Docubase is a curated database of the people, projects, and technologies transforming documentary in the digital age.
Our mission is to collect, showcase, and inspire new documentary forms and the tools, processes, and makers behind them.
We believe that documentaries play a vital role in our democracy and culture and that today’s technologies and techniques offer creative possibilities for expression: the promise of new voices, and the reach to new publics.
With any emerging medium comes fresh grammar, new styles, and novel processes. So, too, with webdocs, immersive docs, interactive and participatory docs and all the other names we attribute to these new types of documentaries. Which terms or styles will stick we don’t yet know. But for certain documentary is evolving.
- Docubase is a place of discovery where you can immerse yourself in the playlists and projects; unearth new work, explore new techniques, and find people who are pioneering new storytelling.
- Docubase opens up the digital storytelling process by providing production data about each project, behind-the-scenes materials, interviews, and case studies to demystify the process and encourage participation.
- Docubase is interactive. We invite you to participate and learn from this growing community of digital documentary makers. Comment. Suggest a project or a tag. Write a playlist.
We select projects, using the following criteria:
- Innovative use of emerging technologies or techniques for documentaries that enable interactive, participatory, networked, immersive, locative, or other experiential forms
- Artistic, social, cultural merit or impact
Docubase is a curated database not an exhaustive one. We find our projects by looking at festivals, incubators, interactive documentary websites, art, design, and technology innovation centers and other tastemakers. Guest curators select their own list of projects. We look across disciplines and scour the arts, journalism, photography, and games. The public suggests projects or tags, and we always include at least one of these suggested projects in our monthly showcase.
While most of our projects come from the United States, Canada, and France, we actively seek projects from other regions. We are always looking for projects that represent diverse populations and subject matter.
With Docubase, there are many ways to participate in documentary storytelling: as author, subject, or explorer. Jump in. Become one. Become all.
For sheer innovation and unpredictability, few things can compete with the emergence of a new media practice. Conventions, orthodoxies and routine have not yet set in. Virtually anything is possible. Consider the earliest years of film, radio and television – before any rules or best practices or institutional mandates existed – when media makers could engage in unparalleled levels of experimentation. Today, this untamed creative fervor can be found in the new documentary – a fast-emerging form that includes interaction, participation and community-creation. This development has served as a catalyst, challenging our inherited notions of story, transforming it and at times moving beyond it. It affords new vantage points, and requires new literacies.
As the community of new documentary makers and users explores imaginative forms and innovative technologies, negotiates the challenges of collaborative authorship, and engages with its subjects in surprising ways, we have an opportunity denied to the media of the past. No longer must we look back at those unconstrained moments of creativity from a nostalgia-tinted distance. Instead, we can learn from these older media and record today’s nascent steps, collect and consider their many innovative directions, and in the process, expand and enhance meaningful participation in the new documentary community.
‘Unruly’ best describes the amazing documentaries that we’ve gathered together in docubase. True, all share an interest in innovation, in tapping the potentials of digital technologies to tell their stories. But the similarity stops there. Interactive, collaborative, location-based, community-created, parts of larger trans-media experiences … the projects gathered here defy easy categorization. They are made by and with communities, journalists, citizen-activists, film and video makers, game-designers, community organizers, data-visualizers and ordinary people. Some production teams model themselves on the conventions of film, others on games, and still others invent new ways of describing their work. Why so complicated? Because we are witnessing a rare moment that is in equal parts creative and inchoate.
Documentary and our ways of seeing and talking about our experiences of the world have always been at the cutting edge of technology and technique. We’ve laid out the case for this assertion in Moments of Innovation, and Docubase bears witness to it in the domain of today’s documentary practice. We’ve collected a large number of projects that both exemplify and press the limits of the documentary in its many new forms. We’ve purposely challenged the documentary’s definitional limits, hoping to provoke discussion and user-suggestions for additional projects to include.
The collected projects and the ideas they stimulate offer ways to build a community of participants, to capture the unruly brilliance of our moment, and to envision and create the future of the documentary.
William Uricchio, Professor of Comparative Media Studies