqvi and Edward Potter destabilize quests for ‘totalizing meaning’ by emphasizing interactivity, contestation and multiplicities of meanings. The database evokes endless recombinations, so that meaning, Hudson argues in relation to these works, is explicitly polyvocal, unstable and contested.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-98
Number of pages20
JournalStudies in Documentary Film
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008


  • Database
  • Digital
  • Documentary
  • Environmentalism
  • Festival
  • Globalization
  • Internet
  • News media
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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