The new frontiers of documentary practice decenter the author, bringing in a multiplicity of voices and practices to generate polyphonies. This session explains the whys and the hows of these new documentary practices and strategies.

This session is a conversation with one of the world's leading scholar/practitioners of polyphonic documentary, Judith Aston. Through the Polyphonic Documentary Project, she explores new strategies and forms of cocreation that use collaboration to expose the multiple. This massive reset documentary with digital tools, requiring new ways of thinking and doing to embrace complexity, navigate uncertainty, and celebrate diversity.


Presenter:     Judith Aston,  University of the West of England, Bristol, UK

Interviewer:  Reece Auguiste, University of Colorado

Join the conversation!

This conversation about the Polyphonic Documentary project with Judith Aston
and Reece Auguiste takes place on Friday, March 31, at Noon EST.  It is virtual.  

Register in advance for this meeting: 

Cosponsored by the Park Center for Independent Media

About the Polyphonic Documentary Project


Polyphonic documentary is a collaborative and practice-based research project convened by Judith Aston and Stefano Odorico. It explores the potential of interactive documentary for promoting interdisciplinary dialogue and exchange in a context of climate emergency and increasing polarization. We re-visit the work of Bakhtin and look at the relevance of what he has to say about the polyphonic novel in relation to evolving documentary forms and practices. We investigate ideas about co-creation, polyphony, and transformative narratives.

Although polyphony can be found across a number of documentary forms, we focus on earlier debates within interactive documentary around narrative/non-narrative/anti-narrative and its relationship to the database form. What happens for example when the human computer interface enables us to create spatial, multi/non-linear and more open-ended organizational strategies, as opposed to the more sequential, linear and fixed approaches found in the age of cinema and print?

We look at power dynamics and the situated nature of all forms of knowledge construction by looking at the pitfalls as well as the benefits of interactive documentary as a means of promoting polyphonic thinking. In the current moment,  the computer-based aesthetic of the multiple is being made ubiquitous by interfaces such as Zoom, high profile interactive narrative projects have started to emerge on channels such as Netflix, and many are engaged with interactive tools for on-line learning.

Now is a good moment for a re-set to question received ways of doing things,in order to develop new approaches and strategies which can help us to embrace complexity, navigate uncertainty and celebrate diversity.

About Judith Aston


Judith Aston is Co-founder of i-Docs and an Associate Professor in Film and Digital Arts at the University of the West of England in Bristol. She has an interdisciplinary background in anthropology, geography, interaction design and media practice. As an active member of the University’s Digital Cultures Research Centre, she is also an experienced tutor and PhD supervisor. At the heart of her work is the desire to put evolving media technologies into the service of promoting multi-perspectival thinking and understanding. She has published widely on this and her current collaboration with Dr Stefano Odorico on ‘The Poetics and Politics of Polyphony’ is the latest manifestation of this ongoing endeavor.


Reece Auguiste is Chair and Associate Professor of Critical Media Practices at the University of Colorado. He is a documentary practitioner and scholar whose research focuses on national cinemas, transnational screen cultures, and documentary media practices. His research interests span film theory and criticism, aesthetics of the moving image, documentary screen practices, the Soviet and post-Soviet avant-garde, Iranian screen cultures, Chinese screen cultures, African Diaspora screen practices and their operations in transnational contexts.

Auguiste was a founding member of the critically acclaimed British-based Black Audio Film Collective. He is the director of the award-winning films Twilight City, and Mysteries of July. His current film Duty of the Hour explores the life and times of the American civil rights leader Benjamin Hooks.

His essays on screen aesthetics and documentary practices have appeared in Framework, Cineaction, Undercut, Journal of Media Practice, The British Avant-Garde Film 1926-1995, Questions of Third Cinema, Dark Eros, The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Media and The Ghosts of Songs: The Film Art of the Black Audio Film Collective. He is the recipient of many awards and prizes, including the Grand Prize at Melbourne International Film Festival; Josef Von Sternberg Award for most original film of the Mannheim International Film Festival, and the International Documentary Association Award for exceptional creative achievement in nonfiction and television production, Los Angeles.