Navigation – Plan du site

Psychogeography as Social Activism in Katerina Cizek’s Digital Documentaries Highrise, The 1000th Tower and Out My Window

La psychogéographie et le militantisme social dans les documentaires numériques de Katerina Cizek : Highrise, The 1000th Tower and Out My Window
Siobhan O’Flynn

Résumés

Avec l’irruption des technologies du numérique et des plateformes dédiées aux médias sociaux, le documentaire connaît des modifications planétaires majeures. Les travaux réalisés par le programme interactif de l’Institut canadien pour le cinéma (NFB) sont à la pointe de l’innovation. Les documentaires interactifs de Katerina Cizek, regroupés sous l’intitulé Filmmaker-In-Residence, ainsi que le projet multimédia Highrise, qui se déroule sur plusieurs années, ont redonné vigueur au processus de production participative initié dans les années 1970 par l’Institut canadien pour le cinéma. Doté d’un « droit d’ingérence médiatique », il avait pour mission de donner plus de pouvoir aux communautés marginalisées afin de parvenir à un changement social réel. En offrant aux sujets des documentaires traditionnels le statut de collaborateur, le travail de Katerina Cizek défie les modèles sociaux et les représentations dominantes ou médiatiques des communautés pauvres et à risques. Il est constitué de plateformes, sur lesquelles chacun peut écrire son histoire, et crée un contrepoint aux discours officiels sur ces quartiers sous-représentés. La démarche interactive des documentaires de Katerina Cizek réclame “le droit à la cité” pour tous les habitants, pour reprendre la formule de David Harvey. Le droit à l’usage des technologies du numérique soulève des questions d’accès et d’équité. Les projets de Katerina Cizek négocient directement cette tension à travers un travail effectué en collaboration avec les autorités gouvernementales ou avec les communautés concernées, dans le but de rendre effectives les politiques urbaines et de planification. Cet article examine comment ces œuvres réécrivent l’Histoire dans le contexte du Web social en tant que narration participative en constante évolution.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

  • 1 Founded in 1939, The National Film Board of Canada is a federal cultural agency with a mandate to p (...)
  • 2 Paul MacLeod, “Participatory Filmmaking and Video: Building on the Legacy of the Fogo Island Proces (...)

1From the late 1960s on, the National Film Board1 launched a period of innovative filmmaking that challenged the form of earlier ethnographic documentary projects — including the social activist documentary series Challenge for Change (1967-1980) and the feminist film production house, Studio D (1974-1996). Both initiatives were committed to providing a forum and an opportunity for marginalized individuals to document their experience in a position of agency rather than as subjects to be studied and preserved via celluloid. Challenge for Change served as a catalyst for social change in the production process itself by giving the “subjects” of the documentaries editorial approval over the content of the film. Donald Snowden of the Memorial University and Colin Low of the National Film Board (NFB) engaged a number of communities on Fogo Island off Newfoundland as collaborative filmmakers to document their responses to external government pressure to relocate because of depressed economic circumstances. Now known as the Fogo Process and described as “a seminal participatory communications initiative”,2 the project invited individuals to share their views and experience in short segments which were only aired with the final approval of the edit by the participants. Paul MacLeod describes the initiative as follows:

  • 3 Ibidem, 5.

The Process that began on Fogo and bears the name of the island continued to evolve with the work of the film unit Don [Snowden] set up within the Extension Service in 1968. For example, the important principle that everyone filmed or taped should have final approval before their units are shown publicly was actually consolidated during the unit’s first projects with fieldworkers on the Great Northern Peninsula and along the Labrador coast. Some participants in Port aux Choix requested that short segments be removed. In Labrador an entire film was shelved because the interviewed fishermen feared reprisal from merchants on whom they depended. That film was one of the strongest and most eloquent of the series. Furthermore it was a significant historical and social document. But the Fogo Process can only be effective when there is absolute trust between fieldworkers, filmmakers and their community partners. And so that film was removed from utilization.3

2In doing so, the National Film Board created a model of participatory filmmaking in service of marginalized and unrepresented communities that the recent National Film Board productions, directed by Katerina Cizek, have revived.

  • 4 Mandy Rose, “A Filmmaker-In-Residence,” interview with Katerina Cizek, Collab Docs: Where Documenta (...)
  • 5 Katerina Cizek, “When Media Meets Medicine, It’s Usually Bloody,” NFB Filmmaker-in-Residence Blog, (...)
  • 6 In a March 2007 post, titled “Ripple Effect of Interventionist Media,” Katerina Cizek noted that a (...)

3Having positioned herself in her early work as a “social-justice documentarian”, Katerina Cizek was invited to reconceive the National Film Board’s Challenge for Change, and adapt its model of using media to galvanize social change through the illumination of the lived conditions of participants via today’s innovations in technology and communication platforms.4 Her role as filmmaker-in-residence in Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital Outreach Program placed her in direct contact with both inner city communities under stress and those who assist them. Katerina Cizek describes her methodology as an adaptive and responsive use of “interventionist media” in support of social activism.5 She began her Director’s blog in 2006 to document the interactions of the documentary crew, community and municipal partners, and, often, new initiatives emerged from these encounters.6

4Katerina Cizek has furthered this experimentation with the multi-year, multi-platform documentary project, Highrise, which continues the mandate of the earlier Challenge for Change series, while extending the participatory invitation to a global audience. Not only will this essay address the National Film Board’s historical and ongoing commitment to a methodological practice that empowers its subjects as agents and participants in the documentary process, but it will also examine Katerina Cizek’s contribution to the democratization of media. The director has devoted her work to promoting grassroots activism, looking back to her earlier documentary Seeing is Believing: Handicams, Human Rights and the News (2002), co-directed with Peter Wintonick who produced Manufacturing Consent, which traced the impact of amateur/citizen video on global human rights activism.

The National Film Board and the Evolution of Documentary

  • 7 Katerina Cizek in conversation with the author, June 29, 2011.

