Course Description & Schedule - Fall 2017



Cinema Department

Documentary, Digital Media, and Society (Fall 2017)

Instructor: Kevin Sherman

CRN: 75383 SEQ: 831

Time: Online Course/Canvas

Office Hours: By Email Appointment


Course Website:

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Course Description:

This course examines how evolving digital technology has dramatically altered how we understand society, politics, and culture in the context of documentary. The course explores the aesthetics of documentary and how digital technology has transformed how we understand the rhetoric of documentary form and culture. Topics of study include documentary modes, citizen journalism, social media, digital convergence, transmedia storytelling, immersive journalism, and interactive documentary.

Required Texts:

- Introduction to Documentary (2nd Edition) by Bill Nichols (NOTE: The 3rd Edition of Introduction to Documentary is available, but the 2nd Edition is available as an E-book via the CCSF library here).

In addition to Nichols’s book, I will provide additional readings for download as PDF files on Canvas.

Some films for the class are available to view via Kanopy. Kanopy is free to all CCSF students and may be accessed by logging onto the library’s “Articles and Databases” page here. Scroll down to “Streaming Video” and click on “Kanopy Films.” You may access Kanopy by entering your barcode number on your student ID. If you do not have a student ID, let me know via email and I will obtain a barcode for you to access Kanopy.


Our class starts at 8am on Monday, August 21st, and all subsequent weekly lessons will begin on Monday mornings at 8am. For example, all work for Week 1 must be completed between 8am on August 21st and 11:59pm on Sunday, August 27th. All weekly assignments (1 discussion post, 1 response post, & 1 assignment post) have the following deadlines:

Weekly Discussion Post & Response Post(s) (32% of Final Grade):      

Due Every Saturday at 11:59pm

Weekly Assignment Post (43% of Final Grade):        

Due Every Sunday at 11:59pm

Midterm – DUE OCTOBER 22 (10% of Final Grade):

Guidelines for the midterm will be posted on Canvas on September 25th.

Final – DUE DECEMBER 24 (15% of Final Grade):

Guidelines for the final will be posted on Canvas on November 27th.

Late assignments cannot be accepted except in severe circumstances. You will not receive any points for late work. Also please keep an eye on the “Announcements” link on the left side of the course homepage. Recent Announcements will also appear on the course home page.

Student Learning Outcomes:

  • Analyze how people in diverse cultures have produced culturally significant documentaries that promote social awareness.
  • Analyze the social and historical contexts of documentary and digital culture in meaningful ways.
  • Apply formal analysis, rhetoric, and/or philosophy to evaluate how the aesthetics of documentary and digital technology reflect culture.

Standards of Conduct:

Students who register in CCSF classes are required to abide by the CCSF Student Code of Conduct:

Violation of the code is basis for referral to the Student Conduct Coordinator or dismissal from the course or CCSF. You are expected to do your own work, and have your own unique answers to questions. Anyone found cheating or plagiarizing the work of others will receive a zero on the assignment and face disciplinary action at the college. PLAGIARISM = copying/citing the words, images, videos, or ideas of others without giving them credit.

Special Accommodations:

Students with disabilities who need academic accommodations should request them from the Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS) located in the Rosenberg Library, Room 323 on the Ocean Campus. Telephone: 415-452-5481 (V) 415-452-5451 (TDD).

Course Schedule:

Week 1 (Aug. 21): Introduction -- SCREENING: Capturing Reality: The Art of Documentary (Pepita Ferrari, 2008)

Week 2 (Aug. 28): Definitions of Documentary -- READING: Nichols, “How Can We Define Documentary Film?” (pp. 1-41), SCREENING: Photographic Memory (Ross McElwee, 2011)

Week 3 (Sept. 4): Documentary Voice and the Digital Age -- READING: Nichols, “What Gives Documentary Films a Voice of Their Own?” (pp. 67-93), SCREENING: I Love Alaska (Lernert Engelberts & Sander Plug, 2009)

Week 4 (Sept. 11): Documentary Modes: Expository and Poetic -- READING: Nichols, “How Can We Differentiate Among Documentaries? Categories, Models, and the Expository and Poetic Modes of Documentary Film” (pp. 142-171), SCREENING: Night and Fog (Alain Resnais, 1955), Rain (Joris Ivens, 1929)

Week 5 (Sept. 18): Documentary Modes: Observational, Participatory, Reflexive, and Performative -- READING: Nichols, “How Can We Describe the Observational, Participatory, Reflexive, and Performative Modes of Documentary Film?” (pp. 172-211), SCREENING (CLIPS): Salesman (Albert & David Maysles, 1968), Nobody’s Business (Alan Berliner, 1996), Five Obstructions (Jorgen Leth & Lars von Trier, 2004), Tongues Untied (Marlon Riggs, 1989)

Week 6 (Sept. 25): Citizen Journalism and Digital Platforms -- READING: Nichols, “How Have Documentaries Addressed Social and Political Issues?” (pp. 212-252), SCREENING: @home (Susanne Suffredin, 2013)

Week 7 (Oct. 2): Social Media and the Arab Spring -- READING: Alexandra Juhasz, “Ceding the Activist Digital Documentary”, SCREENING: How Facebook Changed the World: The Arab Spring Part 1 (BBC, 2011)

Week 8 (Oct. 9): Civil Liberty in the Digital Age -- READING: Dennis West and Joan M. West, “Big Brother’s Terms and Conditions Do Apply: An Interview with Cullen Hoback”, SCREENING: Terms and Conditions May Apply (Cullen Hoback, 2013)

Week 9 (Oct. 16): MIDTERM

Week 10 (Oct. 23): Documentary and Digital Convergence -- READING: Henry Jenkins, “Introduction: ‘Worship at the Altar of Convergence’ – A New Paradigm for Understanding Media Change”, SCREENING: Stranger Comes to Town (Jacqueline Goss, 2007)

Week 11 (Oct. 30): Transmedia Storytelling -- READING: Henry Jenkins, “Transmedia Storytelling 101”, SCREENING: Last Hijack (Femke Wolting & Tommy Pallotta, 2014)

Week 12 (Nov. 6): Immersive Journalism -- READING: Nonny de la Peña et al., “Immersive Journalism: Immersive Virtual Reality for the First-Person Experience of News”, SCREENING: Across the Line (Nonny de la Peña, 2016)

Week 13 (Nov. 13): i-Docs: Interactive Documentary -- READING: Kate Nash, “Modes of Interactivity: Analyzing the Webdoc”, SCREENING: The Displaced (Imrann Esmail & Ben Solomon, 2015)

Week 14 (Nov. 20): Thanksgiving Holiday

Week 15 (Nov. 27): Documentary and Remix Culture -- READING: Pat Aufderheide & Peter Jaszi, “Recut, Reframe, Recycle: Quoting Copyrighted Material in User-Generated Video”, SCREENING: RiP: A Remix Manifesto (Brett Gaylor, 2009)

Week 16 (Dec. 4): Transhumanism and Society -- SCREENING: Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement (Regan Brashear, 2013)

Week 17 (Dec. 11): Digital Technology and Sexuality -- READING: Daily Mail, “Would You Become a Robophile?”, SCREENING:  Turned On (Episode 2): Love Me Tinder (Jill Bauer & Ronna Gradus, 2017)

Week 18: FINAL DUE DECEMBER 24     

Total: 100 POINTS


Final Grades

100-90 = A

89-80 = B

79-70 = C

69-60 = D

< 59   = F