DOCOSCOPE - Labsome - RMIT University

labsome.rmit.edu.au

DOCOSCOPE - Labsome - RMIT University

DOCOSCOPE

ExPlOring thE PraCtiCE anD POtEntial Of

DOCumEntary StOrytElling in wEblOgS

Eira Joy Aringay, B.Comm (Media)

Submitted for the degree of

Bachelor of Communication (Media) (Honours)

Mr. David Carlin

School of Applied Communication, RMIT University

31st October 2008

Eira Joy Aringay

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StatEmEnt Of

authOrShiP

This exegesis contains no material which has been accepted for the award of

any other degree or diploma in any tertiary institution, and that, to the best of my

knowledge and belief, contains no material previously published or written by

another person, except where due reference is made in the text of this exegesis.

SignaturE

Eira Joy Aringay

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aCknOwlEDgEmEnt

My deepest gratitude goes to Fr. John Gavan Fitzpatrick who entrusted me with

his life story and continues to be a guiding light on my journey.

Thank you also to Fitzy’s friends who welcomed me into their homes and shared

their stories, for whom without my blog-based documentary would not have been

possible.

My sincere thanks to my supervisor David Carlin for his constant encouragement

and advice throughout this research project.

To Adrian Miles, thank you for challenging me and teaching me to think laterally.

To my classmates in labsome, thank you for providing great peer support and

importantly, for being my friends.

Thank you to the RMIT technical staff for the wonderful assistance and friendship.

To Sandy Belcher, Jim Buttigieg and Lunati Print & Designs, thank you for your

kindness and assistance with the publishing of this exegesis.

To all of my life friends, thank you for your interest and willingness to contribute

to this project.

Most of all, thank you to my loving family, Mum, Dad and my sister Ezra May for

every inch of support and encouragement and for always instilling in me a strong

faith and hope in my abilities.

Eira Joy Aringay

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COntEntS

Summary 9 the abstract 9 the inspiration 9

introduction 11 the passion 11

the story 12 research aims 12

research methodology 13 Background 16

documentary 16 media convergence 17 documentary

storytelling 17 weblog/blog 19 Blog-based

Documentary 20 database narratives

and videoblogs 21 making a blogbased

documentary 23

thinking through the blogosphere 24

Storyblogging: Possibilities

and Problems 29 finding the audience,

knowing the user 40 the storyblogger and

beyond 44 Conclusion 49 appendices 51

Bibliography 57

Eira Joy Aringay

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Summary

thE abStraCt

Docoscope is a research project that aims to explore the practice and potential of

documentary storytelling in weblogs.

As the Internet continually moves beyond linear and conventional forms of

storytelling, the subsequent fragmented ways in which information is distributed

challenges the whole notion of the ‘story.’

The investigation into the possibilities of blogs as a documentary storytelling

medium is experimented with through the making of Our Father: A blog-based

documentary, which is discussed, critiqued and reflected on throughout this

exegesis.

By telling a story usually at home in conventional formats (such as novels

and films) in a blog, I explore the possible processes of storytelling in online,

converged environments, and seek to understand the specific formal properties

of documentaries online and specifically within the blog structure.

thE inSPiratiOn

A year ago, I was approached by a good friend to write a special story. The

thought of writing a novel at this stage of my life - with the passion but limited

experience - was overwhelming and simply daunting. I just somehow felt that I

was called to do so.

Fr. John Gavan Fitzpatrick is the true heart of this project. He has entrusted me

with his story and it is only right for me to find a way to share it. With the slow and

competitive process of book publishing, it became obvious that technology would

help me get this off the ground much more efficiently.

But if the significance of this project lies deeply in personal sentiment, I also

believe in the potential of documentary storytelling in online spaces, especially

considering the augmentation of media convergence in this digital age.

It is justified to say that storytelling will forever be relevant, it is simply the everchanging

ways in which stories are told that will define their continual impact and

meaning in our lives.

Eira Joy Aringay

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1 Bernard, Sheila

Curran. "Documentary

Storytelling (Second

Edition): Making Stronger

and More Dramatic

Nonfiction Films ", 2007:

xiii.

intrODuCtiOn

thE PaSSiOn

I have always been interested in cinema. As a child I was drawn to the magic of

stories, initially told in books, but then those I was able to immerse myself in on

screen. I quickly became a fan of television and film and while there are various

arguments as to how technology has intervened in the proper rearing of children

and disadvantaging their education, I’d like to think that my introduction into

visual storytelling was for the better.

Contemplating my career ventures throughout adolescence led me on many

paths. While all are somewhat interrelated, some of these avenues were

clearly defined professions. For a significant period I was strongly headed in a

journalistic direction and though I still have an interest in news journalism, I know

that I would be more at home in a creative vocation. I also was often torn between

passions (and believe I still am): being practical in terms of pursuing my writing

and communication skills or floating amongst my musical and artistic dreams. I

want and am striving to achieve both.

The one thing I am completely certain of is the strength of my convictions in the

practice and power of storytelling. It is inherent in almost every aspect of our

human lives. It would not be wrong to suggest that it is inevitable. After all, how

can it be if humanity seems to exist through exchanges of conversations, words,

actions and happenings? Is life not wrapped up and lived out through these

stories?

Without monotonously replaying the ‘art imitates life’ record, it is noteworthy to

recognize documentary as a practical media form of communicating such life

stories. After all, documenting stories grounded in fact is a clear example of the

way we aspire to truthfully share our experiences. As Sheila Curran Bernard

puts it, “Documentaries are many things to many people, often simultaneously.

They are a form of self-expression, like novels, songs, or paintings. They are a

form of journalism, independent and unmediated. They are tools for bridging the

divide between cultures or exposing the harsh realities of a volatile world. They

inspire, motivate, educate, exacerbate, and entertain. Documentaries reflect all

that is great, challenging, disturbing, and humorous about the human condition.” 1

Thus, the transition of my passion for stories into the practice of documentary

storytelling. My interest in documentary was ignited halfway through my media

degree, where I majored in cinema studies and took on a subject entitled “True

Lies: Documentary Studies.” My eyes were opened to the various ways in which

stories, generally grounded in fact, were told and communicated to an audience.

I began to really appreciate documentary as a form allowing creativity, but also

encouraging intellectual insight. I began to understand its importance as a

communication tool in society and in the context of the world.

The thirst for documentary in Australia in recent times has been promising for

filmmakers and the possibilities of new technologies for producing and delivering

such works calls for further exploration of the storytelling form, the context in

which this project fits.

Eira Joy Aringay

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thE StOry

About a year ago I began conversing with a friend with regards to writing a life

story. My friend, Catholic Priest Fr. John Gavan Fitzpatrick, recently retired after

over fifty years of service. Fr. Fitzpatrick did not explicitly initiate the idea of a

biography, but through several conversations with him, a personal, historical and

inspirational story started to emerge. During a period of regular visits, I began

visualizing what could potentially become a documentary film.

Returning to study at the beginning of 2008 forced my creativity into work again.

I went around in circles trying to find a research project idea that I knew I would

have enough interest in to commit to for the rest of the year. I tried to devise

something that combined my passion and skill-set but also allowed me the

opportunities to learn more. Documentary never left my mind.

Whilst brainstorming ideas for an Honours research project and working on my

friend’s life story in my own time, it occurred to me that I could combine both and

create the one project. My limited experience as a novelist somehow worked in

my favour as I sought new ways to communicate the story. With a background

in film, television and new media production, I contemplated the possibilities

of documentary storytelling in different mediums and within converged

environments.

It took me a while to come to this point, but I got there, and now here I am with

this project, this story and a bizarre feeling of excitement, anxiety and relief, built

up by a huge year of challenges, breakthroughs and self-realisation.

rESEarCh aimS

My initial aim was to simply look into the impact of media convergence on

documentary production. I soon realized the scope of this was too big to cover

in a single year of research and so I began to specify my aims by posing certain

questions for which I hoped to find an answer.

How and to what extent might online media convergence impact upon the

storytelling process of documentary film? How can traditional documentary

filmmaking values apply to a non-linear environment? How effectively can stories

be told in fragmented spaces where mixed media is involved?

I then was able to focus my research on the practice and potential of documentary

storytelling online, specifically in the form of a weblog. Further brainstorming

validated how this idea deserves discussion, investigation and experimentation,

not to mention gave me a better understanding of the goals of the project,

which are:

To explore the possibilities of weblogs as a documentary storytelling

• medium


To investigate how a blog-based project outcome changes a storyteller/

documentarian’s approach in communicating a story


2 “Conceptual

Framework.“ 2008. (22

July 2008): Wikipedia,

the free encyclopedia.

23 April 2008.


To understand if and/or how a blog can engage audiences in a narrative

and uphold the production values of documentary film

It became apparent that my research was practice-based and that an heuristic

approach to the project would enable me to realize my set goals.

rESEarCh mEthODOlOgy

COnCEPtual framEwOrk: thE kalEiDOSCOPE

Finding a research practice or methodology for my subject was not an easy task

and I felt that as I continued to delve deeper into my research, other possible

methods of investigation emerged.

Yet what seemed to come naturally from the initial stages of putting together my

topic was the conceptual framework in which my project is set. While conceptual

frameworks as research tools are used more commonly in social psychology and

economic-based research studies, the basic premise seemed to suit my approach

to this particular research endeavour.

Constructing a concept map, graph, or other such visual sign is said to help

frame the research and all of its particulars. It acts as an aid to join all aspects

of research, “Conceptual frameworks are a type of intermediate theory that have

the potential to connect to all aspects of inquiry.” 2 My first attempt at building a

conceptual framework for my research enabled me to map out key ideas that I

sought to explore (see Appendix 1).

Having this visual representation of my ideas in front of me brought on more ideas

and also made me question the viability of the research subject. This is when I

realized the magnitude of the project and really had to achieve greater focus.

After several intense brainstorming sessions, I re-worked my conceptual

framework as a kaleidoscope: a tube with inner reflective mirrors that change as

the user rotates the tube’s end. Media convergence (in my research specifically,

online media convergence in weblogs) is like a kaleidoscope- a single object made

up of many parts, or many different components interacting with one another to

produce a whole.

This version (Figure 1.1) draws together the specific ideas I finally pursued, the

elements involved in the practice, as well as the research outcomes.

Eira Joy Aringay

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figure 1.1: a kaleidoscope-like conceptual framework

The kaleidoscope, eventually, the docoscope 3 , became the framework in which

I positioned my research on various levels. I used this idea to guide me in my

approach- acting as a map to help give me direction and meaning as well as

joining all the parts of my research.

