By Any Media Necessary: Mapping Youth and Participatory Politics


Documentary has become omnipresent and complicated with the proliferation of personal recording devices. It's simple categorization is difficult as it bleeds into a number of different maker practices. Nevertheless, the documentary format is generally one concerned with documenting real people and events; and then organizing that material into a logical, storytelling format.

There are a number of potent usages for the documentary format. In particular, documentary is vital for a campaign or organization that involves a number of live events or direct actions in public space. The unexpected spontaneity, the sense of danger, and the energy of a public, political event are often inexpressible in words. So the documentary format allows a rich portrayal of the incidents and what it'd be like to be there. Moreover, the documentary format often involves interviews (either formal or on the street) which provide greater context and perspective to an event.

Among the groups, there is a range of varying types of documentary techniques from simple documentation to nuanced storytelling that involves fictional scenes as well as real-world footage. Coming Out of the Shadows is a classic example of a basic documentary structure. The one minute thirty second video immediately throws the audience into the action of the protest. The video then introduces one of the main organizers, who provides context through an interview, as the video develops an basic arch for the rest of the protest action. 

Invisible Children's Kony 2012 video on the other hand is extremely complex in its use of documentary video, found footage, personal media, digital illustrations, and staged protests. The effect is that it creates a complex series of rhetorical relationships that often jump from global to personal perspectives and across socio-cultural boundaries. Additionally, the staged youth protest near the end of the documentary borrows from music video techniques to inspire young audiences and provide them with an image of themselves if they decide to join the cause.

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