Cognitive theory and documentary film

Brylla, Catalin ORCID: and Kramer, Mette (2018) Cognitive theory and documentary film. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, UK. ISBN 9783319903316

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'Cognitive Theory and Documentary Film' is an edited collection of essays exploring the intersection between cognitive and documentary film studies. Given that most Western societies are mass-mediated cultures in which their citizens largely understand “reality” through factual-based media, documentary film has significantly informed the consolidation of the audience’s emotional and cognitive understanding of the world. This understanding is informed through the intricate interplay between two apparent opposites inherent to the documentary film text: Firstly, on an extra-textual dimension, truth assertions establish a strong indexical link between representations and their real-life counterparts. Secondly, on an intra-textual dimension, narrative and aesthetic strategies are employed to achieve a particular kind of “immersion”, whether emotional or intellectual. The co-occurrence and interplay of these two dimensions has arguably resulted in documentaries having a far higher potential than fiction films to impact on our attitudes towards, and interaction with, the world, but also on the construction of our own social, cultural and individual identity.

Unfortunately, there has been very little convergence between cognitive film theory and documentary studies. Cognitive film scholars have largely focussed on the analysis of fiction film, whilst documentary scholars have deemed cognitive models too limited in that they only address the hardwired attributes of audience reception, thus hypothesising a universal body of spectators and dismissing social, cultural and historical contexts of authorship and spectatorship. However, the new wave of cognitive film theory has moved from neo-formalist and purely cognitive concerns towards the study of emotional and embodied engagement, taking into account social, cultural and individual aspects. Thus, cognitive models have the potential to explore not only narrative-driven and expository documentaries, but also more contemporary formats, such as essay films, participatory documentaries, docu-dramas and docu-musicals.

This anthology explores cognitive approaches to documentary film texts, production practices, institutions and spectatorship. It seeks a better understanding of the reception, as well as the production and exhibition of documentary films, establishing the practitioner/institution/platform as a socio-cultural entity driven by similar mechanisms as the spectator.

Item Type: Book
Keywords: Cognitive Theory, media, production, intra-textuality, documentary, neuroscience, psychology, character, editing
Subjects: Film and television
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Depositing User: Catalin Brylla
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2016 19:33
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 07:06

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