As a conceptual framework, the docoscope was an essential building block for

ideas, as well as a solid foundation of reference whenever I felt lost, uncertain

and confused.

As well as being a useful tool in my practice, the docoscope became a handy

visual aid for defining the form I chose to experiment with, representing the

converging of many separate parts to produce a single object: a blog-based

documentary. Having the docoscope framework to look back on helped me to see

any knowledge and research gaps in the context of the entire project.

From a user’s point of view, the docoscope is an instrument that can be

looked through to gain some insight into the convergence of the documentary

storytelling practice in weblogs, with which they can also interact, contribute to

and have some control of, just as the viewer of a kaleidoscope is given the power

to influence the movement of its colours and shapes. The concept of reflective

mirrors in a kaleidoscope also helps frame the networked environment I chose

to work in. The mirrors somehow represent different voices bouncing off one

another, reflecting on each other and shedding some light on certain issues and

ideas.

thE DOCOSCOPE rESEarCh blOg

I allowed the docoscope concept to take flight in the form of a research blog in

support of my practice. It gave me a space to connect all of the separated parts

and try to make sense of them within the single space of a time-based research

diary developing alongside the making of my blog-based documentary.

This research blog can be accessed at: http://docoscope.wordpress.com

3 Docoscope is a term I

invented to describe my

practice on two levels:

firstly, being a combination

of the words documentary

and kaleidoscope

(the framework in which

the project is set) and

secondly, referring to

the ‘scope,’ that is, the

potential of documentary

storytelling in blogs.


15

figure 1.2 Docoscope

research blog about page

(http://docoscope.

wordpress.com/about/)

Having begun blogging about my thoughts and findings, I became more aware

of my practice. Developing the Our Father blog-based documentary and

simultaneously reflecting upon it on the research blog Docoscope allowed me

to constructively critique what I had explored so far. I found that this practicebased

research methodology was useful and appropriate given the nature of my

research subject.

On another self-reflexive note, the docoscope is a good frame to situate the way

in which this exegesis has been written and is intended to be read. The inclusion

of blog entries present the many facets of my practice-based research; the

pleasant discoveries, the limitations and my thought processes along the way. As

with media convergence, the docoscope represents the coming together of many

different concepts and ideas that can be read and interpreted individually, but

have meaning in a wider context of thought. In many ways, this is what blog posts

are to this exegesis.

Documenting my research was essential to my practice, both methodologically

and technically, as evident in forthcoming discussion.

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baCkgrOunD

DOCumEntary

Documentary has long been a form explored, debated, and difficult to define.

As technology advances and new forms of communication continue to emerge,

defining ‘documentary’ further becomes a challenging endeavour.

Documentary filmmaking, now commonly understood as a traditional media

practice, has strong origins within the history of cinema. It is recognized as a

distinct form- not entirely separate from drama, but rather a “creative treatment

of reality” 4 according to John Grierson 5 , in its attempt to present factual content

in an engaging manner.

While the various modes of documentary set out by Bill Nichols 6 could be said

to already deviate from the traditional narrative structure of film, the medium

in which a documentary is distributed raises further questions about what is

understood to be conventional documentary practice, and more importantly for

this project, documentary storytelling.

What practitioners must now consider are the impact and possibilities of new

media technologies on producing and distributing documentary stories usually

adapted to what are known as traditional, linear formats such as books, television

and film.

How can a traditional linear narrative adapt to the non-sequential spaces that

new media offers? How successfully or effectively can this be achieved?

The digital revolution brings with it a fragmentation of content, changing the

ways in which documentaries are being produced and received. The Australian

Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) launch of interactive, online documentaries in

recent times is a good example of this with projects such as The Wrong Crowd

and Long Journey, Young Lives. 7 It thus becomes interesting to consider whether

or not grabs of information carry the same power of film over audiences, or if a

different, new kind of power presents itself through documentary storytelling

online.

One wonders if Robert Flaherty’s romanticism could ever be effective in a

converged space and if viewers‘ emotive responses would be the same if Nanook

of the North 8 (USA, 1922) was produced in an online format. As we move forward

into a highly technological society, it is worthwhile pondering the effect of new

media on the in-depth, investigative, heartfelt, critical and reflective ways that

stories are told in documentary film at its best. It is worthwhile discussing how

technology has changed and is changing the storytelling process, the impact of

documentaries, their distribution and what all of this means for writers, makers

and audiences. It is worthwhile exploring the possibilities and the potential of

documentary stories told online and experiment with how well they are working,

how well they could work, or simply do not.

“As a type of film, documentaries present themselves as factually trustworthy,” 9

though a study of cinema will reveal that there is no such thing as an unmediated

representation of reality. Indeed, subjectivity, selectivity, editing and authorial

control play their part, but stories told in documentary film (though ‘constructed‘)

4 Rabiger, Michael,

Directing the

Documentary. Fourth

ed. Oxfor: Focal Press,

Elsevier Inc., 2004:22

5 An academic, filmmaker

and film critic who

is often considered to be

the father of documentary

film after reviewing

Robert Flaherty’s Moana

(USA, 1926) as having

‘documentary value’ in his

essay First Principles of

Documentary (1932-1934)

6 Nichols, Bill.

Representing Reality:

Issues and Concepts

in Documentary.

Indiana University

Press, Bloomington &

Indianapolis. 1991.

7 The Wrong Crowd:

http://www.abc.net.au/

wrongcrowd/

Long Journey, Young

Lives: http://www.abc.net.

au/longjourney/

index_flash.html

8 This film is known to be

the first feature-length

documentary despite

criticism that the director,

Robert Flaherty, constructed

certain aspects

to enhance the story.

9 Bordwell, David, and

Thompson, Kirstin. Film

Art: An Introduction.

Seventh ed: McGraw Hill.

New York, 2004: 129.


10 Shedlock, Marie L.

“The Art of the Storyteller

(Ebook)”. 2004. 28

August 2008. .

are understood to have some elements of truth, or are at the very least, built

on some foundation of factuality. It also becomes interesting to unearth the

implications of new media, discovering if, how and/or why the documentary form

is further validated online, with the expectation of authenticity being satisfied.

Perhaps the overflow of information available on the Internet is too much to

comprehend. Perhaps scepticism has increased because of the freedom that

the Internet provides in terms of creating and publishing content. Perhaps the

Internet’s ‘fragmentation‘ would not do justice to the important stories told

through fil and television documentaries.

Yet perhaps future generations will be encouraged to watch documentaries if they

are increasingly being produced online. Perhaps the interactivity made possible

by the web enhances the impact of documentary, allowing filmmakers and

audiences to converse, share ideas and make a difference. Perhaps documentary

storytelling online as a participatory media form will reach a wider audience than

traditionally distributed documentary films.

mEDia COnvErgEnCE

Media convergence entails varied understandings of the way different mediums

interact within a single space, and/or encourage multiple outcomes of the same

information. For the purposes of this project, media convergence is defined

as the coming together of many different media (namely video, sound, text and

image) into the one space (the online format of a weblog) creating an entire whole.

New media technologies have allowed traditional models of communication to

be explored in networked environments. No longer is the reader just a reader,

the viewer just a viewer, the listener, a listener. All become the user as well as

the audience for a medium made up of many mediums that can be interpreted

independently and together.

DOCumEntary StOrytElling

Documentary, in all of its forms, is such a vast area of research that could

not possibly be justly discussed within the restrains of this project. Naturally,

relevant issues to the practice of documentary filmmaking will surface

throughout, but focus will be drawn to specific elements of documentary

storytelling.

Storytelling is known to be one of the earliest cultural forms of communcation,

an “ancient art of conveying events in words, images and sounds often by

improvisation or embellishment.” 10 Storytelling in the form of documentary film

is interesting to reflect upon and even more when it applies to the medium of the

Internet, and in particular, a blog.

Eira Joy Aringay

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18 labsome 2008

I believe that a story can be interpreted from almost anything. Our daily lives and

the events we experience are stories. The news we hear, read and see are stories

that make up the way we perceive ourselves and the world.

Documentary stories are reflections of all of these- a convergence if you will,

of the many facets of human experience- personal, social, cultural, political

and economical circumstances that we create and live in. This is a strong point

at which Adrian Miles creates a tie between documentary and blogs, “they are

making truth claims, and like documentary, blogs have developed an argot that

assists in grounding and legitimating these claims.” 11

It can be said that there is a power in documentary film that is unique, and even

as a huge fan of drama and fictional narrative, I acknowledge the effective way in

which documentaries can speak to an audience. Research into the Documentary

Australia Foundation strengthened my thoughts, as the organization holds the

belief that “documentary has the power to influence positive change,” 12 because

of their grounding in real life and real issues. Perhaps it is this that sets it apart

from the practice of dramatic film production, and is what pulled me towards

more research in this area.

Browsing the AFC/ABC Documentary projects brought a new angle to my

research- producing documentaries specifically for distribution in an online

environment. This makes the traditional practice of documentary production

much more cost-effective, time-effective in many ways and importantly, gives any

person the opportunity to create, construct and contribute. These are all positive

outcomes that cannot be overlooked.

My emphasis on ‘storytelling‘ brought on even more questions. How effectively

or powerfully are the messages in documentary stories being told? Which

audience are they reaching? What technical factors are proving to be limitations

in documentary production, distribution and reception? What factors are proving

to be beneficial?

Through personal experience and observation, I have come to realize that

networked, digital societies and individuals within them are now used to viewing,

hearing and receiving information in bite-sized chunks. Without generalising,

it can be said that this has impeded our ability to be patient for long periods of

time, fast-tracking boredom and desiring snippets of stories rather than stories

in their entirety. This is evident in the types of videos being uploaded to YouTube

and other such video-sharing websites. Indeed, true for some and not for all, but

it is worth considering when looking at the way new media is affecting traditional

practices.

I looked into Australian Story, 13 a particular television program on the ABC

that produce documentaries on a regular basis which deal with content and

stories relevant and embedded within Australian culture and society. I found its

official website a very useful portal for acquiring more information about past

and current episodes. Importantly, it encourages discussion and contribution

11 Miles, Adrian.

“Blogs: Distributed

Documentaries of the

Everyday.” Metro 143

(2005): 66-70.

12“Documentary Australia

Foundation”. 2008.

August 14 2008. .

13 ABC. “Australian

Story”. 2008. 7 May 2008.


