Pin Up! The Interactive Documentary: A Shared Authority.

Presenter: Kathleen Ryan
Registration Number: 007
Institution: University of Colorado Boulder, USA
Abstract: Interactive documentary (i-doc) provides a space for renewal and transformation of filmic conventions. Instead of a linear three-act structure (beginning, middle and end), the i-doc encourages user agency, deconstructs narrative, and erodes directorial authority. Pin Up! The Interactive Documentary offers dozens of potential story paths in its exploration of the intersectional feminist legacy of the pin up. Through clickable on-screen elements, this film excerpt demonstrates one approach to i-doc’s transformational potential.
Pin Up! The Interactive Documentary uses oral history to explore this international subculture. In it, women and men adopt vintage style and advocate for social and political change. Specifically, they use the subculture to advocate for anti-racists practices, to call for body positivity, and to lobby for full equity and acceptance of GLBTQI subcultural members. These advocates do this against a background of historical racism and sexism, which is sometimes echoed in the contemporary subculture.
The i-doc both accepts and attempts to represent the intersectionality present within subculture, and the push-back that some subcultural members feel for their progressive stances. Thus, embedded in the project is the notion of “shared authority.” Within the i-doc itself, as well as in its associated social media projects, the project engages with its subcultural narrators to cede authority from the director to the people who know the subculture best, asking them to tell and interpret their stories within their own terms.
Specifically, the subculture’s experts have been invited to take over the project’s social media feed, at times offering a pointed critique of some of the choices we’ve made in sharing posts. They’ve also been asked to offer feedback on edits of their individual stories before the i-doc went live, and their comments and insights have been incorporated into the project, ranging from doing a minor revision of an edited story to include better b-roll to re-editing a story to reflect a White pin up’s growing recognition of the problematic choices she had made in the past.
This i-doc intentionally uses non-professional storytelling tactics (vertical video, online video recordings, strait to camera interviews) as a way to transform notions of a proper “aesthetic” within the documentary genre. This paper argues that actively approaching the i-doc as a shared authority demonstrates how emerging formats, gamification of storytelling, and non-narrative structures can result in a sense of subcultural authenticity on film—a way to use the documentary format as a way to provide agency to both members of the subculture featured in the project as well as to audience members.

Kathleen M. Ryan is a documentary filmmaker and oral historian. Her works focus on transformations in storytelling due to shifting media technologies. Her hybrid projects deal with issues of gender, self-identity, visuality and user/participant agency. She is an Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her books include Pin Up! the Subculture (Peter Lang, 2020) and her films include Pin Up! The Movie (2015) and Homefront Heroines: The WAVES of World War II (2013). She released an interactive documentary on pin up subculture in 2021 and has an edited collection under contract with Routledge on decolonizing practices in interactive documentary.