5The 1000th Tower is the first project in an ongoing collaboration that is aimed at changing the policy and implementation of assistance for what have been categorized by the city as Toronto’s high priority neighbourhoods. The 1000th Tower was launched on April 21, 2010, as an interactive documentary which takes us into the apartments and lives of six residents in a highrise in Toronto’s interurban neighbourhood, Rexdale. Using images, audio and text created by each resident, five of the six mini iDocs highlight the immigrant experience of alienation, financial instability, lack of social support mechanisms and residential infrastructure common to many low-income highrise residents. Undertaken in partnership with the City of Toronto’s Tower Renewal Project, the University of Toronto’s Cities Centre, and York University’s Global Suburbanisms: Governance, Land and Infrastructure in the 21st Century Research Project, The 1000th Tower provides a first-hand window onto the pressing needs of tower residents that has been incorporated into Tower Renewal planning discussions as an illustrative video document that speaks more directly than statistics and graphs.7 As the city has the second highest density of highrise towers in North America, the Tower Renewal Project is a fifteen-year initiative aiming to revitalize and green Toronto’s aging urban infrastructure.

  • 8 Katerina Cizek, “New Productions All Over the Highrise Place,” NFB Highrise, December 13, 2010. , a (...)
  • 9 Katerina Cizek, “Upcoming World Premiere,” NFB Highrise Director’s Blog, October 28, 2011. , access (...)

6Such projects allow the National Film Board to integrate community support strategies with documentary filmmaking in the digital sphere. In December 2010, Katerina Cizek announced the second stage of this project: the Kipling Towers Community Design Charette brought residents and architects together in order to reimagine the possibilities of urban renewal based on the input of residents who are positioned as resident experts rather than solely conceived by urban planners.8 Now launched as the One Millionth Tower, this online interactive documentary “teams a group of highrise residents in Toronto with architects and animators to re-imagine their surroundings and transform their dilapidated highrise neighbourhood into a vibrant, resident-led community.”9 Within the mandate of Toronto’s Tower Renewal program, the intent here is to produce works that speak directly to policy decisions and urban planning initiatives.

  • 10 Tamara Krinsky, “Vertical Integration: The NFB’s ‘Highrise’ Project Tackles Urban Living,” Document (...)

7Highrise launched the second major instalment in October 2010 with a new interactive website hosting thirteen stories set in cities around the globe: Amsterdam, Bangalore, Beirut, Chicago, Havana, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Montreal, Phnom Penh, Sao Paolo, Prague, Tainan, and Toronto. Highrise models the most radical revisioning of the possibilities of documentary to date, with six distinct projects or instalments produced, and more in development at the time of writing. The project was conceived as an inquiry into the experience of individuals living in the world’s vertical peripheries of highrise towers, which National Film Board director Katerina Cizek and producer Gerry Flahive call “the most ubiquitous built form of the 20th century.”10 This interactive documentary highlights the tensions of life in suburban highrises and in doing so, creates humanized counter stories to media and government-constructed narratives of high risk/priority communities in decline. Key to both the interface and narrative design of these projects is the idea that the individuals depicted negotiate their social environments through an active and relational writing of self in place.

  • 11 Katerina Cizek, “The Thousandth Tower,” Director’s Blog, NFB Highrise, April 21, 2010. , accessed J (...)

8The documentaries’ negotiations of local spheres of culture and community exist within an explicit awareness of transnational and diasporic connections and flows. These stories speak powerfully to the struggles for legal status, security, and access to electricity, water, and employment often experienced in what Katerina Cizek terms these “global vertical urban peripheries.”11 One resident of a Johannesburg highrise describes both the deterioration, violence and murders that ensued when gangs took over his building. A number of residents of Chicago’s infamous Cabrini-Green public housing complex humanize the place by describing their local experiences of community and denounce the demolition of the towers in terms of the personal impact.

9The visual juxtaposition of stories in both interface designs establishes a space of shared experience that suggests continuity and dialogue, often foregrounding a shared sense of dislocation and loss that can accompany immigration into countries with new languages and customs, and the struggle to make a place for oneself and one’s family in neighbourhoods that are often constructed negatively. Out of this shared struggle, however, emerges a sense of community-based activism seeking equity and social justice. Both websites present stories which are often not heard or prioritized in urban centres accessible to a global audience, and they have the potential to serve as platforms for developing further community ties that can exist as local and transnational phenomena. The National Film Board documentaries thus give a voice to those who have been regularly excluded from urban planning decisions, providing an opportunity to realize a more active policy of inclusion by creating the dialogue necessary for the recognition of the value and needs of often under-supported communities.

Unique Characteristics of the Interactive Documentary

  • 12 Bill Buxton, Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design, San Francis (...)

10In both One Millionth Tower and Highrise, the choice of images, texts and audio collages instead of a composite of video clips slows the experience down, so that the interaction design resists the ease of content utility consumption that is the hallmark of videos on Youtube. This choice of design marks our entry into a different kind of virtual space where the aesthetics of commitment is one of exploration and contemplation, rather than one of quick access and consumption. Second, in Highrise, the homepage juxtaposes an external view of each apartment in a composite single highrise facade that is deliberately jagged in its alignment. Displayed initially in a greyed monochrome with small elements of faded colour, each apartment facade zooms out slightly into vibrant colour with the rollover of the mouse. Clicking on each window opens up a 360° environment structured as a photo collage with embedded elements that become prominent again with a rollover and which play preset images, texts and audio sequences when active clicked on. The content of each short was produced by local teams in dialogue over the phone and Skype with director Katerina Cizek, and the final website was produced by the National Film Board team working with 360° video technology created by Yellowbird.12

11Each story is unique, ranging from the extreme violence described in John’s depiction of life in his Johannesburg highrise to the life of Buddhist meditation of Xuxuo in Tainan. John recalls that the residents of his building were terrorized by a gang which took over the building, killing and mutilating bodies, not surprisingly neglecting its infrastructure until the residents took back the building. The sequence highlights tension between the community’s and the individual’s stories as they are mediated by the editor.