19 labsome 2008

14 Miles, Adrian. “Blogs

and Documentary (All

Middle)”. 2006. vlog 4.0 [a

blog about vogs].

1 October 2008.

through its structure. While it was useful to analyze the way Australian Story

uses a blog as its official website (especially in distributing documentaries

and communicating with their audience), I realized the difference in what I

aimed to achieve. The Australian Story blog is a supporting media platform to

the television show, which is the primary distribution medium. The program

aims to reach a wider audience by using cross-platform media to disseminate

documentaries, but which have been produced specifically for television

broadcast. Comparatively, my intention is to produce a documentary specifically

for the medium of a blog.

wEblOg/blOg

My first official introduction to the weblog was almost five years ago when I

commenced my Media degree, and the most basic definition I was given of a blog

at the time was ‘an online journal’ or ‘diary.’ Of course now, there are so many

types of blogs and purposes for them that it would be naïve to settle for such a

simple description, yet much could be said about how and why the basic premise

of a blog was initiated.

Writing for a blog is generally seen to be a personal and subjective activity. The

rise of the weblog as the first recognizable online format in the late nineties was

no doubt an encouraging time for writers wanting to have their voices heard and

their work published. Indeed most writers long for their words to be read and

there is no denying that weblogging has truly enabled easy and quick publication

of such works.

I like blogs and blogging. Aside from moments of writer’s block, I feel

comfortable in the ‘blogosphere.’ Blogs, the first native form on the web

according to Adrian Miles, 14 opens up many possibilities since all types of media

content can be uploaded. To add to this advantage, the blog comes with its own

unique features such as posts, comments, categories, tags and trackbacks

to name a few. I particularly like the blog’s archiving feature. The ability to

categorise entries and posts chronologically and by subject is incredibly useful

especially in the documentation of documentary stories. This definitely sets up

the online environment as a useful and convenient storage space for non-fiction,

informative, educational material. These works not only being text-based, but

works of many different forms- converged forms.

I had not fully contemplated the viability of blogs as a documentary storytelling

medium; it was only after brainstorming and discussion with others that I was

encouraged to consider it further. It is a very different practice producing work

specifically for online distribution as compared to bringing already established

work into an online environment. The dynamic of the practice changes, not only

in technical terms, but aesthetically speaking also.

I began to consider how a blog has a great deal of potential in adding different

dimensions to the idea of storytelling. As a tool on the Internet, it serves many

purposes: to inform, entertain, generate conversation, to vent and overall express

a blogger’s point of view about a particular subject.

Eira Joy Aringay

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20 labsome 2008

I hypothesized that a blog would enable me to examine and experiment with the

affordances of media convergence through its capabilities of uploading all sorts

of media, as well as provide me with the structure to ‘document’ my research

and archive valuable information that will accumulate over time. This in itself

becomes essential to the concept of blog-based documentary, not to mention,

brings to light the interesting notion of narrative threads or stories that can be

drawn from the progressive nature of blog posts. Of course unlike the traditional

documentary practice, a linear structure is perhaps lost, but the grounding

of blogs in the world of the blogger does speak of their credibility as a form of

documentary.

It is the potential effectiveness and impact of this for producers, creators,

storytellers and ultimately, readers/viewers that warrants this investigation.

There is no doubt that the Australian Film Industry values the production of

documentary projects, allocating funds specifically for the purposes of the

ongoing development of documentary-making. With digital technologies

becoming more significant in society, the opportunities for documentary in terms

of distribution as well as production, have increased.

blOg-baSED DOCumEntary

The concept of a blog-based documentary really appealed to me and with

curiosity, I sought to experiment with it. Yet researching existing projects in

this form did not immediately bring in many results. I came across one main

example, one that directly defined itself as such: Thumb Candy: a blog-based

documentary about texting and SMS culture in the Philippines by Chris Caines. 15

It is immediately apparent upon viewing this project that video is the primary

medium through which the story is told, much expected for a documentary.

Further browsing made me realize that Caines has utilized the blog more for

its website features: the ability to upload video clips, the structure of pages and

the use of hyperlinks as clear navigational tools to direct the user through the

documentary. While he does make use of some blogging mechanisms such as

tags and categories, perhaps the most significant element of blogs that is not

evident in his project are posts or entries. I thought this to be an interesting thing

to consider and began questioning myself as to how a blog-based documentary

could and perhaps should be defined.

After perusing Caines’ project and analysing the ways he made use of the

structure of a blog to place his documentary, I decided to contact him for more

ideas. His response (please see Appendix 2) gave me a couple of new research

leads, specifically, how a blog-based documentary can be likened to other

existing new media forms such as database narratives and as I discovered,

videoblogs. Further research helped me see shared qualities amongst these

forms and enabled me to associate blog-based documentary with them and

importantly, distinguish blog-based documentary from them.

15 Thumb Candy: http://

chopyourownwood.com/

thumbcandy


21 labsome 2008

16 Manovich, Lev.

“Database as Genre of

New Media”. 1997. 26

September 2008.

DatabaSE narrativES anD viDEOblOgS

Lev Manovich is adamant that “Many new media objects do not tell stories;

they don’t have beginning or end; in fact, they don’t have any development,

thematically, formally or otherwise which would organize their elements into a

sequence. Instead they are collections of individual items, where every item has

the same significance as any other.” 16 Therefore it can be said that there is no

real narrative thread evident in a blog’s structure (narrative in the sense of the

conventional understanding that a story has a clear beginning, middle and end).

Blogs in this case, would be a testament to what Manovich labels the ‘antinarrative

logic of the Web,’ where there cannot be a coherent narrative in a space

where material is continually being developed and updated. Furthermore, where

material exists in many separate parts that cannot be interpreted in a linear

fashion.

There is much to be said about the logic of the ‘database’ within hypertextual

environments (and how blogs can be classified within this), but the scope is

far too great to discuss within this project. For the purposes of this research,

Manovich’s ideas are useful in terms of understanding the oxymoron of narrative

(linearity) and new media, yet rising to the challenge of marrying these naturally

opposing forms in practice and analyzing the possibilities, which is what this

project aims to do.

The emergence of videoblogs from native blogging practices is another to

consider when exploring the form of blog-based documentary. In many ways,

videoblogs (vlogs) are blog-documentaries already, with video being the primary

medium as with documentary film.

A basic understanding of vlogging is useful in situating this project, but

it becomes interesting to ponder how blog-based documentary can be

distinguished from vlogs as its own form.

Vlogs are difficult to define and many a vlogger has debated what the vlogging

practice entails but like the common definition of blogs, vlogs are considered to

be online journals, only with video being privileged over text. Indeed, blogs have

the capacity to upload all sorts of media, but it is to the blogger’s discretion as to

which, if any medium is used more regularly to post items.

It would be too easy to equate the blog-based documentary practice to vlogging,

especially because documentary is understood traditionally as a video-based

practice. Yet what would be lost here is the opportunity to experiment with

how a blog’s other features have potential to convey a documentary story. This

returns to the idea of convergence within a single space, where many facets in a

blog’s structure offer new possibilities, as opposed to the exploitation of a single

medium in an online space.

Eira Joy Aringay

21


22 labsome 2008

In addition to videoblogs, there are other existent media forms that can be likened

to blog-based documentary. The premise of collective documentaries where

“raw material is provided by a number of persons and the collective editing-

process where the concept of re-editing is essential,” 17 is similar in that more

than one person can contribute to a story in an interactive way.

Storyblogging as a concept itself has also been experimented with and is defined

as the “use of the powerful platform that is blogging to tell a story.” 18 In framing

this research I had considered the term ‘storyblogging’ as appropriate to the

practice of documentary storytelling in blogs, only to discover that the word had

already been invented. However, researching on existing storyblogging initiatives

shows that interest in the concept of blogging stories has arisen especially for the

intention of book publishing:

“Of course, if you’re telling a story and at the end of your story you have 100+

pages written, you want to compile that into a book and sell it and, with the rise

of print on demand technologies and self-publishing, you can do that a lot more

easily than before. Not only that you also have a greater chance of your book being

successful, because you’ve already built a community of readers and fans around

your story who will help you get you’re initial sales and help promote your book to

their friends and family.” 19

For this project, storyblogging and the role of the ‘storyblogger’ will specifically

be explored with the intention of a blog-based documentary outcome.

So as a self-proclaimed storyblogger, I set out to investigate the practice and

potential of documentary storytelling in weblogs by making Our Father: A blogbased

documentary and reflecting on the process in my Docoscope research blog

as I went along.

17Hoem, Jon. “Videoblogs

As “Collective Documentary””.

2004. 15 April 2008.

18 “Storyblogger, Tell

Your Story “. 2007. 23

September 2008. .

19 As above.


making a blOg-baSED

DOCumEntary

The following pages feature thoughts, reflections, problems,

critiques and discoveries made and encountered, specifically during

the making of Our Father: A blog-based documentary. To view, please visit:

http://ourfatherdocumentary.com

NB: Video excerpts posted in the blog up until 31st October 2008 can be viewed on

the provided CD ROM.

Eira Joy Aringay

23


24 labsome 2008

thinking thrOugh thE blOgOSPhErE

It can be said that unlike a novel or a film, a form such as a blog-based

documentary has yet to have a real history; no solid foundation on which it can

be defined as the written word is to books and the moving picture is to cinema.

However it would be naïve to disregard the significance of earlier communication

forms when discussing blogs and their potential as a documentary storytelling

medium.

It is in fact (as I have learned in the past), a common mistake to believe that new

technology displaces or makes redundant the old, for the very concept of media

convergence that exists in the discourse of new technologies, thrives on the

idea that old and new media co-exist and interact with one another. It is also

obvious that without such traditional models of communication, experimentation

of new forms would not occur. Thus thinking through the blog medium involves

consideration of many others, as I reflected upon a while back in my research

blog:

the medium

August 17, 2008 at 10:45 pm · Filed under Research Reflections

“a medium interprets what we have written for an audience. we

write to fit the aesthetic and technical requirements of the given

medium.” (ward, 2005)

what if the medium is made up of the convergence of many

mediums? Do we write to fit the aesthetic of each of the mediums,

or only the medium to which all of the other mediums belong?

this is my dilemma. Scripting a blog-based documentary is

confusing. Scripting a traditional documentary film already lends

itself to spontaneity, what more for a doco that doesn’t abide by

the linearity of the three clear-cut stages of production?

in many ways, a blog means i will always be in production. Preproduction

will keep re-occurring so long as i have material to

work on during the production stage. Post-production will also

re-surface, naturally after every stage of production. it seems

there is no end.

this reminds me of a media texts class early on in my

communication studies. where does a blog begin? where

does it end? i remember rummaging my mind for drawn-out,

philosophical answers (which i now cannot recall whether or not

i was correct), at the same time scratching my head as to why

these were being asked of me.

