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The poetics and politics of polyphony: Towards a research method for interactive documentary

Aston, Judith; Odorico, Stefano


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Dr Judith Aston
Wallscourt Associate Professor in Immersive Media

Stefano Odorico


This article stems from a panel we jointly convened at the i-Docs 2018 Symposium, where we presented a series of provocations with a view to generating a new theoretical framework for i-docs. These provocations were inspired by all aspects of Mikhail Bakthin’s concept of polyphony, from both a theoretical and a practical point of view. This article presents these provocations and reflects further on them. A number of key issues are documented, expanded and commented upon, as a potential framework for further research, including multiplicity, the chronotope, dialogism and interaction. We propose that these lead to new ways of approaching complexity. With the aim of using juxtaposition, nonlinearity and layering to break down binaries, the article demonstrates how complexity can be embraced and, crucially, how the simplicity within it can be revealed. In other words, a key proposition here is that we should accept and celebrate complexity as the natural order of things, without needing to deny simplicity. By investigating several theoretical aspects of Bakthin’s wider idea of polyphony, this article identifies some areas for potential development and offers input for further research, particularly in relation to the concepts of heteroglossia, carnival and aesthetics.


Aston, J., & Odorico, S. (2018). The poetics and politics of polyphony: Towards a research method for interactive documentary. Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media, 15, 63-93

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 9, 2018
Publication Date Nov 8, 2018
Deposit Date Nov 21, 2018
Publicly Available Date Nov 21, 2018
Journal Alphaville Journal of Film and Screen Media
Print ISSN 2009-4078
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 15
Pages 63-93
Keywords polyphony, i-docs, iDocs, interactive documentary, documentary studies, open documentary, docmedia, Bakhtin
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Additional Information Additional Information : This article has resulted from a confluence of longstanding research interests between myself and Stefano Odorico. We convened a panel on the topic at i-Docs 2018 and plan to develop further research on the topic linked to complexity and multi-perspectival thinking.


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