  • 13 Arjun Appadurai, “Grassroots Globalization and the Research Imagination,” Public Culture 12.1, Wint (...)

12The Highrise project amplifies this tension through the use of participatory media and the social web, inviting the audience to comment on the content. However, the majority of the subjects of these mini-documentaries exist in circumstances that do not give them access to the Internet and they therefore cannot see the documentary in which they are depicted. Here the tension of the digital divide in terms of access to online digital content and technology is made manifest, as many of the individuals portrayed are unable to respond to those who comment on their stories because of a lack of electricity and/or mobile or web platforms, and they may not have any idea of the existence of those responses. Indeed, the importance of this issue of access was foregrounded by the United Nations when it declared Internet access to be a human right on June 4, 2011. Yet, the question of providing a fully functional network of communication for those depicted in and responding to Highrise may not be resolvable: Cizek and the National Film Board team are actively looking for ways to foster participation and collaboration with a global audience by using social web strategies and platforms in later extensions. As such, the project is arguably a means towards what Arjun Appadurai has termed “grassroots globalization” or “globalization from below”, as a platform that functions in a global, transnational space.13

  • 14 Ibidem, 5.

13Further, live screenings were customized to highlight specific topics, suggesting an early analogue precursor of Highrise’s combinatory digital database and live performances. Significant effects noticed were the empowerment of local participants in seeing themselves represented in a medium perceived as the domain of “important” people, and videos functioning as “communication bridges” between community members and decision makers at various levels of government.14

Collaborative Documentary as Psychogeography

  • 15 Guy Debord defined psychogeography in 1955 as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects (...)
  • 16 Guy Debord, « Problèmes préliminaires à la construction d’une situation », Internationale Situation (...)
  • 17 See the work of David Pinder, Conor McGarrigle, Christian Nold, Alistair Bonnett, Adam Barnard.

14As narrative projects that focus on the complicated urban ecology of Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital and highrise communities around the globe, One Millionth Tower and Highrise mobilize Guy Debord’s notion of psychogeography15 as an adaptive and adapted strategy for documenting the stories of those impacted by place. Here, Katerina Cizek’s mode of situated and responsive documentary filmmaking diverges from the situationists’ predilection for the dérive or drift, an urban engagement of aimless wandering in tune to the city’s “varied ambiances”, as her works are not random in their engagement with the interdependent socio-cultural-environmental geographies encompassed in the term “place.” Rather, by necessity, her works are focused on specific locations and individuals.16 Both projects testify to the director’s careful attentiveness to the interrelationship of the environment and the psychic and material life of urban inhabitants as they themselves represent that experience. Katerina Cizek’s work is part of a contemporary trend in cultural geography and in digital/locative media that recuperates the psychogeographic methodologies of the situationists as a means to assess and intervene in the complexities of increasingly globalized urban spaces.17

15Katerina Cizek and the National Film Board’s stated goals for this exploratory project of “knowledge discovery” were to effect change at the community level, in the practice of government agencies, and in the spheres of policy and decision making, by making visible the realities lived by community partners. In the trajectory of her work, from Seeing is Believing to Filmmaker-in-Residence to the ongoing Highrise, Cizek’s documentaries have become increasingly porous and open projects that exist in intentional dialogue with a networked, globalized participatory audience via the social web. This latter practice is perhaps most radical considering that her projects with the National Film Board subvert the role of the documentary filmmaker capturing official or objective “story.”

  • 18 David Pinder, ”Revolutionary space,” Vertigo 3.9, 2008: 25-26; also David Pinder, Visions of the Ci (...)

16In this regard, Cizek has adopted strategies from a number of different evolving disciplinary practices including documentary filmmaking, online and interactive cinema, the exploitation of social media tools and participatory content generation, in particular, and a trajectory of experimentation in cultural geography that often recuperates Guy Debord and the situationists’ theorizing of psychogeography as an activist stance,18 as a means to critique bourgeois society. Each of the interrelated projects released to date engages differently with questions of social justice, agency, access, and representation and, as a corpus of works, Highrise is changing the relationship of subject and filmmaker, film and audience within the social web. Although recent excitement over the connectivity of the web and the use of social media as a political tool and communication vehicle to a global audience is justified, there is also a real need to assess and critique the question of who does and who does not benefit from new platforms and technologies; the question of access, voice, and representation in the reality of the digital divide dampens the euphoria over the potential of the social web as a tool for change.

17Katerina Cizek’s work with the National Film Board exists in the crux of this tension between the innovations and affordances of new technologies and the social web and a longstanding and justified suspicion of the role and impact of those who mediate the representation of individuals who might otherwise not be heard. Highrise has actively invited contributions from a global audience through the “National Film Board Highrise Participate page” on Flickr.com, which allows anyone anywhere to upload images from their highrise windows to the Flickr group. While many photos are taken in circumstances of comfort and security and as such do not address the experience of the marginalized and/or illegal inhabitants depicted in much of Highrise, the project includes the contribution of a series of photos from Alexandria during the Egyptian uprisings in the last week of January 2011 with Corinne Grassi’s photos documenting the peace of the mass prayer demonstrations on the streets and the violence of confrontations between ordinary citizens and the military. The significance of real-time citizen documentation through video and text updates in particular was evident during the Arab Spring, where individuals in often besieged locations under military attack became agents transmitting news to a global audience.

  • 19 For analyses of the impact of digital media on politics, the public sphere and the creation of a ne (...)

18Within this shifting media landscape,19 Katerina Cizek’s earlier work with the National Film Board and the current Highrise demonstrate a responsiveness to world events and crises as well as to emerging technologies and practices in the digital realm. She uses her Director’s Blog as a forum to repost these images and to incorporate them into the Participation site of Out My Window. The trajectory of her work demonstrated that sharing witness documentation to crisis events can impact on the socio-political dynamics within nation states and geopolitics.