Funny how I’m asking myself these same questions almost three

years later.


20 “A documentary’s preproduction

period follows

research and covers all

decisions and arrangements

prior to shooting.”

(Rabiger, 207)

21 Bernard, Sheila

Curran. Documentary

Storytelling (Second

Edition): Making Stronger

and More Dramatic

Nonfiction Films Focal

Press, Elsevier, Inc. UK,

2007: 15.

22 As above: 42.

what i’ve come to believe is that in the production process of a

blog, there is no clear beginning, middle or end. there are just

too many factors to consider: the medium, the time, the date, the

source, the modified date/time, comments, tags, follow-up posts,

pages, trackbacks, pingbacks, updates…etc. etc.

it isn’t linear. nor is it circular. it’s a kaleidoscope: ever-changing,

rotating, interpreted in different ways according to the user and

created in different ways by the maker.

the medium interprets what is created and the user interprets

the creation through the medium, but not always in the way the

creator intended. i guess it all makes sense somehow.

(Permalink: http://docoscope.wordpress.com/2008/08/17/themedium/)

It was clear enough that skills across various media practices would be required

throughout the project, but the main challenge was figuring out where to begin

experimenting. Knowing that the outcome, a blog, had the capacity to explore

converged media elements made it difficult to find a starting point in the story’s

development because of all the possibilities.

My initial approach was to treat the project as a conventional documentary film,

simply because my background in production owes much of itself to the study

of cinema. So I began paving the way for myself as a filmmaker, gathering my

research so far and adapting the ‘pre-production’ 20 mentality.

Sheila Curran-Bernard’s text, Documentary Storytelling: Making Stronger

and More Dramatic Nonfiction Films (2007) proved to be essential in the early

stages of making a blog-based documentary. I soon discovered that the process

of developing a story for film is in many ways a necessary process for stories

distributed online. Understanding the premise of documentary, the concept of

story, thorough research of the subject, planning and structure are things to be

considered in any non-fictional narrative form, “or telling, of an event or series

of events, crafted in a way to interest the audience, whether they are readers,

listeners, or viewers.” 21

As I read through tips on story construction, I seemed to constantly draw

comparisons between a film and a blog. Even though the main focus early on

was to establish the story and content, I found myself always thinking about the

outcome. Bernard writes: “Structure is the foundation on which story is built,

whether story is being told in person, in a book, or on screen.” 22 Even for a blog

this is true I would argue; the main difference being the elements which define

the structures of each medium.

There exists a plethora of books about filmmaking, writing, screenwriting,

documentary production and even videoblogging, 23 but there is very little

Eira Joy Aringay

25


26 labsome 2008

if anything, written about the craft of documentary and storytelling in the

blogosphere. Indeed, countless blogging handbooks have been published and

advice on blogging is wide and varied throughout cyberspace- type ‘how to blog’

in Google and you can see that- but as to whether or not there is a definitive way

to create a successful blog-based documentary (in this specific case), remains to

be seen.

There were several occasions during production where I felt I needed proper

direction. I sought the clear-cut stages adapted to documentary storytelling in

film, where there are some kinds of formulae to follow and production values

to keep in mind: for example, that the opening sequence should establish time

and place, the story should build up to a rising tension and such conflict should

somehow be resolved by the end. I struggled to find a way to apply this in a blog.

Moulding a story out of the enormous body of material was an essential part of

the process. I had chosen the parts of Fr. Fitzpatrick’s life that I wanted to use

and began drafting a treatment (see Appendix 3). I used this to help me construct

a narrative and it is evident in the document that I have imagined a beginning,

middle and end. While this was useful in gaining an idea about how I could

structure the story, I began to question how this could apply in the non-linear and

fragmented form of a blog.

StruCturE

“Structure is like your skeleton. It’s the framework on which you hang the meat

of your story.” 24 Conventional narrative structure is very much a linear concept

as there is a definite beginning, middle and end, but as this is lost in the blog

space, finding the skeleton to hang the meat on became a challenging task.

I began working out the parameters of a blog in order to find some sort of

structure in which I could place my story. I considered a blog’s affordances and

limitations, and realized that I had to begin ‘making’ in order to really see all the

possibilities.

“There’s no such thing as a lack of structure, even in an experimental film,

something’s stringing these images together,” 25 and I soon understood that the

stringing element in a blog are the links. These are the glue that hold together

the various elements existent in a blog and help give it a sense of structure. I

mused about the centrality of the link a couple of times in my research blog:

hyperlinks

September 21, 2008 at 6:12 pm · filed under blogs, Documentary

in my project-based research, i’ve come to the conclusion that

hyperlinks are a necessity. Producing a blog-based documentary

has proven that hyperlinks are absolutely essential in telling a

story online, especially in a blog. indeed, a personal blogger can

23 To name a few such

popular texts in recent

times:

Writing, Directing, and

Producing Documentary

Films and Videos (Fourth

Edition): Alan Rosenthal

(2007)

The Screenwriter’s Bible:

A Complete Guide to

Writing, Formatting, and

Selling Your Script: David

Trottier (2005)

Writing with Style:

Conversations on the Art

of Writing (2nd Edition):

John R. Trimble (2000)

Hands-On Guide to Video

Blogging and Podcasting:

Emerging Media Tools for

Business Communication

(Hands-On Guide Series):

Lionel Felix, Damien

Stolarz (2006)

24 August, John.

“Stressing over

Structure”. 2008. 25

August 2008. .

25 Bernard, Sheila

Curran. Documentary

Storytelling (Second

Edition): Making Stronger

and More Dramatic

Nonfiction Films Focal

Press, Elsevier, Inc. UK,

2007: 62.


get away with link-less writing but this is not the case in blogbased

documentary storytelling.

for one, there are too many separated parts, ‘chunks,’ that may

make sense on their own but won’t really create the narrative

feel of documentary story unless related to each other. i am

discovering that any image, word, video or text needs to relate to

something else to establish the essence of the story. yes linearity

is lost in a blog, but connectedness shouldn’t be.

If editing constructs a documentary film, hyperlinks construct

blog-based documentaries.

[Permalink: http://docoscope.wordpress.com/2008/09/21/

hyperlinks/]

the link is the link

September 29, 2008 at 2:53 pm · filed under blogs, Documentary

i believe that in any web-based practice, hyperlinks are the key.

Obviously this is the basic premise of hypertext but i just have

to acknowledge how important links are, especially as i am

discovering in my own practice.

As editing is crucial in stringing together a film in order to

establish meaning in a narrative sense, so is hyperlinking

essential in online storytelling. in a way, the links are the edits.

blog-based documentary-making is bringing to the surface the

need for associative internal and external hyperlinking when it

comes to presenting a story. the links are what will direct the

user to experience the narrative- of course with no real linearity,

but with enough guidance to help them gain an understanding

of the subject- just as editing creates meaning in between

juxtaposed shots in film.

yet links have the advantage. they can do much more. they can

open up new stories, introduce the user to new worlds where they

are free to roam and discover plenty, with the knowledge that they

can return at any time they choose.

the user becomes a character within the story, the links being

like signposts aiding them along the journey.

[Permalink: http://docoscope.wordpress.com/2008/09/29/thelink-is-the-link/]

Eira Joy Aringay

27


28 labsome 2008

Reflecting on structure in a blog did not only bring to the surface the ways I could

tell the story, but also how the story could be read and understood:

beginning with the end?

September 24, 2008 at 3:12 pm · filed under blogs, Documentary

A key element that defines blogging is the ordering of posts in

reverse chronological order. that is, the latest entries displayed

are the most recent according to date and time. this shakes up

the traditional notion of documentary storytelling since it is no

longer a case of a narrative consisting of beginning, middle and

end- in that order. Or is it?

it may be that the blogger/documentary-maker posts from the

beginning of the story but the presentation of the blog means that

the reader/viewer is introduced to the story from the end.

yet i don’t believe there is truly an end in stories told via blogs.

in essence, they could go on forever. Even if the blogger stops

blogging, conversations can continue through the comments,

trackbacks etc. of external contributors, readers and any random

web-surfer.

also, the idea of the blogger posting in conventional narrative

order is unjustified. In my own practice, I find that I am not

necessarily posting in the order events actually occurred. as

a blog-based documentarian, i am embracing the freedom of

posting whatever entries i like, in the order i believe are most

fitting.

Indeed, this project and the practice of it has a definitive beginning

and end, but for the blog-based documentary itself, the bookends

are not clear.

[Permalink: http://docoscope.wordpress.com/2008/09/24/

beginning-with-the-end/]

So while the chronology of blog posts keeps information recent, it does mean

that information is more commonly read back-to-front. An immediate concern

was how this works against the idea of story, with no introductory beginning to

establish the scene and characters, but further ‘making’ revealed that a blog’s

features allows for this to be achieved in other ways.


StOryblOgging: POSSibilitiES anD PrOblEmS

viDEO

My studies in cinema and film production led to my understanding of

documentary as a linear and video-based practice, yet my introduction into

new media challenges this very idea. It can be strongly argued that web-based

practices deviate from the notion of linearity and that rather, the notions of

‘chunks’ and ‘fragments’ are what web-content producers must now deal with.

Bloggers, not excepted.

Keeping this in mind led me to the decision that the video aspects of my

documentary must be delivered in short segments. So I commenced editing

footage into short clips ready to be uploaded to the blog. I noted:

beauty and the blog

September 16, 2008 at 2:53 pm · filed under blogs, Documentary,

technology

i am really starting to appreciate the form of the blog as a tool

for documentary production. Commencing my so-called postproduction

week has brought to light many of the advantages of

producing documentary content for weblogs. albeit, i talk more

so about the video aspect of documentary here, but what i have

discovered applies to all types of media as well. that is, the unnecessity

of linearity.

the tediousness often associated with video editing hasn’t

seemed to hit me just yet- i am really enjoying only having to

capture and cut small bits at a time, without worrying whether or

not they have to match the shot before or after it. transitions are

not essential.

I think I’m beginning to find the beauty in the bits, all broken up in

the blog.

