Media innovation and social impact: the case of living documentaries


  • Frédéric Dubois Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF



This scholarly essay discusses one particular form of documentary production: interactive documentary. It does so in the larger context of media innovation research. Its main aim is to shed light on how those thinking and creating living documentaries define and frame social impact. The thesis behind this essay is, that contrary to media innovation happening within the paradigm of what scholars and practitioners call the ‘media industries’ - which are largely tributary to capitalist impact criteria, living documentary producers are mainly driven by the potential social impact that their work might have. By presenting and analysing the living documentary Field Trip (2019), a project in which I assumed a combined role of practitioner-researcher, I offer a case study that illustrates and tests my assumptions. I complement my observations within the case study with interviews and other practices. My findings indicate that from a media production perspective, the impact expectations of those making living documentaries can loosely be as associated with a commons-based production paradigm. Yet, producers of these documentaries constantly need to renegotiate and compromise on their social impact expectations because of internal production affordances and the (external) dominance of the ‘media industries’ paradigm.