19The potential for such initiatives as Highrise to facilitate communication and exchange between highrise inhabitants around the globe and those seeking to make contact with a wider sphere is one of the most exciting aspects of the project’s use of the social web and participatory media. Effectively, what the Flickr group does is crowdsource ongoing content for a further component of Highrise which now pulls content from the photo-sharing platform and showcases it in another stand-alone 360° site linked to the main National Film Board project site. As a hybrid multimedia interactive documentary absorbing practices from multiple fields, Highrise has sought to position itself as a hub for a transnational dialogue on life in the vertical suburbs of a globalized world. With the emergence of new technologies and platforms, Katerina Cizek and the National Film Board are experimenting with new ways to catalyze “grassroots globalization” in the service of social justice.

Grassroots Activism in Highrise

  • 20 Ezra Winton, “Review: The NFB’s Filmmaker-In-Residence, Art Threat Culture,” March 2 2007. , access (...)
  • 21 Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge [1979], trans. Geoff Benning (...)
  • 22 Mandy Rose, “Four Categories of Collaborative Documentary.” <http://collabdocs.wordpress.com/2011/1 (...)

20While she is an audio and visual presence in the interactive online experience of Filmmaker-in-Residence, Katerina Cizek repeatedly rejects a position of authority or history making “about” her subjects, stating rather “I’m working to make media ‘with them’.”20 She steps back from being a visible and audible figure in the interactive documentary components of Highrise, connecting with her audience instead via the Director’s Blog and, on occasion, through real-time installations where she mixes live video with live musicians. Katerina Cizek’s practice problematizes the idea of narrating or capturing capital “H” History as an authoritative, comprehensive account of events. Highrise tells the stories of the world’s “vertical peripheries” or vertical suburbs as an ongoing multitudinous serial venture, demonstrating a mobilization of what Jean-François Lyotard termed “petits récits” against the construction of a universal metanarrative constituted as History.21 Instead, history or histories exist(s) as a fluid, dynamic, and expanding assemblage of stories that gesture to the reality of other stories not yet known but waiting to be communicated. The interactive web documentaries, 18 Days in Egypt and One Day on Earth both illustrate this processual, open design, which British theorist and interactive documentary producer Mandy Rose terms the “creative crowd” mode. In these collaborative documentaries, directors often act more as curators of content generated by a networked community.22

  • 23 James McNally, “Interview: Katerina Cizek,” Toronto Screen Shots, 10 December, 2009. <http://toront (...)
  • 24 J. McNally, op. cit..

21Consistently, in interviews and in her own blog posts and manifesto, Cizek has insisted on the centrality of the relationship of the documentary filmmaker with the community partner as well as on the importance of being able to adapt to and participate in an iterative process of documentation, and foster and support the goals of the community partner where filmmaking is understood as an ethical practice that must be repeatedly reassessed. She states that her aim is “not simply to observe and record, but to participate and be part of the process of intervention.”23 To this end, her use of what she describes as “interventionist media” has been “platform agnostic”, encompassing audio, still images, video, collage, real-time installations and content drawn from participatory social platforms, Flickr and Twitter.24 Further, Katerina Cizek’s practice of continuously experimenting with the affordances of the web and multi-media production has led to innovative interface design for non-linear works, the pioneering of new modes of interactivity, and new strategies for engaging individuals as collaborators rather than documentary subjects.

  • 25 Conversation with the author. March 2011. See also Clay Shirky, Cognitive Surplus: How Technology M (...)

22This body of work also speaks to a rapid evolution of form and practice arising from social media tools and platforms. The number of awards given to these National Film Board productions attests to the international regard for these projects’ innovative thinking in form and contest. Limited to a five-word acceptance speech for the 2008 Webby Award for Best Documentary Series (International), Katerina Cizek stated “The internet is a documentary!” This dictum resonates with a number of interrelated phenomena: the rise of video activists with the availability of inexpensive handicams and mobile cameras, the impact of amateur video following the airing of the Rodney King tape in 1991, and the exponential increase of amateur content shared online with the rise of Youtube, Facebook and other social platforms.25 In addition, the advent of 24/7 cable and online news coupled with the capacity of the social web (Twitter in particular) to transmit instant news updates by individuals on the street to a global audience, have shaped our experience of the web as a fragmented, searchable, real-time, ever-streaming documentary on an infinite array of topics.

23Within the context of these ongoing, wider shifts, new applications and platforms have altered global media and social landscapes, and Cizek’s participatory strategies are part of a larger shift in cinema production and distribution on the web. Online platforms such as Youtube, Vimeo, Flickr, and Facebook have enabled an explosion of citizen/self-documentation and sharing of every aspect of life from around the globe. While the first interactive films, also termed database cinema, were designed as closed systems of content fragments accessible in variable combinations depending on the design, digital content producers of documentaries and dramas are now leveraging the affordances of the web, increasingly incorporating what Tim O’Reilly termed an “architecture of participation” that invites fans to contribute content, adding to or extending existing content.26 This past year, a number of globally-scaled documentary projects were launched by premiere directors and institutions that relied entirely on crowd-sourced content, and the National Film Board projects exist in parallel with these commercially supported ventures. Ridley Scott’s RSA Films and brand partner LG invited a worldwide audience to participate in a global documentary film project, Life in a Day, capturing life around the world on July 24, 2010. The New York Times’ Moment in Time project launched its participatory global documentary after the RSA call, and invited anyone around the world to contribute photographs taken on May 2, 2010 at 11 am EST. In contrast to the activist frame of Highrise, both projects aim to capture the panoply of life and human experience in the broadest sense without seeking to create social change. Indeed, Life in a Day was released commercially on July 24, 2011, one year after the film content was generated. As a marker of a particular moment in the evolution of filmmaking and of social interaction in an era now described as Web 2.0, 2010 and 2011 were the years in which crowdsourcing content for participatory works rapidly became an established form and practice. The ethical questions that arise in Cizek’s and the National Film Board’s positioning of Highrise as a community hub for others living in vertical suburbs across the globe are valid and yet should not decry the project’s goals. One reviewer noted the echo of HBO’s Voyeur website in the interface design and indeed, a voyeuristic tension is inescapable in screen-based works that utilize pictorial imagery and that present personal narratives as visually compartmentalized experiences.27 As an interactive documentary series that lives on the web without cinema release, however, each production engages in the social space of the web as a touchstone and catalyst for further dialogue on the condition and experience of urban and suburban life in highrises.