[Permalink: http://docoscope.wordpress.com/2008/09/16/

beauty-and-the-blog/]

What I observed from doing this however, were the similarities to the practice

of video-blogging, or vlogging, where each post is essentially a video, and video

content is privileged over other mediums.

I then deliberately chose to steer away from this in order to differentiate a blogbased

documentary practice, which I believe has a different set of possibilities

to offer. Unlike a vlog, a blog-based documentary does not have to be defined by

its video content. I say this because a blog boasts other features that have the

potential to help convey story, which will soon be discussed.

Eira Joy Aringay

29


30 labsome 2008

As the blog I set up is being hosted free by WordPress, 26 embedding video directly

into the blog is not permitted. Such a limitation meant I had to find another way to

post video, and so began my search for a free video-hosting platform:

blip.tv

august 28, 2008 at 4:35 pm · filed under Documentary,

technology

i’ve just signed up to blip.tv , a videoblogging, podcasting service

driven by user-generated content that is hosted for free.

more so than youtube, it encourages episodic content rather than

viral video, which makes it a more viable portal for uploading

series, shows or such types of material.

i thought i’d experiment a little with it and see how it can apply to

blog-based documentary production.

i’m sort of in two minds about uploading video to my blog this way

(via a free, open-source site) or actually buying my own server

space, installing wordPress and a video-player plug-in.

[Permalink: http://docoscope.wordpress.com/2008/08/28/

bliptv/]

I eventually became loyal to blip.tv for hosting the video excerpts of my blogbased

documentary, but considering some technical and aesthetic issues,

I decided not to embed straight from blip.tv into WordPress, but rather use

VodPod, 27 a video sharing add-on available for web browsers. The reason for

this was because the smaller resolution video box generated by VodPod was more

suitable to the template I had chosen in WordPress.

I began to regret filming my footage in a 16:9 ratio when I knew my project would

be distributed online. What has become common knowledge is that smaller

resolution video results in smaller file sizes and is more ideal for web streaming.

Yet my justification for filming in widescreen lies in the possibilities for future

distribution of the footage on DVD. There is not much to be said about the

effectiveness of the widescreen clips in my blog, just that it does not enhance

viewing when the overall resolution is low.

I anticipated early on that video would make up a good percentage of the blogbased

documentary and so I put into practice what I learned to be conventional

documentary production values.

As evident from the way the videos were filmed, interview space has been

considered during talking head footage, mise-en-scene thought about to some

degree and cutaway material included to provide some context. I realized that

such values are still significant regardless of the medium a documentary story is

being told as the “footage must always serve the story.” 28

26 I opted to set up my

blog-based documentary

at Wordpress.com which

provides free blog hosting

for users as opposed to

Wordpress.org which is

open-source blogging

software and requires the

user to own or rent space

on a web server.

27 Vodpod is web browser

add-on available for

download at http://vodpod.com.

Once installed,

a bookmarklet appears in

the web browser allowing

the user to bookmark

videos and generate html

code ready to embed in a

blog or other website.

28 Carvin, Andy. “The

Mechanics of Documentary

Storytelling”. 2007. 23

April 2008. .


29 Yang, Jonathan. The

Rough Guide to Blogging.

London: Rough Guides

Ltd, 2006: 51.

30 The Australian Film

Commission funded the

production of several interactive

online documentaries

in the last few years

as part of the AFC/ABC

initiative to encourage

creative digital production

in the documentary field.

SOunD anD muSiC

As with a videoblog, an audioblog is its own distinguished form, “a blog that

primarily features audio entries,” 29 and is something from which I felt a blogbased

documentary needed to be differentiated from.

While separating the blog-based documentary form I was exploring from other

already existing specialized blog forms, my main rationale for doing so was

because I aimed to exploit the convergence of all mediums within it to tell a

documentary story.

Ironically, sound and music are elements of documentary storytelling in film

that I did not consider until later in the process. After finally trialling a couple

of documentary sequences with music, I thought that more could be done

with audio in a blog that could help communicate story and potentially, set the

documentary’s tone or mood.

However, unlike interactive documentaries (namely those commissioned by the

AFC 30 in recent times as previously mentioned) which are commonly flash-based

websites, incorporating sound elements in a blog is a more creatively-challenging

process. Being WordPress template-driven, I found it difficult to find a way

to involve sound and music as effectively as flash websites can. After some

experimentation and consideration, I felt that within the form I have developed,

audio elements can only be effectively utilized within the video components or any

sound bites posted on the blog.

tExt

Blogs are commonly defined as being a primarily textual medium, even

considering their ability to incorporate different types of media. Perhaps a blog’s

journalistic qualities have set it up to be as such, but what is more important to

discuss here is how text plays a part in blog-based documentary storytelling. So

I mused about the significance of words in blogs:

the weight of words

October 1, 2008 at 2:31 pm · filed under blogs, Documentary,

writing

i’ve been thinking of ways to capture the documentary feel

in my blog without falling into the trap of producing a videodocumentary

and simply uploading the clips to the blog space.

It’s becoming quite a challenge. How else can I utilize a blog’s

features that will aid the telling of the documentary story?

So I’m currently contemplating the significance of words. Blogs

after all, emerged as a new medium for writing where the blogger

is given the opportunity to post journal-style entries to (at the

Eira Joy Aringay

31


32 labsome 2008

very least) express a viewpoint, raise an issue or contribute to an

existing discussion. in this sense, blogs were initially driven by

words and the act of writing (rather, typing). Perhaps i should do

more of that.

the challenge here is to write in a way that the reader

understands they are being told the story. in a way, i have

already done so. Stylistically-speaking, this returns to the act of

traditional novel-writing, bringing into question how novels can

be adapted to blogs.

I am finding that this experiment is an open-slate. There is just so

much you could do without knowing immediately if it is effective

or not. Although I guess that is the case for any artist- filmmaker,

writer, musician etc. the reaction of the audience will determine

the art’s impact.

Perhaps the difficult thing about blog-based documentary

storytelling is that there are no rules as yet. no formulas, steps

or any distinct sense of structure that a maker such as i can

adhere to. Despite what can be classified as technical limitations,

blogging is quite a free activity.

now i think of documentary storytelling in its conventional sense.

how the picture is privileged over the spoken word. yet how other

elements of sound (music, effects, atmosphere, silence) are

necessary in communicating the story. how all that makes up the

mise-en-scene is crucial to how viewers perceive and interpret

the story. how editing establishes the sense of narrative. where

is all of this placed within a blog?

in my mind, i seem to separate blog-based documentary

storytelling from video-blogging and other vlog initiatives

because video is not necessarily the main medium. yet in

my project, video plays a large role, not surprising since

documentary itself is conventionally a video-based practice

(albeit, documentary film).

i guess what i am essentially exploring is the potential of other

blogging features in making a much more healthier contribution

to the telling of the documentary story. the convergence of these

mediums within the blog space, whether or not video is privileged,

is what i am interested in- how such convergence enabled by

the blog form can and cannot be effective in the practice of

documentary storytelling.

So back to the written word. it has to play a part in all of this.

Perhaps it is the substitute for certain film elements of sound?

all i know is that i cannot deny the weight and power of words


31 Miles, Adrian. “Blogs

and Documentary (All

Middle)”. 2006. vlog 4.0

[a blog about vogs]. 1

October 2008. .

when i am working in a blog, which is known to have emerged

as the first native format online for the very purpose of personal

writing and publishing (initially, anyway).

adrian miles’ essay on blogs as documentary 31 has been a really

useful resource for thinking through these ideas. it is interesting

to think through the notion that blogs are primarily textual and

that while many forms of media can now be uploaded to a blog,

words are still very important to such a practice.

Perhaps it is good advice to stop confining documentary to

its film/video origins. The very word ‘documentary’ evokes

connotations of ‘documenting’ which is in essence, what blogs

allow bloggers to do- to document. knowledge, opinions,

experiences, thoughts, ideas, suggestions- all of these are

welcome to be documented in a blog, and a typical blogger’s most

common way to do this? through written (i mean, typed) words.

[Permalink: http://docoscope.wordpress.com/2008/10/01/theweight-of-words/]

Perhaps, as I discussed in an older entry on my research blog, in a blog-based

documentary, voiceover narration is substituted by text:

voiceover narration

September 23, 2008 at 3:59 pm · filed under blogs, Documentary,

writing

i just had an interesting thought. blog entries/posts are the

voiceover narration in a blog-based documentary. the spoken

word is replaced by the written word in this case but essentially,

has the same effect- telling the story.

blogging is helping me make my documentary more personal but

i am still not sure if this will work in the project’s favour. i guess

I’ll find out as I keep on building.

[Permalink: http://docoscope.wordpress.com/2008/09/23/

voiceover-narration/]

It began to understand that text is as significant to blogs as it is to books, and

that in utilizing other mediums to enhance the telling of a documentary story,

text should not be overlooked. It is in fact a main feature that allows blogs to

‘document’ and in the case of storytelling, ‘narrate,’ just as voiceover does in

documentary film.

Eira Joy Aringay

33


34 labsome 2008

anD thE imagE

I also discovered that images are something that cannot be neglected in blogbased

storytelling. I realized this as I continued making:

a picture speaks with the words

October 19, 2008 at 10:16 pm · filed under blogs, Documentary

I’m beginning to realize the effectiveness of images in relation to

words. as i write posts for Our father, i sometimes feel the need

to accompany entries with an image to further establish meaning.

indeed, a picture speaks a thousand words, but in a blog they also

have potential in enhancing words without overpowering them.

blogs as i have researched, are an innately textual medium, but

with the ability now to upload image and video, the meaning of

text can be established to a greater extent.

i’ve also come to believe that using an image in a post is a

good way to draw readers in, perhaps acting as an advertising

mechanism for the blog entry.

i have to say that i’m really enjoying the practice of searching for

photos that work with the story i’m trying to tell. and i am starting

to see how each post is its own little story.

[Permalink: http://docoscope.wordpress.com/2008/10/19/apicture-speaks-with-the-words/]

For blog-based documentary storytelling, pairing images with words is quite

effective as I experimented with the entries The Farm and A child’s eyes. 32

blOg EntriES/POStS

“Blog entries are the reason people come to your blog and they should always

be easy to read and navigate.” 33 Posts make up the majority of a blog’s content

and are undoubtedly, the characteristic which has helped define what a blog is in

comparison to other types of websites.

