Models of participation in transmedia documentaries for social change

Carles Sora

Models of participation in transmedia documentaries for social change

Webdocs can be a great tool for bringing us the first-person accounts of people who are experiencing social conflicts around the world. Works like “Question Bridge” or “18 days in Egypt” exemplifies some of the potentialities of online platforms for engaging community participation and empower people voices and stories. Despite the fact of the digital divide and limited Internet access, the creation of web strategies for Communication for Development is one of the major future catalysts for social activism and awareness of audiences (Srivastava, 2011), offering new spaces for active engagement through participation (Carpentier & De Cleen, 2008).

Web development and social media are promising platforms for creating social impact in audiences (O’Flynn, 2012). One of the most hotly debated issues right now in interactive projects for social change revolves around the real impact of webdocs on audiences. And it’s not just talking about “click metrics”, but about emotional engagement and social impact thanks to interaction. It is thought that people engage with interactive narratives in a more direct and emotional way than classical linear films does. And by engaging people with creation and collaboration, awareness and social reaction begins.

Digital audiences’ participation is a hot debate that opens up innumerable possibilities for the design of interactive projects. But what do we mean by participation? Henry Jenkins recently made some contributions addressing this topic: “I object to calling it participation if the people involved have no sense of themselves as belonging to something bigger than the individual. For me, participation starts at that moment when we see ourselves as part of a group that is seeking to achieve some shared goals through collective effort.” (Andrejevic et al, 2014). We have detected that a review of participation is needed and we propose to address it in three ways: on one side audience’s models, on the other side community members participation, and in both cases, the study of new temporalities of action and communication for social movements.

In some cases the social impact of theses projects surpass the digital walls and hits the streets changing legal systems and mainstream media attitudes, as it happened with “Responsables” (2013) in Spain. Webdocs could become a useful tool to spread local conflicts that are often overlooked on the global map. Citizen collaboration and participation strategies on the net, structured around the narrative thread of a real story, are starting to become a reality that will have an impact on institutions and NGOs as strategy communication tool. This talk will examine the nascent methodologies and social practices of digital participation on the new existing “webdocs for social change”.