  • 28 Nicholas Bourriard, “Relational Aesthetics,” [1998], trans. David Macey, in Claire Bishop (ed.), Pa (...)

24Much of the excitement of the past two decades over digital and screen-based technologies has focused on the potential for virtual, disembodied experiences in a cyberspace not aligned with or dependent on the material plane. Highrise’s insistence on situated narratives that illuminate the conditions of material existence, though communicated through a screen-based medium, returns attention to lived realities and the mutually informing interdependencies of individuals, places, and communities within what are often charged and constricting social and political circumstances. Building on Nicholas Bourriard’s theoretical concept of relational art, Katerina Cizek’s work is insistently relational in her use of strategies for participatory documentary making and interrelational in the experience she and the National Film Board team design for a global audience.28

  • 29 Marc Augé, Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, London: Verso, 1995.
  • 30 Ibidem, 94. Also in Marc Augé, “Supermodernity: From Non-Places to Places,” in Elizabeth Edwards a (...)
  • 31 David Harvey, “The Right to the City,” New Left Review 53, September-October 2008, 23.

25As such, the spaces and places her works illuminate counter Marc Augé’s notion of the non-place as a ubiquitous site of disconnection in a globalized world. 29 In his essay, “Supermodernity: From Non-Places to Places,” Augé defines the term “non-place” as “two complementary but distinct realities: spaces formed in relation to certain ends (transport, transit, commerce, leisure), and the relations that individuals have with these spaces.” Although the two sets of relations overlap to a large extent, they are still not confused with one another, for non-places mediate a whole mass of relations, with the self and with others, which are only indirectly connected with their purposes (individuals travel, make purchases, relax).30 Highrise shows individuals who struggle to locate a sense of identity in the places they live, seeking to turn alienation into empowerment and emplacement, and who often do so without the aid of state support, relying instead on the immediate communities in which they live. Katerina Cizek’s use of interventionist media and participatory storytelling for these stories, these individual psychogeographies, exists as one mode of articulating a claim to what David Harvey has termed the right to the city for all inhabitants “to make and remake our cities and ourselves.” 31 He argues:

  • 32 Idem.

The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than an individual right since this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization.32

26The Highrise Digital Citizenship Project launched on 11 June, 2011 in partnership with York University’s Global Suburbanism Project, speaks directly to Harvey’s concerns as it mobilizes fourteen highrise residents as peer researchers who will engage with their neighbours on questions of access and use of digital technologies. Because they are government funded, Katerina Cizek and her team are no doubt constrained by an approval process that independent documentary filmmakers may not experience in the same way, though let us acknowledge that any content producer applying for funding in Canada under the Canada Media Fund or with the National Film Board will undergo a review process, often at multiple points during the production. What is perhaps most laudable about Katerina Cizek and the National Film Board’s iterative practice in this ongoing project is that rather than a cinematic depiction of social inequities, they are creating new tools and platforms for individuals across the social and global spectrum to address their own needs and to contribute meaningfully to a networked dialogue on the future of our cities, and in doing so, they are creating tools that rewrite pre-existing stories.

Haut de page

Bibliographie

Des DOI (Digital Object Identifier) sont automatiquement ajoutés aux références par Bilbo, l'outil d'annotation bibliographique d'OpenEdition.
Les utilisateurs des institutions abonnées à l'un des programmes freemium d'OpenEdition peuvent télécharger les références bibliographiques pour lesquelles Bilbo a trouvé un DOI.
Format
APA
MLA
Chicago
Le service d'export bibliographique est disponible pour les institutions qui ont souscrit à un des programmes freemium d'OpenEdition.
Si vous souhaitez que votre institution souscrive à l'un des programmes freemium d'OpenEdition et bénéficie de ses services, écrivez à : access@openedition.org.

Works Cited

Format
APA
MLA
Chicago
Le service d'export bibliographique est disponible pour les institutions qui ont souscrit à un des programmes freemium d'OpenEdition.
Si vous souhaitez que votre institution souscrive à l'un des programmes freemium d'OpenEdition et bénéficie de ses services, écrivez à : access@openedition.org.

APPADURAI Arjun, “Grassroots Globalization and the Research Imagination,” Public Culture 12.1, Winter 2000, 1-19.
DOI : 10.1215/08992363-12-1-1

Arab Media Influence Report: Social Media and the Arab Spring, AMIR 2011, Dubai: News Group International, March 2011, <http://pbs.org/newshour/multimedia/social-evolution/Presentation1finalmarch29.pdf>.

AUGE Marc, Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, London: Verso, 1995.

_______, “Supermodernity: From Non-Places to Places,” in Elizabeth EDWARDS and Kaushik BHAUMIK (eds.), Visual Sense: A Cultural Reader, Oxford: Berg, 2008, 305-310.

Format
APA
MLA
Chicago
Le service d'export bibliographique est disponible pour les institutions qui ont souscrit à un des programmes freemium d'OpenEdition.
Si vous souhaitez que votre institution souscrive à l'un des programmes freemium d'OpenEdition et bénéficie de ses services, écrivez à : access@openedition.org.