Interestingly, in my practice-based research on documentary storytelling in

blogs, I found that it was this very fact that provided the greatest challenge in

establishing narrative in this kind of medium. While I have already discussed

issues of structure, it again becomes important to reiterate how a blog’s

uniqueness in its “entries, or posts arranged in reverse chronological order,” 34

changes the storyteller’s approach in the writing (and in this case also, the

making) of a narrative.

Each blog entry could in fact be treated as a story on its own, and perhaps it is

through the accumulation of these little stories and hyperlinking that a larger

32 The Farm: http://

ourfatherdocumentary.

com/2008/10/10/the-farm/

A child’s eyes: http://

ourfatherdocumentary.

com/2008/10/18/achilds-eyes/

33 Yang, Jonathan. The

Rough Guide to Blogging.

London: Rough Guides

Ltd, 2006: 63.

34 As above: 3.


35 Beginnings: http://

ourfatherdocumentary.

com/2008/09/01/beginnings/

Portraits: http://

ourfatherdocumentary.

com/2008/09/28/portraits/

36 A permalink is the permanent

url for a blog post

which is automatically

generated once a blogger

publishes an entry.

37 WordPress.Com. “What

Is a Widget?” 3 October

2008.

story can be perceived. What struck me as I continued to post such little stories

is that I naturally wrote in a way that allowed the reader to understand each post

without having previous knowledge or a wider context. This is especially evident

in the entries Beginnings and Portraits. 35

As an on-and-off blogger for around five years, I discovered that I have developed

an understanding of the significance of individual posts and a way of writing to

justify their significance. The very fact that permalinks 36 exist for each post

demonstrates how each individual entry is given a place of privilege within a blog,

as well as significance within the Web as a whole.

PagES, SiDEbarS anD thE riSE Of wiDgEtS

Pages allow the blogger to create a more conventional website-feel to their blog,

with some freedom to minimize the use of posts. As early attempt at a blogbased

documentary template (see Appendix 4) shows that I sought this easy way,

later realizing that it defeats the purpose of blog-based documentary storytelling.

This is because it would seem as though I had simply made a conventional

documentary, only distributed in several parts online.

However I do appreciate what pages can allow a blogger to do, and took advantage

of them to incorporate necessary content which helped establish the context

of the story, but were not entirely related to the blog entries themselves (similar

to the function of appendices in this exegesis).

Another affordance of a blog is the function of sidebars, which are commonly the

columns situated to the left and/or right sides of the blog entries. These allow

the blogger to place other items of information they wish to make available to the

user, such as a short bio, search box and links. The introduction of widgets just

over two years ago simplified the arrangement of sidebars, encouraging users to

customize their blogs. Widgets, which are simply “tools and content that you can

add, arrange, and remove from the sidebar area of your blog,” 37 became useful

in my blog-based documentary practice, as I considered their impact on the user

experience. As mentioned earlier, hyperlinks are that which connect the separated

chunks on the web, and widgets make this much more efficient, being clear

navigational tools for the user as they peruse a blog.

figure 1.3 Examples of sidebars in

Our father: a blog-based documentary

Eira Joy Aringay

35


36 labsome 2008

tagS anD thE tag ClOuD

I found tags to be an important consideration in my practice because of their

visual and practical role within a blog:

“A tag cloud or word cloud (or weighted list in visual design) is a visual depiction

of user-generated tags, or simply the word content of a site, used typically to

describe the content of web sites. Tags are usually single words and are typically

listed alphabetically, and the importance of a tag is shown with font size or color.

[1] Thus both finding a tag by alphabet and by popularity is possible. The tags are

usually hyperlinks that lead to a collection of items that are associated with a

tag.” 38

figure 1.4 One of the early tag clouds in Our father: a blog-based documentary

I began tagging all of my blog entries with many words, resulting in an enormous

tag cloud in my blog’s sidebar. It was in conversation with my supervisor that I

learned about the impact of this on the reception of my blog-based documentary:

tag happy

October 11, 2008 at 10:49 am · filed under blogs

yesterday i discovered my misuse of the tagging feature in blogs.

upon viewing my blog-based doco, my supervisor David commented

on the fact that i have too many tags that direct to the

same thing, creating confusion.

Filtering through each of my posts I realized that more often

than not i’ve tagged entries with around six-to-eight associated

words. Yet I did so in hope to generate traffic for my blog, so that

it would come up in blog searches for related terms. Perhaps i

overlooked how doing this actually disadvantaged the overall user

experience.

38 Wikipedia, the free

encyclopedia. “Tag Cloud”.

(15 October 2008). 17

October 2008.


39 Miles, Adrian. “Blogs

and Documentary (All

Middle)”. 2006. vlog 4.0

[a blog about vogs]. 1

October 2008.

having many tags for the one post is potentially misleading

and annoying, as one reader has informed me, since the user

may click on words of interest and end up at the same entries.

Because entries are published with the most recent first, there

is greater probability that the user thinks they are viewing the

exact same page if that most recent entry has been heavily tagged

with a variety of words, especially if they don’t scroll down to see

if there are any changes. if only there was such a thing as tag or

blog post shuffle.

this becomes even more problematic if there is not yet a substantial

amount of entries that the user can filter through, in the way

my blog is at this point. the reader/viewer may feel like the blog

lacks depth when coming across the same material over and over

again.

Perhaps tagging is something that should be thought of more

carefully. Categories also. although i feel that i can get away with

over-tagging in this research blog, a blog-based documentary

must be a bit more neater, as the links are crucial in allowing the

user to have the best experience of the story as possible.

[Permalink: http://docoscope.wordpress.com/2008/10/11/taghappy/]

As evident in Figure 1.4, I created several tags referring to the same thing. The

tags for AFL, footy, aussie rules and sport are indicative of this. While doing this

has potential to increase readership as people may find your blog through links

and blog search engines, over-tagging can be disruptive and confusing in a blogbased

documentary.

arChiving

The archiving feature of a blog adds greatly to its potential in preserving for

documentary stories over time, at the same time providing the ability to keep adding

information. This is a wonderful advantage, since quick and easy publication

means that shared stories can continually be updated, and can perhaps garner

further interest and result in a blog-based documentary’s ongoing existence.

There is never an end, rather a constant, ever-changing-and-growing ‘middle.’ 39

In practice I discovered that the key to making the most of the archiving feature is

to promote and encourage users to browse through the blog. It became apparent

that to do this, the blogger must provide the user with as many opportunities

as possible to find older posts. In my blog-based documentary, I chose to use

the categories, tags, recent posts and calendar widgets to entice the user to click

on the links and find past entries. The archives widget itself is indicative of how

much history a particular blog has, thus becoming another signifier for the user

to continue searching a blog.

Eira Joy Aringay

37


38 labsome 2008

In a way, it also provides a timeline for the story, one that in a blog, has no end,

but becomes more an accumulative account of a particular history, or person, or

idea. Or a convergence of all of these.

DESign aESthEtiC

In cinema, mise-en-scene 40 is a crucial element in determining whether or not

a story is effective. Yet in blogs, which are “template-driven,” 41 how important is

the visual experience?

typography…

October 4, 2008 at 9:41 pm · filed under blogs, Documentary,

Research Reflections, Writing

[typography]…is blogging’s cinematography. in some kind of convoluted

way in my head anyway.

As significant as mise-en-scene is in establishing the aesthetic

of a film, I have begun to consider the implications of typography

and general design in setting the mood for my blog-based

documentary.

I have chosen a very simple template, one that flaunts the typical

layout for a blog, with all of the main features in clear view to

make navigation easy for the user. I have customized the colour

scheme to my liking, choosing green as it is a significant colour

for the St. fidelis community around which the documentary subject

revolves, and then finding other colours that I believe work

with it.

i start to wonder however, whether or not the ‘look’ of the blog

should aesthetically imply the kind of story it tells. if the answer

is yes, then perhaps i am not achieving this. if the answer is no,

then i shouldn’t even wonder.

Contemplating design led me to further consider the importance

of typography, especially as a blog is very text-driven (although

more so in its early days). given that my blog is hosted for free by

wordPress, there are limitations of what i can do in terms of design

and typography. hence i decided to use the simplest template

i liked so the focus would be more on story content- its production

and distribution- rather than how the blog looks. yet i cannot

overlook the fact that how things look play a part in the way they

are received and interpreted.

a while ago, i wrote an entry on my personal blog about this very

issue: the power of words on screen and what web-writing in

a blog allows you to do. re-reading my thoughts back then has

40 “Mise-en-scene refers

to almost everything that

goes into the composition

of the shot, including the

composition itself: framing,

movement of the camera

and characters, lighting, set

design and general visual

environment, even sound as

it helps elaborate the

composition.” (Kolker, 1999)

41 Miles, Adrian.

“Blogs: Distributed

Documentaries of the

Everyday.” Metro 143

(2005): 66-70.


42 Lee, Joonhwan, et al.

Using Kinetic Typography

to Convey Emotion in

Text-Based Interpersonal

Communication

Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Human-Computer

Interaction Institute

and School of Design,

Carnegie Mellon

University, 2006

43 Yang, Jonathan. The

Rough Guide to Blogging.

London: Rough Guides

Ltd, 2006: 66.

got me thinking about what i can do with typography in my blog

documentary that will enhance the way the story is told. how can i

use typed words to convey certain emotions in the way that can be

done with the human voice and the spoken word?

i came across a research Paper on kinetic typography 42 that

discusses the idea of emoting through web-based text but thought

it too intense to be entirely relevant to my practice. typography

seems to be in itself, its own art form, discipline, that it could be

explored in a whole different research project. nevertheless, i

think it is something else to think about in terms of the aesthetics

of blog-based documentary storytelling and i’ll keep it in mind as

i continue producing.

[Permalink: http://docoscope.wordpress.com/2008/10/04/

typography/]

I came to realize that while at times, images are privileged over words- especially

where video-documentary is concerned- the way that screen text is presented

does have an impact on the way a story is conveyed. For example, “a font can

connote a serious and formal tone, or a friendly and casual one,” 43 and subconsciously,

a reader can make judgements about a documentary story’s style or

mood from the physical aesthetic of the words they are reading.

Overall design of a blog becomes another factor in the way a documentary story is

presented online. Selecting a theme for Our Father was quite a process as there

were several things to consider. Firstly, my decision to have WordPress.Com host

my blog for free meant that there were restrictions on how much I could customize

themes. Then came the dilemmas over whether or not I sacrifice design

aesthetic for technical flexibility. I opted for the latter.

