Headshot of Patricia Zimmermann

Patricia Zimmermann

Charles A. Dana Professor of Screen Studies, Media Arts, Sciences and Studies
Phone: 607-274-3431
Office: Roy H Park School of Communications 350, Ithaca, NY 14850
Specialty: Film, video and new media history and theory, documentary studies, amateur film, new media, and critical historiography


Patricia R. Zimmermann is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Screen Studies in the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York, USA. She is also Director of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, a major international festival housed at Ithaca College. She has held endowed chair appointments as the Shaw Foundation Professor of New Media in the School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and the Ida Beam Professor of Cinema and Comparative Literature at the University of Iowa.

She is the author of Reel Families: A Social History of Amateur Film (Indiana, 1995), States of Emergency: Documentaries, Wars, Democracies  (Minnesota, 2000), Thinking Through Digital Media: Transnational Environments and Locative Places  (Palgrave, 2015, with Dale Hudson), and Open Spaces: Openings, Closings, and Thresholds of Independent Public Media (U of St. Andrews Press, 2016). She is also coeditor of  Mining the Home Movie: Excavations in Histories and Memories (California, 2008). She was coeditor with Erik Barnouw of The Flaherty: Four Decades in the Cause of Independent Cinema (Wide Angle, 1996). With Scott MacDonald, she wrote The Flaherty: Sixty Years in the Cause of Independent Film (Indiana University Press, 2017). Her book with Helen De Michiel, Open Space New Media Documentary: A Toolkit for Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2018) explores collaborative and participatory place-based international new media projects. Her book Documentary Across Platforms : Reverse Engineering Media, Politics, and Place (Indiana, 2019) explores the relationship between historiography, political engagements and digital art practices across platforms and modes. Her new volume with Scott MacDonald is a companion book to The Flaherty entitled Flash Flaherty: Tales from a Film Seminar (Indiana, 2021). With Dale Hudson, she is writing a new book on transnational new media projects as a follow up to Thinking through Digital Media entitled Digital Habitats: Transnational New Media and the Environment (Indiana, forthcoming)

She has published over 200 scholarly research articles and essays on film history and historiography, documentary and experimental film/video/digital arts, new media,  amateur film, political economy of media, and digital culture theory in a wide swathe of international journals ranging from Screen, Genders,  Journal of Film and Video, Afterimage, Framework, Asian Communications Quarterly, Cinema Journal, Film Quarterly, Studies in Documentary Film, Alphaville, Wide Angle, Cultural Studies, DOX, Film History, Socialist Review, Journal of Communications Inquiry, Jump Cut, and The Moving Image and contributed to many anthologies. Her blog, Open Spaces, explores openings, closings, and thresholds in international public media, especially documentary.

She has delivered invited lectures and plenary addresses across the globe—Canada, China, Colombia, England, Finland, France, Germany, Guinea, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Wales—and throughout the United States. As a journalist, her writing on media arts and media public policy has been published in The Independent, Gannett Newspapers, Lola, Afterimage, Main, Lingua Franca, Search for a Common Ground, National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, CommonDreams.org, NAMAC.org, and Filmmaker.com. 

Currently, she serves as Editor-at-Large for The Edge, the online magazine of the Park Center for Independent Media.  She is  \on the editorial boards of the journals Film Quarterly, The Journal of Film and Video Annika, and The Moving Image: The Journal of the Association of Moving Image Archivists.  She has been a trustee  and Vice-President of International Film Seminars, the home of the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar. She also has served on the national boards of Women Make Movies, Northeast Historic Film Archive (Maine), Konscious.Com, and Search for a Common Ground Film Festival (an international non-governmental organization dedicated to conflict resolution). Locally in Ithaca,, she serves on the Board for Cinemapolis, the local nonprofit art cinema and on the board of Opera Ithaca..

Working extensively as a curator and programmer, she has curated the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar several times, including a retrospective on American documentary history, a documentary summit between Glasnost and American documentarians and scholars in Riga, Latvia, and "Explorations in Memory and Modernity" as well as other film, video, new media exhibitions, and artist's residencies. Her curated programs have screened nationally and internationally at a variety of museums, conferences, and film festivals. In 2010, she curated Open Spaces/Singapore/Southeast Asia, an extensive exhibition in Singapore that explored a variety of forms of digitality in different new media interfaces across the region. Her current large-scale curatorial project, coprogrammed with Louis Massiah of Scribe Video Center, is We Tell: Fifty Years of Participatory Community Media, which is screening at 20 sites across the United States.

As Director of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, she curates and programs across film, video, new media, performance, music, literature and visual arts.  FLEFF is a one-week multimedia inter-arts extravaganza that reboots the environment and sustainability into a larger global conversation, embracing issues ranging from labor, war, health, disease, music, intellectual property, fine art, software, remix culture, economics, archives, AIDS, women’s rights, and human rights. www.ithaca.edu/fleff

She serves on the roster as a Film and Documentary Envoy for the U.S. State Department. She is also on the roster of Fulbright Specialists.

Flash Flaherty: Tales from a Film Seminar (Indiana University Press, 2021) is the companion book to The Flaherty: Decades in the Cause of Independent Cinema (Indiana University Press, 2017), both by Patricia R. Zimmermann and Scott MacDonald. It extends the historical arguments  and conversations prompted by the book with stories by Flaherty participants, programmers, and partisans.  

The book is available from Indiana University Press:  https://iupress.org/9780253053985/flash-flaherty/


"As the essays move through time and space, we are left with the knowledge that The Flaherty was and remains a complex, meaningful and often confounding event that could only be experienced by being there."

~Cynthia Close, Review of Flash Flaherty: Tales from a Film Seminar, in Documentary Magazine