BARNARD Adam, “The Legacy of the Situationist International: The Production of Situations of Creative Resistance,” Capital & Class, Winter 84, 2004, 103-124.
DOI : 10.1177/030981680408400108

Format
APA
MLA
Chicago
Le service d'export bibliographique est disponible pour les institutions qui ont souscrit à un des programmes freemium d'OpenEdition.
Si vous souhaitez que votre institution souscrive à l'un des programmes freemium d'OpenEdition et bénéficie de ses services, écrivez à : access@openedition.org.

BONNETT Alastair, “The Dilemmas of Radical Nostalgia in British Psychogeography,” Theory Culture Society 26.1, 2009, 45-70.
DOI : 10.1177/0263276408099015

_______, “The Nostalgias of Situationist Subversion,” Theory Culture Society 23.5, 2006, 23-48.

BOURRIARD Nicholas, “Relational Aesthetics,” [1998], trans. David Macey in Claire BISHOP (ed.), Participation, Cambridge (MA): MIT P, 2006, 160-171.

BUXTON Bill, Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design, San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann, 2007.

CASTELLS Manuel, The Rise of the Network Society: The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Volume 1, Boston: Blackwell, 1996.

DEBORD Guy, « Introduction à une critique de la géographie urbaine », Les Lèvres Nues #6, September 1955, trans. as “Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography,” in Ken KNABB (ed. and trans.), Situationist International Anthology, Berkeley, CA: Bureau of Secrets, 1995, 5–8.

_______, « Problèmes préliminaires à la construction d’une situation », Internationale Situationniste 1, June 1958: 11–13, trans. as “Pre- liminary Problems in Constructing a Situation,” in Ken KNABB (ed. and trans.), Situationist International Anthology, Berkeley, CA: Bureau of Secrets, 1995, 43–45.

GLADWELL Malcolm and Clay SHIRKY, “From Innovation to Revolution: Do Social Media Make Protests Possible?” Foreign Affairs, March/April 2011, 153-154.

Format
APA
MLA
Chicago
Le service d'export bibliographique est disponible pour les institutions qui ont souscrit à un des programmes freemium d'OpenEdition.
Si vous souhaitez que votre institution souscrive à l'un des programmes freemium d'OpenEdition et bénéficie de ses services, écrivez à : access@openedition.org.

HARVEY David, “The Right to the City,” New Left Review 53, September-October 2008, 23-40.
DOI : 10.1111/j..2003.00492.x

Format
APA
MLA
Chicago
Le service d'export bibliographique est disponible pour les institutions qui ont souscrit à un des programmes freemium d'OpenEdition.
Si vous souhaitez que votre institution souscrive à l'un des programmes freemium d'OpenEdition et bénéficie de ses services, écrivez à : access@openedition.org.

LYOTARD François, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge [1979], trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1984.
DOI : 10.2307/1772278

MACLEOD Paul, “Participatory Filmmaking and Video — building on the legacy of the Fogo Process,” paper presented at the Symposium on Communication for Social and Environmental Change, University of Guelph, 5 October, 2004, <http://uoguelph.ca/snowden/docs/Fogo Process.pdf>.

Format
APA
MLA
Chicago
Le service d'export bibliographique est disponible pour les institutions qui ont souscrit à un des programmes freemium d'OpenEdition.
Si vous souhaitez que votre institution souscrive à l'un des programmes freemium d'OpenEdition et bénéficie de ses services, écrivez à : access@openedition.org.

McGARRIGLE Conor, “The Construction of Locative Situations: Locative Media and the Situationist International, Recuperation or Redux?” Digital Creativity 21.1, 2010, 55–62.
DOI : 10.1080/14626261003652057

McNALLY James, “Interview: Katerina Cizek,” Toronto Screen Shots, December 10, 2009, <http://torontoscreenshots.com/2009/12/10/

interview-kat-cizek/>.

O’REILLY Tim, “The Architecture of Participation,” June 2004. <http://oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/articles/architecture_of_participation.html>.

PINDER David, Visions of the City: Utopianism, Power and Politics in Twentieth-Century Urbanism, New York: Routledge, 2005.

_______, Ghostly Footsteps: Voices, Memories and Walks, Cultural Geographies 8.1, 2001, 1-19.

_______, Arts of Urban Exploration, Cultural Geographies 12, 2005, 383-411.

_______, Revolutionary Space, Vertigo 3.9, 2008, 25-26.

_______, Urban Interventions: Art, Politics and Pedagogy, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, September 32.3, 2008: 730-736.

SHIRKY Clay, Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers Into Collaborators, New York: Penguin, 2010.

_______, “The Political Power of Social Media Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change,” Foreign Affairs, 90(1), 2011: 28-41.

WINTON Ezra, “Review: The NFB’s Filmmaker-In-Residence,” Art Threat Culture, March 2 2007, <http://artthreat.net/2007/03/filmmaker-in-residence/>.

Internet Sources

CIZEK Katerina, “Upcoming World Premiere,” NFB Highrise Director’s Blog, October 28, 2011. <http://highrise.nfb.ca/tag/presentations/>.

_______, “The Thousandth Tower,” Director’s Blog, NFB Highrise, April 21, 2010. <http://highrise.nfb.ca/tag/launch/>.

_______, “Out My Window Story Space Installation,” NFB Highrise, November 2010. <http://highrise.nfb.ca/installation>.

_______, “New Productions All Over the Highrise Place,” NFB Highrise, December 13, 2010. <http://highrise.nfb.ca/tag/tower-renewal/>.

_______, “When Media Meets Medicine, It’s Usually Bloody,” NFB Filmmaker-in-Residence Blog, November 24, 2006. <>.

GAUDENZI Sandra, Interactive Documentary, <http:// interactivedocumentary.net/>.

HOLMES Kevin, “Rear Window: the Interactive Documentary?” The Creator’s Blog, November 9, 2010. <http://thecreatorsproject.com/
blog/rear-window-the-interactive-documentary
>

KRINSKY Tamara, “Vertical Integration: The NFB’s ‘Highrise’ Project Tackles Urban Living,” Documentary.org, Spring 2010. <http://documentary.org/content/vertical-integration-nfbs-high-rise-project-tackles-urban-living>.