The theme below, ‘Quentin,’ would have been perfect in setting the tone of my

documentary, but a single sidebar would have prevented me from utilizing widgets

in the way I eventually chose to (see Figure 1.6) and thought served the story

better in the blog form.

figure 1.5 the blog-based documentary using the free wordPress theme, Quentin.

Eira Joy Aringay

39


40 labsome 2008

Of course, one could make the best of both worlds, but to do so, one must set up

a self-hosted blog and have adequate knowledge of coding webpages. I felt that

for the purposes of this project, this was not essential. Furthermore, exploring

what can be achieved with the free available tools at hand, makes documentary

storytelling in blogs an activity that a person without such intricate technical

skills can experiment with and be involved in.

figure 1.6 the blog-based documentary using the free wordPress theme, garland by

Stefan Nagtegaal and Steven Wittens. This was the theme I finally settled on.

finDing thE auDiEnCE, knOwing thE uSEr

As with any communication medium and especially with documentary, a blog is

created with the intention that people aside from the maker will receive what is

being communicated. This may simply be information, a particular viewpoint

or a story. As a new media practitioner, I have learned that understanding the

audience for a certain project is a crucial element of any practice.

Finding my audience for this project presented several issues. I immediately

recognized two distinct groups when thinking about the target demographic for

my blog-based documentary. The first group are bloggers with an interest in

documentary (including new media enthusiasts, professionals and my peers)

and the second, people in my local Catholic community around which the

documentary subject revolves.

Thinking of the latter especially brought on questions about how effective my

storytelling in this medium would be. As a fairly old parish with a great history,

there are many people in the St. Fidelis community who are senior citizens with

limited access to and knowledge of technology, including my interviewees. Thus

the possibility of involving these parishioners in a story told via new media is

rather unlikely, somewhat hindering the potential reach of the documentary.

However, “picturing your typical reader- your target audience- will help you focus

your blog,” 44 so keeping in mind that this story is being told for my community

(regardless of any technical issues), really aided the making process. This

44 Yang, Jonathan. The

Rough Guide to Blogging.

London: Rough Guides

Ltd, 2006: 87.


45 World Youth Day is a

Catholic event initiated by

Pope John Paul II, held every

two or three years to gather

young people from all over

the world in faith, hope and

friendship. In July 2008, the

event was held in Sydney,

Australia. More information

on WYD08 is available on

the official website:

http://www.wyd2008.org/

46 Miles, Adrian.

“Blogs: Distributed

Documentaries of the

Everyday.” Metro 143

(2005): 66-70.

47 Gunelius, Susan.

“Comment”. 2008.

About.com: Web Logs.

21 October 2008.

48 Gunelius, Susan. “What

Are Blog Comments?:

The Importance of Blog

Comments to Bloggers”.

2008. About.com. 21

October 2008. .

enabled me to carefully consider every item that I posted and incorporated in the

blog, so as to make it relevant to my target audience.

It was suggested by my supervisor to also create a ‘help’ page to give perhaps the

naïve user a better understanding of this new form. As I created the now ‘How

To’ page, I found myself explaining the premise of a blog-based documentary to

people unfamiliar with it, thus further drawing focus to my audience.

I began to feel more positive about the project when I concentrated on the

possible benefits rather than its limitations in terms of audience reach. Having

attended World Youth Day 45 in Sydney this year, I recognized the movement of the

Catholic Church into modern times, resulting in the spreading of the Christian

message online and the formation of friendships through social networking

websites. This made me see how my project is an extension of this, sharing a

story in an environment where a younger generation of faith-filled people can

connect and learn and a community can interact in new ways.

“Unlike a diary, a blog is not thought of as an individual site, but as a discursive

event that participates in a collection of relations to other sites, and other people.

It is a writing that binds parts into wholes as blogs are not only a collection of

fragments within one site but also participate in network ecologies.” 46 This is

indeed one of the greatest things that separates blog-based documentary from

documentary film, and one that deserves further exploration.

Perusing different blogs indicates that the blog form enables bloggers to

generate discourse, take part in discourse and encourage user involvement

within discourse. What this means for documentary storytelling is that the

storyteller (in this case as I have termed, the ‘storyblogger’) is able to connect

with their audience in ways not possible in traditional models of film. One of the

most common means of doing so is through comments.

COmmEntS

“Definition: A section in blog posts (typically immediately following the post entry)

where readers can provide their reactions to the content of the post.” 47

Susan Gunelius writes that “Blog comments are a critical part of a successful

blog, and an area bloggers must understand and focus on to create a great

blog,” 48 and furthermore that they are “the lifeblood of a blog.” ibid Realizing this

introduced new elements in my practice and drew attention to things that were

lacking in my blog-based documentary. I had been so focused on applying the

production values of documentary filmmaking to the blog form that I had not fully

explored the blog’s possibilities for new ways of storytelling.

Realizing this led me to actively promote my blog-based documentary by

spreading the message to friends and colleagues and subscribing to online

blogging communities. From this, new things were learnt:

Eira Joy Aringay

41


42 labsome 2008

the value of feedback

October 2, 2008 at 5:13 pm · filed under blogs, Documentary,

filmmaking

I have finally unleashed my blog-based documentary in all of

its rawness and incompleteness (not that it can ever officially

be complete). by this i mean, i have let others know about

it- something I should have done when I first set it up- so as

to receive feedback and gain an understanding of the user

experience. On the down side, not many people have responded

or contributed to my work so far, but the encouraging thing is that

the ones who have, have given valuable feedback.

my method of gaining an audience for the blog-based

documentary is nothing out of the ordinary, i simply sent emails

to friends and colleagues and sent invitations to people i thought

may be interested via social-networking sites. Reflecting on the

types of people that I have targeted has helped me realized the

scope of my demographic: people and communities with Christian

values on the one hand, and practitioners and enthusiasts of new

media, blogs and documentary on the other.

Criticism from both parties is proving to be extremely useful to

my body of research and creative practice.

here is some feedback sent by a friend (who does not have a new

media background) upon browsing my blog-based documentary:

“the key features about it that stand out for me is that:

• It is a more interactive way to learn about a person/thing,

as opposed to reading a autobiography or biography or book

generally.

• At the same time, it provides more information than what a

documentary can provide. at times, documentaries can be so

restricted with time, it fails to cover certain significant points

in detail. your approach however, enables an interactive way

of learning about something/someone and at the same time,

provides additional information where needed to fill in the gaps.

• Your approach also enables TOPICAL issues to be placed into

easy to access tabs.

Some limitations i’d suggest of the approach is:

• The problems with getting people to want to log on to the blog

to start off with. books and documentaries have clear advertising

mechanisms. not sure whether this will still be the case with

online material.


49 The Farm: http://

ourfatherdocumentary.

com/2008/10/10/the-farm/

Everything is good that

God has made: http://

ourfatherdocumentary.

com/2008/09/16/everythingis-good-that-god-has-made/

50 Julian Thomas. “Liberal

machines.” D. Meredyth and

J. Minson eds. Citizenship

& cultural policy. London:

Sage, 2000: 159

• Unless organized properly, there can be a lack of chronology

in the postings and discussions which therefore limits one’s

understanding of the fuller picture.”

[Permalink: http://docoscope.wordpress.com/2008/10/02/thevalue-of-feedback/]

Such feedback was extremely useful; the key things I extracted from this were

the affordances of ‘interactivity’ in a blog and the technical issues that prevent a

positive user experience (such as knowledge of the form and tagging, which I have

previously discussed).

As time went on, I received a few other valuable comments (both to do with the

blog-based documentary form and with story content) which made me see

potential in the conversational tone in which the story can continue to be told.

A Catholic friend left comments on various posts (see The Farm and Everything

is good that God has made 49 ) providing a great example of the ‘active user’ who

participates in a networked medium. By responding to discourse I had set up

in these blog posts, she has contributed to the story and paves the way for a

continuation of the discourse. This is a unique offering of blogs that changes the

conventional documentary film audiences’ role.

I have therefore learned to appreciate how much comments and the relationship

between the blogger and the audience are significant factors in the blogging

practice, and especially in the blog-based documentary practice, as it opens

up new possibilities for storytelling. Julian Thomas writes a perfect summary

on networked media that is extremely relevant to my blog-based documentary

practice:

“New communication technologies provide comparatively decentralized and

open environments that appear to promote rights to freedom of expression,

information, and communication. Networked environments such as the Internet

allow individual users to create their own content and interact with a large

community of other users around the world at a relatively low cost. This in

turn increases the diversity of information and views that are expressed by and

accessible to users around the world.” 50

blOg StatS

Blogs also provide the opportunity for a blogger to monitor the activity of their

audience. This feature allows the maker to acquire some understanding of their

blog’s progress over time such as which viewed posts have been most popular

and which links people have clicked on to get to their blog.

This is something I considered quite late in my practice but was useful in

highlighting certain aspects of my approach that I could improve on in terms of

sustaining audience interest.

Eira Joy Aringay

43


44 labsome 2008

As evident in Figure 1.7, my blog-based documentary received 50 hits on October

14, the most so far in a single day. I realized that this occurred a few days after

having promoted the project in the St. Fidelis Parish bulletin (see Appendix 5),

demonstrating the effectiveness of advertising the blog to a specific audience.

As with any medium that aims to communicate a story, generating awareness and

interest in the work are essential factors in determining success.

figure 1.7 Daily hits for my blog-based documentary.

thE StOryblOggEr anD bEyOnD

The storyblogger: a documentarian, blogger and storyteller, is involved in a “distributed,

networked writing and reading practice.” 51 Understanding what this

entails is crucial in fulfilling such a role.

Becoming a storyblogger in practice has opened my eyes to the great things I can

achieve in a blog-based documentary platform as well as the certain methods of

documentary storytelling that cannot be effectively applied (such as the sense of

linear narrative as I have already reflected upon). Yet the position and responsibility

of the ‘storyblogger’ within the context of the medium has yet to be fully

explored.

vOiCES

I have been a blogger for a few years and using my blog voice is something I still

have not completely mastered. It is commonly understood that, “Blogs are casual

in tone, and what you write is generally viewed as more important than how you

write,” 52 but in the case of blog-based documentary storytelling, I have discovered

that there should be a certain finesse about how words are constructed in

blog posts.

My own tendency to edit frantically as I write often interrupts the flow of my

words, but as a storyblogger I find that text-editing is very important in communicating

the story. Indeed, it can be said that some bloggers have successful

personal blogs because of their spontaneous, disorderly writing style, but with

blog-based documentary, perhaps consistency and focus in the blogger’s voice is

more important.

