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The Mediasmith Project: Developing Transmedia Documentary as Research

What is the Mediasmith Project?

The Mediasmith Project is an IATL Fellowship project led by Ruth Leary designed to explore transmedia documentary as research.

Building on a growing interest in the academy in creative research methods and new forms of pedagogic innovation, The Mediasmith Project was conceived to offer 10 researchers from a range of disciplines the opportunity to participate in three intensive one day workshops and develop their own transmedia project. Each workshop was facilitated by documentary makers, digital story tellers and creative technologists inspired and instructed participants as they investigated how narrative, data visualisation, analytics, digital and other media can be employed in a 'guerilla' approach to filmmaking that demystifies the process and dispenses with the need for specialist equipment. Participants were challenged to fire up their imaginations and explore alternative modes of enquiry and presenting knowledge.

In the spirit of transmedia documentary The Mediasmith Project blog, Twitter and other platforms have been buzzing with resources, hints and tips and progress updates along the way. A dedicated project researcher has been filming the project as it unfolds so that The Mediasmith Project itself becomes the subject of its own transmedia documentary.

The Mediasmith Project will culminate in a day of screenings and a symposium to explore transmedia documentary as a rigorous and legitimate form of academic research and assessment.

What has happened so far?

(For a more comprehensive insight please visit the Mediasmith Project blog.)

First steps...

Academic colleagues at Warwick were invited to an IAS Speculative Lunch on Tuesday 26th November 2013 to discuss shared interests in creative research methods in advance of the official start of The Mediasmith Project. We explored the definition of 'creative research methods' and knowledge production beyond filmmaking and discussed the possibility of setting up a research network to engage with these questions in practice. This discussion continued online and was published in the Institute of Advanced Studies journal Exchanges in April 2014;

Creative Research Methods; A Critical Reflection

The Mediasmith Project Workshops

The workshops took place between January and June 2014. They were designed to particpants through a staged creative process so ideally participants needed to be able to attend all three. Numbers were restricted so that facilitators could offer participants individual attention with their projects throughout the process.

Workshop 1: Methods and Media: Documentary R&D
Wednesday 29th January 2014 10.00 - 17.00

This workshop introduced the concept of transmedia documentary as a form of interdisciplinary enquiry and focused on filmmaking fundamentals from developing the initial idea to shooting high quality video on a smartphone. We also played with various useful tools and techniques including simple editing software.

Workshop 2: Digital Storytelling
Wednesday 5th March 2014 10.00 - 17.00

What is digital storytelling? This workshop invited particpants to think about the role of narrative and interactivity and explore how ethnographic and visual sociology approaches can inform the filmmaking process. We also considered some of the ethical and academic questions behind transmedia documentary making and took part in a practical workshop on creating digital assets through play, perfomance and visual enquiry.

Workshop 3: Remix & Representation
Friday 2nd May 2014 10.00 - 17.00

How do you put it all together? In this workshop documentary makers and editors shared the secrets behind editing and curating visual media and we discovered how techniques such as data visualisation or other analytical tools can bring data and empirical evidence to life and communicate complex ideas in simple but beautiful (i.e. filmic) ways. We also discussed how to avoid copyright pitfalls when using archive material, photos, music and other audiovisual content.

Just happened...

Popathon X Mediasmith Storytelling Hack Jam February 2015

In this final event interdisciplinary teams of filmmakers, researchers, designers and technologists participated in a 24 hour stortelling 'hackathon' to explore and develop web native stories. Find out what happened on the Mediasmith Project live blog here or watch the video presentations of the prototypes the teams built:


MoodzArt is the web-native story created by the red team at the Popathon Storytelling Hack Jam. The project drew heavily upon the Harkive dataset collected by BCU PhD researcher, Craig Hamilton. Harkive is a one day event when people from all over the globe submit stories about their music listening experiences with the harkive hashtag. Craig has collected over 5,000 stories to date and the dataset proved a rich treasure trove to mine for the Popathon process. MoodzArt allows users to explore stories based on mood in order to discover new music and find out more about others emotional connections to particular pieces of music. Bearing in mind that this is very much a prototype, there is unlimited opportunity to animate the project more comprehensively in the future. See the team’s final presentation here.

I'm so Mappy

‘I’m so Mappy’ is the web-native story created by the green team at the Popathon Storytelling Hack Jam. ‘I’m so Mappy’ offers the audience the chance to explore place through experience and emotion as well as plot their own stories on the map. Plan a bike route through the happiest spots in your town or find a warm and friendly place to live based on lived experience rather than cold-hearted statistics.


The Mediasmith Project is not about learning how to make a film about research (i.e. film as a form of presentation) but it is about learning how to use filmmaking and digital media tools as methods of enquiry. It is hoped that the resulting projects will represent research outcomes and have the potential to communicate existing ideas to new audiences, but theintention is that the production process is open ended and driven by a question, rather than the desire to communicate existing ideas in new ways.


The Mediasmith Project Blog