ROSE Mandy, “A Filmmaker-In-Residence,” interview with Katerina Cizek, Collab Docs: Where Documentary Meets the Social and Semantic Web, April 9, 2011. <http://collabdocs.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/film-maker-in-residence/>.

_______, “99% [The Occupy Wall Street Film]. <http://collabdocs.wordpress99%.com/2011/12/29/99-the-occupy-wall-street-film-2/>.

_______, “Four Categories of Collaborative Documentary,” <http://collabdocs.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/four-categories-of-collaborative-documentary/>.

Online Interactive Sites

18 Days in Egypt, <http://18daysinegypt.com/>.

CIZEK Katerina, “One Millionth Tower,” NFB Highrise, November 5, 2011. <http://highrise.nfb.ca/onemillionthtower/1mt_no_webgl.php?alternate=fail&bandwidth=high>.

________, “Participate: What’s Out Your Window?” NFB Highrise, March 2, 2011. <http://highrise.nfb.ca/index.php?section=participate>.

________, “NFB Out My Window,” National Film Board Highrise, October 2010. <http://flickr.com/groups/nfboutmywindow/>.

MACDONALD Kevin (dir.), Life in a Day, RSA Film, July 7, 2010. <http://youtube.com/lifeinaday>.

“A Moment in Time,” New York Times, May 2, 2010. <http:// nytimes.com/interactive/2010/05/03/blogs/a-moment-in-time.html>.

NOLD Christian, Artist/researcher, Interactive Websites: <http://emotionmap.net>; <http://sensoryjourneys.net/>; <http:// softhook.com/>.

One Day On Earth, <http://onedayonearth.org/>.

SCOTT Jake (dir.), HBO Voyeur, HBO, July 2007.

<http://archive.bigspaceship.com/hbovoyeur/>; <http://rsafilms.com/company/rsa-usa/rsa-entertainment/director/hbo---voyeur/voyeur-case-study-2271>.

Haut de page

Annexe

The “Filmmaker-in-Residence Manifesto” can be accessed on Katerina Cizek’s blog: <http://filmmakerinresidence.nfb.ca/​blog/​?p=5>, accessed February 10, 2011. A short film now illustrates the manifesto: <http://www.onf.ca/​film/​manifesto_animation_bonus_material>, accessed on January 14, 2014.

Filmmaker-in-Residence Manifesto

  • The original project ideas and goals come from the community partners.

  • The filmmaker’s role is to experiment and adapt documentary forms to the original idea. Break stereotypes. Push the boundaries of what documentary means.

  • Use documentary and media to “participate” rather than just to observe and to record. Filmmaker-in-Residence is not an A/V or a PR department.

  • Work closely with the community partners, but respect each other’s expertise and independence.

  • Use whatever medium suits — video, photography, world wide web, cell phones, ipods or just pen and paper. It can all be documentary.

  • Work through the ethics, privacy and consent process with your partners before you begin, and adapt your project accordingly. Sometimes it means changing your whole approach — or even dropping it. That’s the cost of being ethical.

  • The social and political goals — and the process itself — are paramount. Ask yourself every day: why are you doing this project?

  • Always tell a good story.

  • Track the process, the results and spend time disseminating what you’ve learned with multiple communities: professionals, academics, filmmakers, media, general public, advocates, critics and students.

  • Support the community partner in distribution and outreach. Spend 10% of the time making it and 90% of the time getting it out into the world.

Just “showing it” is not necessarily a political goal unto itself. Work with the partners to harness the project’s momentum to effect real participation, and real political change.

Haut de page

Notes

1 Founded in 1939, The National Film Board of Canada is a federal cultural agency with a mandate to produce and promote documentaries interpreting Canada to Canadians.

2 Paul MacLeod, “Participatory Filmmaking and Video: Building on the Legacy of the Fogo Island Process,” paper presented at the Symposium on Communication for Social and Environmental Change, University of Guelph, October 5, 2004, 1. <>, accessed March 4, 2011.

3 Ibidem, 5.

4 Mandy Rose, “A Filmmaker-In-Residence,” interview with Katerina Cizek, Collab Docs: Where Documentary Meets the Social and Semantic Web, April 9, 2011. <http://collabdocs.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/film-maker-in-residence/>, accessed April 15, 2011.

5 Katerina Cizek, “When Media Meets Medicine, It’s Usually Bloody,” NFB Filmmaker-in-Residence Blog, November 24, 2006. <>, accessed March 2, 2011 and quoted in full in the Appendix.

6 In a March 2007 post, titled “Ripple Effect of Interventionist Media,” Katerina Cizek noted that a class of third-year nursing students at Ryerson University were inspired to draft a petition outlining the needs of young parents to the Premier of Ontario,” and offered a series of recommendations in support of communities in need of social assistance. NFB Filmmaker-in-Residence Blog, March 10, 2007. <http://filmmakerinresidence.nfb.ca/blog/?p45>, accessed March 2, 2011.

7 Katerina Cizek in conversation with the author, June 29, 2011.

8 Katerina Cizek, “New Productions All Over the Highrise Place,” NFB Highrise, December 13, 2010. <>, accessed January 10, 2014.

9 Katerina Cizek, “Upcoming World Premiere,” NFB Highrise Director’s Blog, October 28, 2011. <>, accessed January 10, 2014.

10 Tamara Krinsky, “Vertical Integration: The NFB’s ‘Highrise’ Project Tackles Urban Living,” Documentary.org, Spring 2010. <http://documentary.org/content/vertical-integration- nfb-high-rise-project-tackles-urban-living>, accessed February 17, 2011.

11 Katerina Cizek, “The Thousandth Tower,” Director’s Blog, NFB Highrise, April 21, 2010. <>, accessed January 21, 2014.

12 Bill Buxton, Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design, San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann, 2007.