51 Miles, Adrian.

“Blogs: Distributed

Documentaries of the

Everyday.” Metro 143

(2005): 66-70.

52 Yang, Jonathan. The

Rough Guide to Blogging.

London: Rough Guides

Ltd, 2006: 83.


53 Blood, Rebecca.

“Weblogs: A History

and Perspective”. 2000.

Rebecca’s Pocket. 12

September 2008.

“Writing well for blogs- with personality and energy- is an art that takes time to

master,” ibid much more when a blog has a specific story purpose and an audience

to consider. Even since the early stages of constructing the story (as far back as

the days when a novel was my intended medium) knowing how to write effectively

was incredibly challenging. I soon realized that the best way for me to tell the

story of Fr. Fitzpatrick was to write in first-person, with my own voice. Transition

to the blog-based documentary form further encouraged me to experiment with

this tone. As evident in the final outcome, I eventually found a personal and informative

style of posting.

The blog-based documentary form also allows the convergence of different

voices, not just of character and narrator as with documentary film, but voices of

the audience. Indeed the storyblogger has the initial say in many respects, but

as mused over previously, the input of the audience/user separates blog-based

documentary storytelling from conventional documentary in its potential to

extend discourse through the contribution of people outside of the story world.

rhythm

Another key element of documentary storytelling in a blog that somewhat differs

from conventional filmmaking is the idea of rhythm. Of course linear editing is

inherently rhythmic, but what has become a significant factor in my practice is

the rhythm, or flow of posting blog entries. I understood its significance primarily

because it had not been properly established in the production of my blog-based

documentary:

regularity

October 1, 2008 at 3:22 pm · filed under blogs

As much as I enjoy blogging once I get into the ‘flow’ of it, I’ve always

had a problem with making regular posts. that is precisely

where i am going wrong in my practice. i guess it could be said

that blogs thrive on regularity, it draws readers in and encourages

them to keep reading, and sustains a blog’s relevance. funny

how i know this but haven’t really applied it to my work.

[Permalink: http://docoscope.wordpress.com/2008/10/01/

regularity/]

Research on what makes a good blog brought to light the importance of ‘regularity’

in posting, which I lacked. As Rebecca Blood defines, a blog is “a website that

is updated frequently, with new material posted at the top of the page.” 53 The

words ‘frequently’ and ‘new material’ indicating a blog’s need for constant updating

and rhythm in order to be effective.

In terms of storytelling in this medium, it especially becomes important to establish

regularity as much of the story can be driven by user contribution and the

conversation between the storyblogger and the audience.

Eira Joy Aringay

45


46 labsome 2008

PrODuCtiOn anD PubliShing

Reflecting upon regularity in the blogging practice brought to light the affordances

of online publishing. Compared to conventional documentary film production

which can potentially be a costly endeavour, blogging is quite an affordable

practice as I have experienced. It was not essential for me to buy my own server

space to make a blog-based documentary, nor did I need to hire a crew during

production of the video excerpts because high quality video and audio is not as

crucial for online distribution as it is for film. With easy access to tools in this

digital age and the freedom to experiment with them without real pressure of

deadlines or funds, blog-based documentary-making is a practice in which many

can initiate independently and participate in collaboratively.

As a publishing platform, blogs are incredibly convenient and encouraging for the

writer, the documentarian, and of course, the storyblogger.

leave comment

Name (required)

Mail (will not be published) (required)

website


Eira Joy Aringay

47


48 labsome 2008


54 Miles, Adrian. “Blogs

and Documentary (All

Middle)”. 2006. vlog 4.0 [a

blog about vogs]. 1 October

2008. .

COnCluSiOn

In my blog-based documentary, and perhaps in any blog for that matter, there

is no real sense of an end. Ironically however, I must now reach some sort of

conclusion; although I have investigated a practice that cannot really have closure

because of all the possibilites it presents; those which I have discussed here, and

those which will appear as I continue exploring beyond this project.

Documentaries, blogs and stories are grounded in our lives and in a sense,

‘ground’ our lives, and it would not be wrong to say that we need to see, hear,

watch and be part of them- to learn about people, worlds, ideals- in order to gain

a better understanding of our lives as individuals and in the context of society and

the world. Perhaps it is then justified to speak of their significance in our lives

and realise that even as technology advances, sharing such stories will be an

ongoing activity, only that new forms of sharing them will be experimented with.

Docoscope has been a research project that has taught me many things about

the possibilities of storytelling through new forms, specifically in the medium

of a blog. Regardless of the non-linear nature of a blog, I have learned that

understanding story structure, and more so story content, is still an important

element in the production process.

Although delivery in ‘fragmented’ spaces loses the conventional notion of

narrative, thoroughly considering the story, its characters and its message is

just as important in blog-based documentary as in documentary film. The main

difference is the way these things are communicated. I have come to know that

key elements of any type of documentary are passion for the subject and a story

that is grounded in the storyteller or documentarian or storyblogger’s life.

Through challenges, technical and otherwise, I have learned what it is to be a

storyblogger and how to be a better one. I acknowledge the certain aspects of

documentary that cannot apply to a blog: that there cannot be a linear build to

a climax and that the beginning, middle, end structure is lost. I have accepted

the limitations of a template-driven format in restricting design customization

and understand where my practice needs improvement, such as making regular

posts and increasing traffic by promoting my blog. I have realized that on screen,

words have their own power and if used effectively in a blog, can speak great

things of story, even amidst video and image which are often privileged.

Most of all, I have realized two extremely important things that separates blogbased

documentary storytelling from traditional documentary filmmaking:

the maker’s relationship with the audience in an interactive and participatory

environment and consequently the possibilities of ongoing conversation, keeping

the story alive. This is precisely where Adrian Miles’ ‘middle’ 54 concept fits, as

stories go on without formally ending, where old ideas are recycled, current ideas

converge and new opportunities transpire. This is also where the thoughts, ideas

and opinions of many people can converge, contributing to an overall story and

generating further discourse, as well as creating new stories to be shared and

reflected upon.

Eira Joy Aringay

49


50 labsome 2008

As a storyblogger in practice and with so much still to learn, it is safe enough

to say that there are many elements to consider when producing a blog-based

documentary and effectively telling a story in this medium. Though I have

explored many facets of the docoscope, my discoveries only scratch the surface

of the endless sea of possibilities on offer within this field. My blog-based

documentary and the docoscope will remain open to these possibilities as time

goes on and people keep exploring.


aPPEnDiCES

aPPEnDix 1

an early version of a conceptual framework for the Docoscope research project:

Eira Joy Aringay

51


52 labsome 2008

aPPEnDix 2

an email response from Chris Caines, producer of thumb Candy: a blog-based

documentary about texting and SmS culture in the Philippines:

[http://chopyourownwood.com/thumbcandy/]


aPPEnDix 3

a draft script treatment for Our father: a blog-based documentary:

Eira Joy Aringay

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54 labsome 2008

aPPEnDix 4

an early attempt at a template for Our father: a blog-based documentary:


aPPEnDix 5

Our father: a blog-based documentary as promoted in the St. fidelis Parish

bulletin on October 12, 2008.

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56 labsome 2008


ibliOgraPhy

ABC. “Australian Story”. 2008. 7 May 2008. .

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.

Bernard, Sheila Curran. Documentary Storytelling for Film and Videomakers.

Focal Press, Elsevier, Inc. UK, 2004.

Bernard, Sheila Curran. Documentary Storytelling (Second Edition): Making

Stronger and More Dramatic Nonfiction Films Focal Press, Elsevier, Inc. UK,

2007.

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12 September 2008. .

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Maintaining Your Blog First ed: Basic Books, 2002.

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McGraw Hill, New York, 2004.

Caines, Chris. “Thumb Candy: A Blog Based Documentary About Texting and Sms

Culture in the Philippines.” 2003. 18 June 2008. .

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2008. .

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Screenwriter’s Utopia: A MoviePartners Production. 31 July 2008. .

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encyclopedia. 23 April 2008. .

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Leading Directors, Cinematographers, Editors, and Producers. New Riders

Berkeley, CA, USA, 2005.

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58 labsome 2008

Das, Trisha. “How to Write a Documentary Script: A Monograph”. 2007. 30 July

2008. .

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Sands of Story.” IBM SYSTEMS JOURNAL 36.3 (1997).

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eHow: How To Do Just About Everything. 31 July 2008. .

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Podcasting: Emerging Media Tools for Business Communication (Hands-on Guide

Series) Focal Press, Elsevier Inc. UK, 2006.

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Conceptualization to Completion”. 2006. 31 July 2008. .

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Gunelius, Susan. “What Are Blog Comments?: The Importance of Blog Comments

to Bloggers”. 2008. About.com. 21 October 2008. .

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Thomson Wadsworth, Boston, MA, USA, 2004.

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.

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Little, Brown and Company, Great Britain, 2002.

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35. 23 April 2008. .

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Interpersonal Communication Pittsburgh, PA, USA Human-Computer Interaction

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vogs]. 1 October 2008. .

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New York, 2003.

New Challenges for Documentary (Second Edition). Eds. Rosenthal, Alan and

Comer, John: Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York, 2005.

Ngai, Adela Heiman, et al. “Interactive Online Documentary”. 2007. (12 June

2007). 5 May 2008. .

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University Press, Bloomington & Indianapolis, 1991.

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Elsevier Inc., 2004.

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Videos (Revised Edition)”. 1996. 23 April 2008. .

Rosenthal, Alan. Writing, Directing, and Producing Documentary Films and

Videos. 1990. Fourth ed: Southern Illinois University Press, USA, 2007.

Shedlock, Marie L. “The Art of the Storyteller (Ebook)”. 2004. 28 August 2008.

.

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Shelton, S. Martin. Communicating Ideas with Film, Video, and Multimedia: A

Practical Guide to Information Motion-Media. Southern Illinois University Press,

Carbondale USA, 2004.

“Storyblogger, Tell Your Story “. 2007. 23 September 2008. .

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2008. .

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encyclopedia. 23 April 2008. .

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Verdi, Michael, et al. Secrets of Videoblogging First ed: Peachpit Press, 2006.

Village, Expert. “How to Make a Documentary Film”. 2006. 31 July 2008. .

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July 2008. .

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2008. .

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British Film Institute, 1995.

WordPress.Com. “What Is a Widget?” 3 October 2008. .

Yang, Jonathan. The Rough Guide to Blogging. London: Rough Guides Ltd, 2006.


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