Course Description & Schedule - Spring 2018



Cinema Department

Documentary, Digital Media, and Society (Spring 2018)

Instructor: Kevin Sherman

CRN: 36329 SEQ: 831

Time: Online Course/Canvas

Office Hours: Monday 1:30pm-3:30pm, Cloud 122 (No Office Hours on 3/19 or 3/26)


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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.


Our class starts at 8am on Tuesday, January 16th because Monday, January 15th is Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. All subsequent weekly lessons will typically begin on Monday mornings at 8am. All work for Week 1 must be completed between 8am on January 16th and 11:59pm on Sunday, January 21st.

Weekly Discussion Post & Response Post(s) (70% of Final Grade): Due Sundays at 11:59pm

Midterm – DUE MARCH 18 (10% of Final Grade)

Final – DUE MAY 13 (20% of Final Grade)

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 (Jan. 16): Introduction -- SCREENING: Capturing Reality: The Art of Documentary (Pepita Ferrari, 2008)

Week 2 (Jan. 22): Definitions of Documentary -- READING: Nichols, “How Can We Define Documentary Film?” (pp. 1-41), SCREENING: Photographic Memory (Ross McElwee, 2011)

Week 3 (Jan. 29): 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 (Feb. 5): 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 Mail (Harry Watt & Basil Wright, 1936), Rain (Mannus Franken & Joris Ivens, 1929)

Week 5 (Feb. 12): 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): TBA

Week 6 (Feb. 19): Digital Technology, Animation, and Documentary -- READING: Nichols, “How Have Documentaries Addressed Social and Political Issues?” (pp. 212-252), SCREENING: Tower (Keith Maitland, 2016)

Week 7 (Feb. 26): 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 8 (Mar. 5): Digital Surveillance -- READING: TBA, SCREENING: Nothing to Hide (Marc Meillassoux, 2016)

Week 9 (Mar. 12): MIDTERM

Week 10 (Mar. 19): Cryptocurrency and the Future of the Internet -- READING: TBA, SCREENING: Banking on Bitcoin (Christopher Cannucciari, 2016)

Week 11 (Mar. 26): Spring Recess

Week 12 (Apr. 2): Transmedia Storytelling -- READING: Henry Jenkins, “Transmedia Storytelling 101”, SCREENING: Last Hijack (Femke Wolting & Tommy Pallotta, 2014)

Week 13 (Apr. 9): 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 14 (Apr. 16): i-Docs: Interactive Documentary -- READING: Kate Nash, “Modes of Interactivity: Analyzing the Webdoc”, SCREENING: The Displaced (Imrann Esmail & Ben Solomon, 2015)

Week 15 (Apr. 23): Mockumentary and Documentary Expectations -- READING: TBA, SCREENING: Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable (Sam Hobkinson, 2017)

Week 16 (Apr. 30): Transhumanism and Society -- SCREENING: Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement (Regan Brashear, 2013)

Week 17 (May 7): FINAL DUE MAY 13


Final Grades

100-90 = A

89-80 = B

79-70 = C

69-60 = D

< 59   = F