13 Arjun Appadurai, “Grassroots Globalization and the Research Imagination,” Public Culture 12.1, Winter 2000, 15.

14 Ibidem, 5.

15 Guy Debord defined psychogeography in 1955 as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.” Guy Debord, « Introduction à une critique de la géographie urbaine », Les Lèvres nues #6, September 1955, trans. as “Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography,” in Ken Knabb (ed. and trans.), Situationist International Anthology, Berkeley, CA: Bureau of Secrets, 1995, 5.

16 Guy Debord, « Problèmes préliminaires à la construction d’une situation », Internationale Situationniste 1, June 1958: 11–13, trans. as “Pre-liminary Problems in Constructing a Situation,” in ibidem, 45.

17 See the work of David Pinder, Conor McGarrigle, Christian Nold, Alistair Bonnett, Adam Barnard.

18 David Pinder, ”Revolutionary space,” Vertigo 3.9, 2008: 25-26; also David Pinder, Visions of the City: Utopianism, Power and Politics in Twentieth-Century Urbanism, New York: Routledge, 2005.

19 For analyses of the impact of digital media on politics, the public sphere and the creation of a new communication space, see also Malcolm Gladwell, and Clay Shirky, “From Innovation to Revolution: Do Social Media Make Protests Possible?” Foreign Affairs, March/April 2011: 153-154; Clay Shirky, “The Political Power of Social Media Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change,” Foreign Affairs, 90(1), 2011: 28-41; Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society: The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Volume 1, Boston: Blackwell, 1996. For analyses of new modes of web documentary see Sandra Gaudenzi’s Interactive Documentary <http://interactivedocumentary.net/> and Mandy Rose’s CollabDocs <http://collabdocs.wordpress.com/>. The following web documentaries are examples of the use of social media content for documentary projects: <http://18daysinegypt.com/>, <http://onedayonearth.org/>, accessed January 14, 2014.

20 Ezra Winton, “Review: The NFB’s Filmmaker-In-Residence, Art Threat Culture,” March 2 2007. <>, accessed January 10, 2014.

21 Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge [1979], trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1984.

22 Mandy Rose, “Four Categories of Collaborative Documentary.” <http://collabdocs.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/four-categories-of-collaborative- documentary/>, accessed January 3, 2014.

23 James McNally, “Interview: Katerina Cizek,” Toronto Screen Shots, 10 December, 2009. <http://torontoscreenshots.com/2009/12/10/interview-kat-cizek/>, accessed on January 12, 2014. See also Katerina Cizek’s “Filmmaker-in-Residence Manifesto,” in the Appendix.

24 J. McNally, op. cit..

25 Conversation with the author. March 2011. See also Clay Shirky, Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers Into Collaborators, New York: Penguin, 2010 and Mandy Rose’s recent post “99% [The Occupy Wall Street Film], <http://collabdocs.wordpress.
com/2011/12/29/99-the-occupy-wall-street-film-2/
>, accessed on 29 Dec. 2013. For an analysis of the extent and impact of social media uses during the Egyptian uprising, see Arab Media Influence Report: Social Media and the Arab Spring, AMIR 2011, Dubai: News Group International, March 2011, <http:// pbs.org/newshour/multimedia/socialrevolution/
Presentation1finalmarch29.pdf
>, accessed December 20, 2011.

26 Tim O’Reilly, “The Architecture of Participation,” June 2004. <http://oreilly.com/
pub/a/oreilly/tim/articles/architecture_of_participation.html
>, accessed January 19, 2014.

27 Kevin Holmes, “Rear Window: the Interactive Documentary?” The Creator’s Blog, November 9, 2010. <>, accessed December 10, 2010.

28 Nicholas Bourriard, “Relational Aesthetics,” [1998], trans. David Macey, in Claire Bishop (ed.), Participation, Cambridge (MA): MIT P, 2006, 160-171.

29 Marc Augé, Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, London: Verso, 1995.

30 Ibidem, 94. Also in Marc Augé, “Supermodernity: From Non-Places to Places,” in Elizabeth Edwards and Kaushik Bhaumik (eds.), Visual Sense: A Cultural Reader, Oxford: Berg, 2008, 305-310.

31 David Harvey, “The Right to the City,” New Left Review 53, September-October 2008, 23.

32 Idem.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Siobhan O’Flynn, « Psychogeography as Social Activism in Katerina Cizek’s Digital Documentaries Highrise, The 1000th Tower and Out My Window », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], vol. XII-n° 1 | 2014, mis en ligne le 27 février 2014, consulté le 01 novembre 2014. URL : http://lisa.revues.org/5703 ; DOI : 10.4000/lisa.5703

Haut de page

Auteur

Siobhan O’Flynn

Siobhan O’Flynn teaches in the Canadian Studies Program at University of Toronto and at the Canadian Film Centre’s Media Lab. Her teaching focuses on how artistic works and practices across media engage with political, social and cultural concerns. Her academic research examines the function, design, and experience of narrative in interactive environments, foresighting emergent trends in digital storytelling and entertainment in a Web 2.0/3.0 world, and psychogeographic practices across media.

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

© Presses Universitaires de Rennes

Haut de page
  • Revues.org
  •  
    • Titre :
      Revue LISA / LISA e-journal
      Littératures, Histoire des Idées, Images, Sociétés du Monde Anglophone – Literature, History of Ideas, Images and Societies of the English-speaking World
      En bref :
      Revue bilingue publiant des articles en sciences humaines et sociales consacrés à l'étude du monde anglophone
      A bilingual humanities journal centred on the English-speaking world
      Sujets :
      Histoire, Représentations, Histoire sociale, Histoire culturelle, Études visuelles, Identités culturelles
    • Dir. de publication :
      Renée Dickason
      Éditeur :
      Presses universitaires de Rennes
      Support :
      Électronique
      EISSN :
      1762-6153
    • Accès :
      Open access Freemium
    • Voir la notice dans le catalogue OpenEdition
  • DOI / Références