In Defense of Netnographic Cinema
This dissertation reflects upon a contemporary research-based filmmaking practice that employs the cinematographic language to document and analyze online behaviours. As they rely mainly on the appropriation and the creative re-working of audiovisual online contents (images, sounds, texts, interfaces), the films of my corpus explore the online environment performatively (Haseman 2006), building on the formal coincidence between the studied medium and the medium through which the research is conducted. Employing a wide spectrum of narrative, visual and editing techniques, they contribute to the collective elaboration of a critical discourse about the lives and trajectories of online contents. Among the ever-growing number of films appropriating online images, I specifically focus on those that document how these images are shared, commented upon, re-purposed, and how they feed into a wider network of screen-mediated social interactions: to name only a few, Big Kiss Goodnight (Dominic Gagnon, 2012) ; Watching the Detectives (Chris Kennedy, 2017), Roman National (Grégoire Beil, 2018) or The Pain of Others (Penny Lane, 2018). Because they document and reflect upon the customs, beliefs and social practices of digital subjects, these found footage films can be seen as the ethnographic documentaries of our time. Borrowing the term coined by communication scholar Robert V. Kozinets, I propose to gather these films under the name of « netnographic cinema ».
This PhD project is being developed at the Ecole normale supérieure de Paris (PSL) within the interdisciplinary art-research doctoral program SACRe, under the supervision of Prof. Dork Zabunyan (Université Paris 8).