Kammerflimmern und Mediales Rauschen

Podcast für Medien und Wissenschaft

DiD Special #2 – Polyphony: a Metamodernist Grand Narrative for Digital Documentary

based on a lecture by Judith Aston (10 November 2021)


In this spin off-episode – which is based on a live recording of a talk within the context of the lecture series „Digital documentary practices. Topical paradigm shifts in negotiating ‚the Real'“, Judith Aston outlines her latest thinking around polyphony and multi-perspectivity. Linking it to her work of over thirty years with interactive media in the fields of creative media practice, documentary and visual anthropology, she introduces the concept of metamodernism into discourses on interactive narrative and discusses it in a wider public.

In her inspiring presentation – followed by a lively Q & A session –, Judith explains why metamodernism can be useful to engage with complexity and uncertainty in documentary making, how it helps us to overcome simplistic binary thinking and why it prepares us to tackle future challenges.


 03:54   Introduction to metamodernism and Judith’s talk

10:30   Judith’s lecture – setting the field – how Judith came upon metamodernism and her agenda with this talk

23:23   The immersive turn in i-docs vs. “why they matter“: the role of interactive media beyond entertainment, i-docs as means    for scholarly research and community wisdom to approach complexity

27:51   Polyphonic documentary project and artistic research: rethinking concepts of authorship and dialogism

39:33   Metamodernism, emergent thinking and the process of becoming, handling paradoxes and collective problem solving to address current global crisis

45:23   Q & A session

45:39   Question 1: What is the status of i-docs – an alternative to cultural industry products? a tool for transcultural understanding or a form to communicate complex academic ideas?   

48:20   Question 2: Relationship between polyphony, metamodernism and so-called new media literacies?

52:56   Question 3: What is the connection between polyphonic aesthetics and democratic values?

54:58   Question 4: How does the dimension of polyphony enter into the i-doc?

57:16   Final Question and Judith’s closing remarks: metamodernism helps one to get away from the problem postmodern relativism

59:57   Summary and closing remarks




Contact: podcast@avinus.de

Project website: DiD – Das Dokumentarische im Digitalen


Intro/ Outro:

Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/5025-beauty-flow

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Intro spoken by: Sarah Topfstädt

Host and Editor: PD Dr. Anna Wiehl

Logo: Anika Ch. R. Nöhre

License CC BY-NC-ND

Funded by the BMBF

Judith Aston Short CV:

Judith Aston, who holds an associate professorship of film and digital arts at the University of the West of England, Bristol, spent the first eight years of her working life developing pioneering film and creative technology projects in the UK’s fledgling interactive and immersive media sectors. Based in Cambridge, she worked among others on projects with the University, Apple Computing, the BBC, Cambridge Multimedia, Eye Film and Television and Virgin Publishing.

As a scholar as well as media maker, Judith is particularly engaged in the development of transformative narratives which can help to tackle 21st century challenges such as climate emergency, social justice and ideological polarization, thus, bringing insight from her academic publications into practice-led projects.

Judith is a Founding-Director of i-Docs and keeps co-curate the bi-annual i-Docs symposia, Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and most recently, she has been elected chair of the UK’s royal anthropological film committee.

For more information, see Judith’s faculty website.

i-docs mentioned in this episode

18 Days in Egypt (USA 2011, A: Jigar Mehta, Yasmin Elayat et al.)

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/35368376#at=4;

more information: MIT Open Documentary Lab docubase

Question Bridge (USA 2012, A: Bayete Ross Smith, Chris Johnson, Hank Willis Thomas, Kamal Sinclair et al.):

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/351730508

more information on : MIT Open Documentary Lab docubase


Gaza/Sderot (F 2008, A: Alex Szalat, Joël Ronez, Susanna Lotz et al.)


more information on : MIT Open Documentary Lab docubase


Films mentioned

The Tree of Life (USA 2011, D: Terrence Malick)

Secret City (UK 2012, D: Michael Chanan)

Further web resources:

i-docs.org and the i-docs symposium



Aston, Judith: „The ‘linear turn’ in i-docs – a provocation“. Available online, checked on 4/10/2021.

Aston, Judith (2010): „Spatial montage and multimedia ethnography: Using computers to visualise aspects of migration and social division among a displaced community“. _Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung _11 (2).

Aston, Judith (2014): „interactive documentary“. Kerric Harvey (Ed.): Encyclopedia of social media and politics. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, pp. 703–704.

Aston, Judith (2015): „Interactive documentary – what does it mean and why does it matter?“ i-docs.org. Available online, checked on 4/10/2021.

Aston, Judith (2017): „Interactive documentary and live performance. From embodied to emplaced interaction“. Mandy Rose, Sandra Gaudenzi, Judith Aston (Eds.): The Evolving Practices of Interactive Documentary. New York: Wallflower Columbia University Press, pp. 222–236.

Aston, Judith (2017): „the new materialism: human and algorithmic agency within interactive documentary“. Adrian Miles (Ed.): The Material Turn and Interactive Documentary. s.l., pp. 51–61. Available online.

Aston, Judith (2020): „The readerly and the cinematic: Hybrid reconfigurations through digital media practice“. Roderick Coover (Ed.): The digital imaginary. Literature and cinema of the database (Electronic literature), pp. 51–58.

Aston, Judith (2021): „The Polyphonic Entanglements of Co-creation“. Visible Evidence Forum. Available online, updated and checked on 12/6/2021.

Aston, Judith; Gaudenzi, Sandra (2012): „Interactive documentary: setting the field“. Studies in Documentary Film 6 (2), pp. 125–139.

Aston, Judith; Odorico, Stefano (2018): „The Poetics and Politics of Polyphony: Towards a Research Method for Interactive Documentary“. alphaville (15), pp. 63–93.

Aston, Judith; Odorico, Stefano (2022): „Interactive Documentary: Its History and Future as a Polyphonic Form“. Kathleen Ryan, David Staton (Eds.): Interactive Documentary. Decolonizing Practice-Based Research. London: Routledge.

Daniel, Sharon (2007): „The Database: An Aesthetics of Dignity“. Viktorija Vesna (Ed.): Database aesthetics. Art in the age of information overflow. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (Electronic mediations, v. 20), pp. 142-182.

Daniel, Sharon (2008): „Hybrid Practices“. Cinema Journal 48 (2), pp. 154-159. DOI: 10.1353/cj.0.0094.

Murray, Janet (2015): „Future of Storytelling | Dramatic Agency“. Available online, updated on 9/15/2016, checked on 12/19/2021.