Cowbird – participatory online documentary

Abstract from ‘Moving beyond evidence – participatory online documentary
practice within the poetic framework of cowbird.com’
by Bettina Frankham, 2015.

The growth of user contribution as a form of interaction within online documentary projects is causing a shift in the way that screen based documentary is conceived. Viewers become participants, taking on greater agency in forming the experience of the work as they engage by contributing personal responses to the exploration of a subject. Rather than being fixed works with definite beginnings and endings, these online collaborative documentaries operate as portals, encouraging communities to gather around themes, events or areas of interest. While the diversity of contributions promises rich conceptual renderings, a significant challenge lies in how to create a coherent media entity out of aggregated content that may be contradictory, complex and constantly changing.

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