Cognitive innovation in documentary film practice

Brylla, Catalin ORCID: (2015) Cognitive innovation in documentary film practice. In: Off the Lip: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Cognitive Innovation, 7-11 Sept 2015, Plymouth, UK.

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In terms of film practice cognitive theory has mostly been concerned with audience reception, not with the creative conceptualisation of moving images. Whilst documentary filmmaking decisions are often made with an audience in mind (Eitzen 1995), filmmakers and film scholars have not yet explored how a socio-cultural framing shapes affective and cognitive spectatorship experiences, and how this framing can inform the creative process of film production.

Adopting Wayne’s idea of documentary as creative and critical practice, this paper argues that, especially when it comes to the representation of under/mis-represented social groups, the filmmaker’s encounter with the “other” indebts him/her into a responsible media portrayal (Levinas, 1989) – a portrayal that takes into account cognitive schemata. As Macrae and Bodenhausen explain, our perceptions of the social world are guided by categorical (i.e. stereotypical) thinking based on pre-existing schematic knowledge, not the novelty of individual case studies (2001, p. 240). Media are complicit in the construction of this schematic knowledge, which has been detrimental to social groups, such as disability. Disabled people have been dominated by being squeezed into socially constructed dichotomies (e.g. abled-disabled, normal-abnormal), which have been perpetually reinforced through narrative and stylistic tropes in media portrayals (Riley 2005).

The methodology of my documentary practice aims to demonstrate the value of cognitive theory in relation to two stages of filming blind people: (1) gauging the current media framing of blindness and conceptualising alternative portrayals that go beyond common stereotypes, thus aiming to initiate a shift to a cognitive “plurality” when it comes to perceiving disability on screen, and (2) using cognitive theory to enable the filmic mediation of first-person embodied experience through particular artefacts (e.g. biographical objects) and spaces. From this perspective, my methodology considers “experience” to have cognitive and phenomenological aspects (Bayne and Montague 2011) that can be mapped and captured through the affective interaction with materiality.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: Film and television
Depositing User: Catalin Brylla
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2016 20:26
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 07:19

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